Changed budget shields St. Paul schools from cuts

Maxfield Elementary classroom
Students at Maxfield Elementary School in St. Paul.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

The St. Paul school district has shifted budget cuts away from schools after a proposal sparked community protest.

In April, the district proposed taking about $7 million from schools to help fill a $15 million district budget gap. But at a school board meeting Tuesday, district leaders and the board settled on a $2.5 million proposed reduction for schools instead. District CEO Michelle Walker says the district will cut more from administration and other district-wide programs.

"Everything that we do in the school system is in support of school and in support of our students, and so even as we make program reductions they will have an impact on our schools. But we are looking at how we can keep as much of those reductions away from the actual school sites and classrooms," Walker says.

The cuts to schools mean ending built-in professional development time for teachers in most middle schools. Students in those schools will move from a seven to a six period school day, eliminating one elective class.

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"They will still have the same opportunities and offerings, they will just have those less frequently," Walker says. "So, for example, if a student was taking Spanish five days a week, they may be taking it three days a week, but they still will be exposed to Spanish."

St. Paul spends less of its money on administration than the average Minnesota district. Walker says trimming administrative costs even more could have an impact on schools.

"When we reduce our capacity to do coordination and other support functions at the central office, it really to some degree pushes some of that burden at the school building," she says.

Walker says St. Paul's budget shortfall comes mainly from state funding that has not kept pace with inflation, an expensive new teachers' contract and a decrease in student enrollment.

The St. Paul school board plans to vote on the budget June 21.