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Staff cuts remain front and center in school budget talks

Heading into the final three areas of the Red Wing Public Schools budget reconciliation process, the Red Wing School Board has tentatively agreed on almost $237,000 of the $1.6 million in cuts and the board remains split when it comes to teacher cuts. 

During Monday night’s consensus discussion for last week’s meeting, which included Twin Bluff Middle School and Red Wing High School, some board members continue to see staff cuts as inevitable while others hold out hope for other options.

“Until you show me $225,000 worth of something else at the high school to cut, or something else at the middle school, or something at the elementary or somewhere else across the system, there’s some hard reality here,” Board member Heidi Jones said of staff cuts.

Vice Chair Mark Ryan, who has been outspoken in his defense of teaching positions throughout the budget talks, reiterated that teacher cuts should be discussed after all other options are exhausted.

“We still have to consider them,” Ryan said of teacher cuts, “but I want them to be the last thing we consider.”

Supt. Karsten Anderson said he is looking at some options for further reductions in the administrative area in addition to savings already discussed.

Administration has increased since he started on the board, Mike Christensen said, but it was done with a purpose, adding he doesn’t favor making administrative reductions.

“A lot of people make the mistake of thinking teachers are the only ones who have contact with students and that they’re the only ones who impact student learning and what our students are doing,” he said.

Special education

With uncertainty surrounding the way the state will reimburse districts for special education funding in the future, Anderson said he was hesitant to make any significant reductions in special education spending.

His understanding, he said, is next year will be used as the minimum revenue for district reimbursement from the state and the fear is if too many reductions are made now that funding may not return, which would hurt the district in the long run.

“I know it sounds crazy, here we are in a budget reduction cycle and we’re talking about adding staff to save more money in the long run, but it’s simply because next year is the floor,” the superintendent said. “Perhaps the worst part is not knowing; here we are making decisions and we don’t know the formulas being used.”

Uncertainty aside, Anderson said he is confident the district can save about $75,000 in special education tuition bills next year.

In addition, while the superintendent said he would like to pursue some potential changes in the Tower View Alternative High School programming, he does not recommend any substantial changes at this time.

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett

 

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