Minneapolis Public Schools plans cuts for next school year

Facing another projected budget deficit, Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) has planned some cuts for next school year.

As 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS previously reported, several Twin Cities school districts are facing hundreds of millions in projected deficits due to a variety of reasons.

The Minneapolis school district’s latest financial presentation projects a deficit of around $95 million for Fiscal Year 2025. To close that gap, the district is proposing using $55 million in funds from its strategic assigned fund, reducing spending by $47 million and assuming $13 million for vacant positions, a plan that would project to cover a deficit of up to $115 million — as of this month, factoring in offers made during ongoing bargaining sessions, the district says it’s facing a $110 million budget gap.

The proposed cuts would impact staffing, classrooms and several programs.

MPS says the district’s intervention model would be reduced, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) positions would be cut in half and all fifth-grade instrumental music positions would be cut, as would all K-5 literacy and math specially assigned teachers (TOSAs) and all world language teachers in K-8 sites. Additionally, some assistant principals’ jobs would be eliminated and support to magnets would be reduced.

The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals (MFT) called the proposed cuts “emotional blackmail” on Wednesday.

“This list of proposed budget cuts feels like the same emotional blackmail that has been used on educators for years. They’re saying: ‘Accept exploitive working conditions and below-market wages or we’ll go after the most vulnerable students,'” said Greta Callahan, the president of the teachers’ chapter of the MFT. “Minneapolis educators won’t stand for it anymore. If the administrators would reprioritize their spending, this district can afford to pay its educators fairly and provide the high-quality education all our students deserve.”

Callahan, who is also running for a school board seat, and the union also say the district’s proposal came after a “particularly difficult” negotiation session as they continue work on a new contract. Educators have been working on an expired contract for about eight months now and have started cranking up the pressure publicly, rallying outside a board meeting last month after staging a walkout at the end of January.

The union has accused MPS leaders of inaccurate budgeting, “fear-mongering” and unwise spending while highlighting better pay for educators in peer districts.

The district’s final budget recommendations are set to be presented to the full MPS Board of Education on March 26, and the final budget has to be approved before the end of June.

More detailed breakdowns of the cuts are expected in the coming weeks but MPS has pointed to the end of federal COVID-19 funding and increased costs across the board as the primary reasons for the funding gap. Student enrollment declines have also played a role, and the district says all of that isn’t offset enough by new state funding approved last year.

The district estimates that it received more than $92 million in COVID funding this year but won’t get anything going forward, while the increased general state funding will result in a boost of just over $12 million next year.

MFT responded further to the district’s proposed cuts on Thursday, saying the district is “trying to sell a story” that isn’t looking at the big picture.

MPS released the following response to the union’s comments:

“Minneapolis Public Schools is facing the largest budget gap we have ever seen, at least $110 million which does not include forthcoming contract settlements with seven collective bargaining units. It is unreasonable for MFT to ask MPS to prioritize teacher salaries and reduced workload without recognizing the reductions and adjustments that are necessary to fulfill those priorities. The Association of Metropolitan School Districts (AMSD) estimates that 70% of their member districts (including MPS) are facing budget gaps next year, primarily due to the end of federal COVID-19 funds and increasing expenses. While we are trying to minimize the impact of these cuts on students, the impact of these reductions will be felt across our system. Expenses including transportation, utilities and Special Education are increasing, and there are restricted funds and legal requirements that limit what we can do financially. Our proposed budget allocations for next school year take into account some recommendations from MFT including reducing district-level expenses and reducing contracted services. In the 2022-23 budget year, 60.7% of our funds were spent on instruction, with an additional 12.6% spent on instructional and pupil support services. We invite the community to watch the recordings of negotiations on our website, to read our FAQs and to review our budget webpage.”