Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Jack McFarlane
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Barnum community speaks up on school budget cuts

 

February 13, 2020



With major upcoming monetary cuts in the Barnum school district, the community gathered to voice their opinions on those cuts at the school board’s working meeting held in the Barnum High School auditorium on Tuesday evening, February 4.

Two main issues were presented as being the driving force behind the needed cuts, the first being declining enrollment. Barnum is graduating more students per year than students who enter the school district in kindergarten. The state and federal governments stipulate about $10,000 per student every year, but with steadily decreasing enrollment over the last several years, that is less and less money the district is getting. Another issue is that cross subsidy costs have been increasing. Cross subsidy costs are additional school spending that is not funded by either the state or federal government but instead comes out of the general education funds. Over the last four years, Barnum’s cross subsidy has risen about $150,000.

With nearly $750,000 in cuts staring down the district, the heavy financial lifting of the proposed cuts centered mainly on reducing staff and positions. This included cutting some positions entirely, while in other instances scaling back some full-time positions to part time. This didn’t sit well with most of the auditorium’s occupants.

With possible personnel cuts making up just over $576,000 of the proposed $741,000 in cuts, non-personnel cuts included eliminating a bus route and reducing technology purchases. Bus driver Teresa mentioned some issues that could arise cutting a bus route, “I’ve got kids on my route that are almost on there two hours, one way, okay. Now you cut another route, now your kids are going to be on there even longer.”

The board also proposed increasing the lunch price ten cents which would raise about $6,000 for the district.

Another proposal included cutting elementary (K-6) down from 18 sections to 16 sections, which would increase class sizes. Parent Katie Genereau commented, “We came here from Pine City because we wanted that smaller class size.” Many students and parents talked about some of the reservations they had with larger class sizes; students get less one on one time with instructors, and kids dealing with anxiety or other mental health issues struggle more in a larger class. Teachers have less control with more kids, and the noisier atmosphere increases the learning burden on both the student and the teacher.

The human cost of the looming financial cuts was brought into sharp focus over the four-hour meeting, as a common refrain was heard repeatedly in one form or another; don’t cut teachers’ jobs. The evening featured frequent and supportive bursts of applause for the students, staff, and community members who spoke in support of the teachers. Proposed reductions in staff positions met particularly stiff resistance as the community pleaded with the board and administrators to not cut any teacher’s jobs and not endanger the terrific relationship between the students and staff at Barnum Schools.

Barnum senior and Student Representative Kyle Baker talked about his own connection to the school’s teachers, and the results of a survey he had conducted to gauge what the community valued most about the schools.

“The main answer I got was teachers,” Baker said. “I know we’re facing a lot of debt, I understand that, but I think the main thing we need to do is avoid cutting teachers at all costs.”

“I worry about the kids that will follow me through this high school and not have those strong relationships with teachers like I’ve had,” said senior Eden Sebring.

Sophomore Savannah asked the board, “Have you guys reconsidered any other option besides cutting our teachers? Because as you can see, they mean the world to us.” Senior Seth Premo said, “I want to talk about the importance of our teachers, like most of the student body here. They are our friends, and I want to say that our friends have let us create a lot of memories.”

Another senior, Allison Began said, “I find connection with so many teachers here who have helped me throughout my high school career.”

An eighth grader added, “There have been so many teachers that have been there for me throughout the years.”

Student after student spoke about their own personal connections with the staff at Barnum, with some students even going back up to speak more than once. Students, staff, and community members gave open and heartfelt testimony about the different ways that teachers have positively impacted not only their educational experience but also enriched their lives.

The stark reality is that there are a lot of financial cuts needed and these are difficult decisions. In order to maintain local control on these financial decisions, and not have the state come in and take over, the money must come from somewhere.

At the regular school board meeting coming up on Tuesday, February 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room, the board will begin taking concrete action on these proposed cuts.

As Katie Genereau said, “Every little penny right now counts, cause I’m fighting for every single school teacher in this district.”

Proposed cuts/changes by school board:

Change 18 sections to 16 sections in the Elementary

Kindergarten: 2 sections (Currently 3 sections/49 students)

1st Grade: 3 sections (Currently 3 sections/37 students)

2nd Grade: 2 sections (Currently 3 sections/54 students)

3rd Grade: 3 sections (Currently 3 sections/58 students)

4th Grade: 2 sections (Currently 2 sections/56 students)

5th Grade: 2 sections (Currently 2 sections/49 students)

6th Grade: 2 sections (Currently 3 sections/71 students)

Estimated savings of $99,000

District wide:

PE from 3.02 to 2.0 FTE

Music from 2.56 to 2.0 FTE

Schedules adjusted within both buildings

Estimated savings of $111,000

Elementary recess supervision covered by teaching staff; reduces 3 recess supervisors

Estimated savings of $15,000

HS/MS lunch supervision covered by teaching staff; reduces 1 lunch supervisor

HS/MS detention supervisor position removed

Estimated savings of $6,000

High School reductions in positions:

• 1.0 FTE Math

• 0.5 FTE Science

• 0.5 FTE Spanish

• 1.0 FTE Sped

• 1.0 FTE Media Specialist

Estimated savings of $192,000

1.0 FTE Clerical Staff

0.5 FTE Custodian

Reduce Food Service 262 total hours. Food Service reduction would then equal FY15 total hours

Estimated savings of $73,000

Non-Personnel Items

• 1 bus route (funnel effect would account for possible driver reduction)

• Technology lease reduction

• 20% supply budget reduction

• Tech apps/software reduction

• Increased meal prices ($.10)

Estimated savings of $135,800

Funnel effect from personnel reductions: Position changes due to licenses and seniority: Admin takes on DAC with counselors, possible shared AD duties (due to math position reduction)

Estimated savings of $80,000

TOTAL $741,000

 

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