Apr 1, 2024 - Education

With budget cuts looming, Minneapolis Public Schools stands at a crossroads

Illustration of a dollar made out of chalk on a chalkboard being erased

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Minneapolis Public Schools officials recently outlined plans to slash next year's budget by $47 million and to lean on rainy day funds to stave off deeper cuts.

Why it matters: If enacted, the cuts would leave nearly every Minneapolis school with less money to spend. Add that to the list of huge challenges facing MPS leaders, with student enrollment declining, and tense teacher contract negotiations still ongoing.

What they're saying: "This budget is unlike many others in recent memory," new MPS superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams told the school board on March 26.

  • This year may be different from others because $259 million in pandemic relief aid is set to expire.

Threat level: School closures aren't on the table this year — but the threat of them looms. Last November, MPS officials warned their current enrollment only fills about two-thirds of their classroom space.

Here's what's at stake if budget cuts are enacted:

  • MPS would downsize its signature pandemic-era program meant to help students struggling most with reading and math.
  • Class sizes in many schools would increase.
  • College prep and world language courses would be reduced.
  • Instrumental music at the elementary school level would end.
  • Most elementary schools would lose their assistant principals.
Data: Minnesota Department of Education. Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Minnesota Department of Education. Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: With a shrinking school-age population in Minneapolis, MPS' enrollment losses have eaten away at the district's share of state funding. But as students left, MPS' budget didn't "change to accommodate the new reality," CFO Ibrahima Diop said last week.

  • The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers says a "district redesign," which the union opposed, also sped up the decline. Many parents left MPS for private schools, charters, or other districts after it became clear the plan could force their students to switch schools.

The other side: Union leaders have accused district officials of "fear-mongering," arguing that administrators ought to present a plan to stabilize the district, but instead are only "managing [its] decline."

By the numbers: After making the cuts and closing unfilled positions, MPS plans to spend down $55 million in "fund balances" — essentially, leftover money that has accumulated in various district accounts. Altogether, that would close the $115 million shortfall.

  • Budget officials warn these balances won't be available next year, when further cuts may also be necessary.

What we're watching: In contract negotiations, the teachers union is asking for a raise. The district suggests that would require further cuts elsewhere.

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