Minneapolis Public Schools Officials State That A New Teacher Contract Will Necessitate Cutbacks Next Year

Minneapolis Public Schools officials said on Wednesday that new contracts with teachers and education support personnel will cost an extra $80 million over two years, increasing the expected budget shortfall and necessitating cutbacks in the next school year.

After months of delayed discussions and a three-week teachers strike in March, preliminary contract agreements with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers were achieved.

It would cost an additional $53.1 million this year and an additional $27.1 million in the 2022-23 school year, according to a school board finance committee hearing on Wednesday.

The district estimates that it will save $24 million in empty jobs this year and $31.5 million in federal pandemic relief funding to offset this year’s expenditures, which are mostly for retroactive salary, bonuses, and overtime compensation.

Ibrahima Diop, the district’s senior financial officer, stated at Wednesday’s meeting that $27.1 million in contract costs would have to be offset by budget cutbacks for the 2022-23 school year.

According to him, “We have to find the money someplace to satisfy these contractual arrangements and their accompanying expenditures.”

With these agreements, teachers and support staff will see “historic victories,” such as increased pay and benefits for them as well as increased access to mental health services for the pupils they serve.

As a result of a new contract, all support personnel are guaranteed at least a $2 per hour boost. One of the union’s main goals during discussions was to raise the salary of “substantial numbers” of educational support workers by $4 an hour, which would allow them to earn $35,000 a year.

An extra $6,000 will be given to support workers who have been employed by the district for at least ten years.

In accordance with records made available by the union, teachers’ contracts provide a $4,000 incentive and wage increases of at least 2 percent every year.

While on strike, the district regularly cited its expected budget deficit, claiming that it could not meet all of the union’s demands. Federal pandemic relief monies were used to balance the district’s 2021-22 budget, which included $935 million in costs. As much as 20 percent of those funds must go toward attempts to remedy student learning loss, as mandated by the federal government

Diop, on the other hand, said that the district is under a lot of financial stress.

According to the district’s forecasts, enrollment has declined by 751 pupils since October, resulting in a 1,000 fewer students this year than in 2021.

Because fewer pupils are enrolled, the state has less money to provide each student. An estimated revenue loss of $6 to $10 million is expected as a result of the school district’s projected decrease in enrollment.

Superintendent Ed Graff said Wednesday that the district’s budgeting process will have to be reopened because of the enrollment changes, contract costs, and new personnel needs, such as the inclusion of school social workers. He said that inflation had made matters worse for the district’s budget.

The fall in enrolment necessitates a reduction in individual school budgets. With a total savings of $8 million, departmental budgets including those at the central administrative office will be reduced by 5%.

Jenny Arneson, a board member, acknowledged that it would be “particularly tough” and “certainly” delay the recruiting process, but that it was “financially responsible” to deal with the “substantial adjustments in expenditures.”

Diop said that the overwhelming bulk of the district’s spending — roughly 85 percent — are for employees, and that any cutbacks would be considered “under a lens of equity.

Greta Callahan, head of the teachers union’s local chapter, stated that the district “needs to demonstrate its commitment to students and their families by prioritizing staff who work directly with kids.”

“If cuts need to be made, those cuts must start with the many layers of administrators that have been added in the past few years. … They need to chop the top and invest in our students, not defund them.”

At its next meeting, the school board’s financial committee intends to consider ways to reduce or reallocate money.

There will be a first reading of the budget in May and a vote on a balanced 2022-23 budget at the board’s meeting in June, Graff added.

The night before a planned walkout, the teachers’ union and the St. Paul Public Schools averted a strike. Even though the district has yet to divulge the contract’s expenses, the school board must nonetheless take them into account.

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