Rochester’s deep cuts

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by Trent Wells | July 17, 2009 • Being from Rochester, Minnesota I know the pride that many people take in the quality of our public school system. Rochester, like many other cities in Minnesota, is in the midst of an effort to reduce the achievement gap in its school system. However, the latest effort will more than likely be stymied by another problem that seemingly every other city in Minnesota is facing, budget cuts.

Hindsight is the official blog of Minnesota 2020. Hindsight gives the run down on the news that jumps out at us on the issues that matter. Often times these stories show us how much further we need to go to have the progressive policy realized in Minnesota.

In April, the Rochester Public School District cut 75 full-time teachers and 27 paraprofessionals as part of an effort to reduce a $9.3 million deficit. The reduction in teachers is anticipated to increase class sizes by about three children per class. Three more kids may not sound like a lot, but imagine three more desks in an already overcrowded room or being a teacher, who used to have to correct 180 tests but now has to look at 200.

Now the district found out in order to balance the budget in the future, it will have to cut $5 million this year and another $6.8 million the next year. All told the Rochester public schools will cut $21.1 million or 15% of its budget over the course of three years.

There’s belt-tightening and then there’s extreme cost-cutting measures like this. Cutting 15% of the district budget over the course of three years isn’t just eliminating waste; it’s cutting out vital parts for delivering a quality education in Minnesota.

If I was told I had to lose 15% of my weight, I could lose some fat but I’d never make it by just losing fat. I’d need to make a drastic cut, say amputating my leg, to reach 15% of my weight. Would losing my leg improve my ability to do important daily activities? No? Well, don’t expect the Rochester public schools perform better either until they can get their funding back.

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