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Parents Ring Alarm Bells Over "Catastrophic" Schools Cuts

School board members: this is just a proposal.

While much of Southwest Minneapolis wondered where its school buses were Wednesday evening, Burroughs Community School parents were ringing alarm bells for a different reason—budget cuts to Southwest Minneapolis schools.

At 8:30 a.m. on Friday, the Minneapolis school board's Finance Committee is slated to discuss the proposed 2013-2014 school year budget. The board and its committees will have many chances to poke, prod, and modify the proposal between Friday and a final vote in June.

The Minneapolis Public Schools are trying to make up for a projected $24 million shortfall. A presentation to the school board, posted on the district's Finance Department website and dated Jan. 22, 2013, says all parts of the district will see cuts. Many Twin Cities school districts are also facing steep cuts.

IF YOU GO: 

What: Minneapolis school board Finance Committee meeting

Where: John B. Davis Center, 1250 West Broadway Ave, Minneapolis MN, Room S1-435

When: 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Parents: Cuts "Catastrophic"

Details have not been publicly released yet, but according to a letter Burroughs PTA president Melissa Panszi Riebe sent out to parents on Wednesday night, her children's school is slated to lose significant funding under the proposal.

"The Minneapolis School District has just provided us with next year’s (preliminary) budget that has significant and catastrophic cuts that will effect not only the quality of our children’s education, but also their safety and well-being," Riebe wrote.

The cuts, which Riebe said approached $500,000, could not be made up win using parent fundraising. Southwest Minneapolis in general, and Burroughs in particular, is known for its fundraising prowess. 

"The Burroughs PTA  and Burroughs Fund are not able to cover this extreme shortfall," Riebe added in a subsequent email to parents. "Although Burroughs parents and community have always been very generous, it is the Burroughs PTA and Burroughs Fund Committee position that relying on our funds is not sustainable and the district should not rely on parent fundraising to cover yearly operating expenses and essential positions."

According to Riebe, the eight percent cut would mean the school's social worker, several other support staff, and money for classroom supplies could not be covered by school district funds. 

Concern over the budget proposal has spread to other schools. A person claiming to be a member of the Kenny Community School site council posted a message on Southwest Minneapolis school board member Tracine Asberry's campaign Facebook page, saying "it hurts KIDS. plain and simple. There are no other places to cut."

On its Facebook page, the Armatage Montessori PTA posted a long letter enumerating their concerns.

"The proposed budget for Armatage is $180,379.00 less than last year. This will have a critical effect on our current educational programs/staffing," it said, in part. "We believe (the school board) can do better and we are going to ask for some clarity and action on behalf of our children. "

School Board: This Isn't Over Yet

School board members quickly responded to Riebe's letter—and parents' calls.

"Thank you for being passionate about Burroughs Community School. I am also thrilled that you want to engage in conversation around the budget," Finance Committee chair and at-large school board member Rebecca Gagnon wrote in a letter and email to parents. "To find $25 million worth of cuts, we used a process that examined all programs to determine how or if they tied to the strategic plan, to focused instruction & teacher evaluation, and if they have proven outcomes of successfully moving student achievement."

"The district is having to make some painful choices to become fiscally sound and cut $25 million so as to not be reserve dependent," the letter added. "That said, the finance committee will look closely at cuts impacting school sites. This process is just beginning, & I know we will be making some adjustments before final approval."

On her official Facebook page, Asberry also asked parents to come listen to Friday morning's committee meeting to learn more about the budget. School board committee meetings are not broadcast online nor are recordings of the meetings posted on the school board website, unlike full Board of Education meetings.

K Knapp March 15, 2013 at 03:55 PM
Parents and PTAs from ALL Area C achos have been working together to coordinate action against the budget as planned. These planned cuts affect ALL SW school sat ALL grade levels. If you have/know/love a SW student at a MPLS public school please contact the board and tell them to lead the district back to reality.
K Knapp March 15, 2013 at 03:56 PM
Oops, should be Area C schools. That's what happens when one is up too late emailing Board members on behalf of LHCS

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