Preps underway for possible district shutdown for Anoka-Hennepin Schools if budget isn’t passed

Anoka-Hennepin district budget standoff

Anoka-Hennepin district budget standoff

The Anoka-Hennepin Schools superintendent says work is underway to prepare the district for a possible shutdown if the school board does not pass a budget.

School Board clerk Jeff Simon also said during Tuesday’s budget work session that those preparations are leading to “burnout” of some staff.

While the budget was the only thing on the agenda Tuesday, the main focus of the school board’s conversation was on concerns and demands brought forward by three board members who are threatening a ‘budget standoff’ if they’re not addressed.

The Department of Education tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that a school district has never not passed a budget on time.

Board treasurer Matthew Audette, in a lengthy social media post, called on fellow board members and district leaders to make significant changes to certain policies and curricula. Audette states co-chair Zach Arco and director Linda Hoekman support the effort and says if changes aren’t made then they’d enter a “budget standoff.”

He adds they will refuse to vote on next year’s budget — unless the board scraps “divisive programs” that include concepts like “systemic racism,” “whiteness,” “gender identity issues” and “anti-capitalism.”

Tuesday, during a planned budget work session, board members spoke in depth about the issues raised, including reassessing ‘social emotional learning.’

Audette expressed concern with the organization the district used to help craft their current social emotional learning.

“Somehow in there, there’s somebody who said that they had an intent that was political to try and drive through these programs and that doesn’t have any place here,” Audette said.

“Is this, with the new research coming out, is this the best thing for our kids?” director Hoekman later added.

The board worked for hours to try and get on the same page in the midst of trying to pass a budget by their July 1 deadline to avoid a district shutdown.

Monday, hundreds of people, mostly students, held a rally and protest march to the full school board meeting where dozens people shared during public comment — some for, some against the proposed changes.

One was union president of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota Local 7007, Valerie Holthus, who let the board know the union passed an unprecedented vote of no confidence in the board and called for the resignations of members Audette, Arco, and Hoekman.

“It’s been frustrating,” Holthus told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

“It tells me that they don’t know very much of what’s going on in buildings, they don’t know very much about what’s important to our students. So it’s, it’s just very disappointing,” Holthus said of the three board members.

To pass a budget, there needs to be a majority vote in favor — there are six total members on the Anoka-Hennepin board. If not passed, it would lead to the shutdown leading to no pay for staff, summer programs stopping, and a possible delay in the start of next school year.