School Districts Running Deficits Even With State Funding Increases

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Minn. – In spite of a significant increase in public education funding by the state government, schools in the Twin Cities are still struggling to make ends meet.

In May the state legislature passed an $18.8 billion education bill, which included $483 million in new spending, reports the Pioneer Press. For each of the two years covered by the biennial budget, schools will receive a two percent increase in a per student funding formula that covers general expenses.

In spite of that, school districts in and around the Twin Cities are heading into the coming school year facing a combined $92 million in deficits, reports the Pioneer Press. Slightly less than half of these deficits come from St. Paul schools and schools in the city’s suburbs. Ten districts combine for $44 million in deficits.

With that, schools are now scrambling to find ways to cut costs leading up to the new year. Many are cutting personnel, with the school districts of St. Paul, Roseville, and South St. Paul all cutting 10 or more staff members, according to the Pioneer Press. The St. Paul school district faces the largest budget gap at $21 million, and will be cutting 21 staff positions along with other cost-saving measures in an attempt to balance their books.

Many teacher contracts include automatic pay raises commensurate with experience and training. Teachers, therefore, receive pay raises just by virtue of having worked a certain number of years in the profession, and can also receive pay increases for additional degrees or training, regardless of whether the school district wants them to complete additional training. According to the Pioneer Press, about 80 percent of district costs are tied up in staffing.

While the state approved two percent increase in per-pupil funding, a report by the Center for Fiscal Excellence found in that with current pay structures, schools would need an annual increase in per pupil spending of roughly 4.1 percent to avoid deficits going forward.

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