Anoka-Hennepin school board OKs plan to avoid budget showdown

A building's exterior
The Sandburg Education Center, where the Anoka-Hennepin school board meets, pictured on Tuesday. The superintendent Wednesday announced a plan that will allow the district to avoid a potential shutdown as its considers a board member's opposition to district equity efforts.
Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

Anoka-Hennepin school board members reached an agreement early Wednesday to avoid a budget showdown over objections raised by one board member about district equity initiatives. 

“The budget needed approval so we can keep the basic, fundamental core operations happening,” said Cory McIntyre, the district superintendent. He said the board agreed to consider equity initiatives separately from the budgeting process.

Board treasurer Matt Audette had vowed to vote down the district’s 2024-25 budget. In a Facebook post from April 12, he said he and members Zach Arco and Linda Hoekman could not “in good conscience” vote in favor of a budget that funded culturally responsive teaching, social-emotional learning, restorative justice practices and equity initiatives.

“It is time to put a stop to the spreading of divisive, one-sided views, training and learning that go against the values and beliefs of many families, students and staff in our community,” Audette wrote.

But after meeting more than five hours, McIntyre said board members in the state’s largest school district agreed to “decouple” the budget process from the process of evaluating the policies Audette objected to. Instead they will funnel questions about curriculum, programming and policies through committees dedicated to evaluating them.

“They’re complex topics. They’re not easily solved. That takes more conversation and discussion,” McIntyre said. “I think they have a commitment to do it well, and they’ve kind of, they’ve delinked it or decoupled that from the actual budget that we need to stay open.”

Minnesota districts are required to adopt an annual budget by July 1. Had the members not approved the budget, McIntyre said it’s possible the district would have had to shut down.

“That would be very disruptive, and really a distraction from the kinds of things they want to spend their time on,” McIntyre said. So I think that we got to a better understanding around that by the end of the night. That just takes a lot of dialogue.”

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