Minneapolis schools anticipate cutting at least 200 jobs

District leaders with the Minneapolis Public Schools anticipate significant cuts in both Central Office departments and schools, including at least 200 jobs, for the 2024-25 school year.

The district faces a minimum $110 million budget shortfall, its largest gap ever, which does include current offers on the table with the teachers’ unions.

"Not only does it have the typical financial factors to consider, but this budget also sits at the nexus of the end of the unprecedented federal funding, historical inflation and after a decade of student enrollment declines," said Superintendent Dr. Lisa Sayles-Adams.

District leaders name those as the top three factors that lead to the severe shortfall. Next school year, MPS is losing $259 million in federal COVID relief funds that it’s had the last few years. Then, there's inflation: Costs of everything from salaries to utilities, transportation and food have gone up. The third main factor is, despite declining enrollment for the last decade, district leaders said they haven't made proportionate changes in how they operate the district.

On Tuesday night, finance leaders told the school board their plan to cut $47 million in expenses. The largest cut would be intervention teams at every school, which were meant to help students struggling with learning loss from the pandemic. Other significant reductions include AVID tutors and all 5th-grade musical instrument teachers, although schools may use their discretionary funds to continue the program.

"It wasn't an easy decision, of course. The magnitude of our budget gap required us to look at every general fund expenditure," said Dr. Aimee Fearing, the district’s senior academic officer, of the musical instruments program. "As the arts are a required standard for our elementary schools to meet, instrumental music is not a stated requirement."

In a 259-page presentation, district leaders explained their top goals are to keep students at the center of their decisions, equity, meet their legal requirements and to reduce, not eliminate services whenever possible. They say trying to sustain the number of schools they have makes it difficult to balance the budget.

"It's the biggest gap that I've seen so far," said Senior Financial Officer Ibrahima Diop. "We are also looking to making sure that we increase our revenue, attract and maintain our students, attract new students to come and as we do that, we also reduce our expenditures wherever we can to making sure that the viability of the district is guaranteed."

Other proposed job reductions include assistant principals, special education teachers, sign language interpreters, school nurses, custodians and positions at Central Office. Magnet schools would also see a reduction in funding. Three dozen vacant bus driver positions would also be eliminated.

To cover the other half of the shortfall, districts leaders want to use a $55 million in a one-time fund balance from fiscal year 2025 as a "bridge" until they can increase revenue. They hope to do that by sending a $20 million tech levy increase to voters. Other goals include trying to increase enrollment and push for state and federal funding.

"As we prepare for proposed reductions and eliminations, we are planning the operational changes necessary to continue to serve our students in the short and long term," Diop said.

The school board is set to approve the final budget in June. District leaders say they may have to adjust the budget once they settle contracts with the teachers’ unions.