It’s a small story, but one indicative of where Minnesota education finances are today. Waseca schools are switching from traditional plastic lunch trays to Styrofoam trays. Doing so will save $30,000, but will cost six employees their jobs.
According to the Waseca County News, washing the trays requires:
“personnel, chemicals, water, heat and electricity to run 100 loads a day. At the junior high, a three-sink system has replaced the electric dishwasher to hand wash pots, pans and miscellaneous utensils with a wash, rinse, sanitize procedure.”
Food and Nutrition Service Director Jason Forshee is working with trash haulers and the county to come up with a recycling plan because Waste Management does not take #6 Styrofoam. For now, the Styrofoam trays go into the garbage. But Forshee added that there are no more paper boats or cups or wax paper sheets needed, making the total garbage output smaller. Even with throwing the trays away, there is one less sack of garbage each lunch at the junior high, he said.
Forshee was reflective about the cuts.
“At the end of the day, the cuts affect people. This is the first time in eight years that the food service has been affected by cuts. It’s the first time we’ve seen loss of jobs.
“Everything comes down to money,” he said.
He’s right. Since 2003, the state has cut back school funding by an inflation-adjusted 14 percent. In a district like Waseca, cutting jobs to save $30,000 in the budget is a big deal. It’s even a bigger deal to those people who lost their job.
This is what years of disinvestment in education has wrought. In small stories, in small ways, everyone suffers.