St. Paul School Board approves budget amid concern over Arts cuts

The St. Paul Public School Board approved its annual budget with a unanimous vote of 6-0, following public comment from students that called on district leaders to renew funding for the Arts.

Students who spoke Tuesday say cuts have disproportionately impacted urban schools on the east side of St. Paul, where there are more students of color.

"Why should schools like Capitol Hill and Horrace Mann have access to programs because we happen to have parents who are able and willing to pay for it?" said one parent. "Why should students have to attend schools across town for such basic and righteous education practices?"  

Highland Park Senior High School students have been at the forefront of this movement, as the school’s visual arts program is being downsized next year. In a letter to families, the principal said they would be adding teachers in agriculture, food, and natural resources—career fields that are high wage and of increasing demand. He explained that this is in line with the school’s career pathways program.

In a statement to FOX 9, a spokesperson for the district said staffing decisions are determined by each high school’s principal. He also said the 2021-22 budget includes a net increase of arts teachers in the district, as well as increased funding for arts materials and curriculum.

But Jerome Treadwell, a student and Highland Park says he doesn’t blame his principal.

"If the school district allocates enough funds for the principal to make the decision whether they can eliminate or restore, their go-to would be restore because they identify and realize the needs of the population of the school," he said.