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Report commissioned by Minneapolis educators challenges district’s spending priorities

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, February 17, 2024
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MINNEAPOLIS — Supported by the findings of a new report examining the finances of the Minneapolis Public Schools, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers president Greta Callahan urged, “it’s time to start investing in our kids.”

The report documents what the union says are inaccurate MPS budget forecasts and misplaced spending priorities. 

The report, commissioned by the union, said the district since 2018 forecasted annual deficits in the district’s general fund when  instead the general fund grew by $81 million between 2018 and 2023.

According to a summary of the report, “MPS leaders are projecting fiscal insolvency for the district by 2026, suggesting that cuts to classroom educators or even school closures will be needed to keep the district solvent. However, a closer examination of the district’s finances reveals that there is still room for investment in students and educators, and that the district’s spending patterns are out of step with those of surrounding districts, and out of sync with MPS’ stated values.”

Other findings from the report summary:

• Spending on instruction has decreased by 5 percent since 2018, while spending on district support and administration have gone up by 19 percent each.

• Purchased services make up 16 percent of the overall MPS budget—much higher than the average 11 percent that peer districts spend. Over five years, MPS spending on purchased services has gone up by 50 percent, while spending on staff salaries and benefits went down by 1 percent.

• MPS added 82 more administrator positions in 2023, costing at least $7.4 million in additional salaries.

• The average teacher salary in MPS is 6 percent lower than the average pay of teachers in peer districts, who make $11,000 more than MPS teachers.

• One-third of MPS teachers have five or fewer years of experience. One in five licensed staff in MPS are new to the profession, which is three times the average of peer districts.

• More than half of MPS Educational Support Professionals have been working in their position for less than five years and more than a quarter of MPS ESPs have worked in their positions for less than one year.

“We need to focus on improving the district, not the managed decline of the district,” said Callahan, speaking at a media availability January 31.

“It’s a manufactured crisis and it’s time to turn the ship around,” Callahan said.

With a new superintendent for the Minneapolis Public Schools, Callahan expressed hope in working for change. “We need our families to join us.”

For a copy of the full report, click here.

For a one-page overview of the report, click here.