Concerns About Current Spending
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Concerns About Current Spending

Concerns About Current Spending

Why does MPS spend so much time on testing?

Time spent taking assessments has actually gone down a lot since the 2015-16 school year. In grades 1-5, testing time has gone down from 92 hours a year to 18; and in grades 6-8, from 97 hours to just 10. Assessments now account for just 1-1.7% of instructional time. These assessments include state-mandated testing, such as MCAs, ACCESS for English Learners, and the ACT. District-required tests include FAST (grades K‐8) and MAP (grade 9), Benchmark literacy curriculum end‐of‐unit assessments or interim assessments (grades K‐5).

Our goal is to keep our schools places of teaching and learning, not just testing. At the same time, we know some tests allow staff to better see student progress so we can help them on an individual level with the resources and support they need.

What are magnet schools, and why do we fund them?

MPS has a history of offering significant choice to the students and families it serves. Magnet schools -- where the learning is focused around a specific area of learning, such as language immersion or Montessori teaching -- have appealed to MPS families. Magnet schools originated from federal grants intended to increase integration of schools throughout the country.

Old technology, where does it go? (Lots can be sold.)

Old technology retired from the district is handled through environment-friendly means as they are too old to use or donate, missing parts, have no cables, and in some cases are hazardous and must be recycled.

MPS offers so many programs, many of serving relatively small numbers of students, but most quite expensive. I’m thinking of IB, Office of Black Male Achievement, Indian Education, Check and Connect. Why don’t we eliminate all these small, expensive programs?

MPS has been proud to offer a wide variety of programming for its diverse students. We have also worked hard to respond to the needs of traditionally underserved students. These and all programs will be thoroughly reviewed over the next year as we respond to the results of a Comprehensive Districtwide Assessment that will examine transportation, boundaries, programs, enrollment and all other significant issues.

What did we spend Fund Balance money on for the past 10 years? 

At least some has been about funding a lack of fully funded education (Special Education and ELL). The district has also invested in Literacy curriculum, behavior specialists, class size reductions for high priority schools, a Grow Your Own program, math and reading specialists, Go To passes for high school students, support for small schools, and winter and spring break academies

How much money in the MPS budget goes directly to the services (usually Special Ed and Transportation) paid to charter schools? Why does this happen?

By state law, $21 million is paid for MPS special ed students who attend schools outside of MPS—whether charters, non-public schools or other districts. This service is mandated by state open enrollment laws. We don’t control the chargebacks to MPS; the fees are set by the IEP services determined by those non-MPS schools.

It is state law, but why is that a state law? Who or what is it meant to help?

Great question! Ask your legislators--that's what we're doing. Nationally, neither state nor federal government has ever reimbursed school districts for the full cost of the services we provide to our students who need them.

If the state were to pay for special education fully, would we be able to pay back our fund balance?

MPS would not have a budget deficit if the state and federal government fully funded Special Education services. Today, MPS receives funding for approximately 60% of the services it provides to students. MPS will continue to provide those services whether or not it receives full funding, but is also working at the legislature to increase that funding. Approximately $56 million of General Fund dollars go to fund Special Education services. Of that, $21 million pays for services that MPS is required by law to fund for Minneapolis residents who receive those services at schools other than our own.

How do we know what capital investments are necessary?

It’s important to remember that the budget deficit we’re talking about is related to our General Fund, which is not the source of capital improvements. Capital improvements are generally funded through the sale of bonds.

Nevertheless, we do want to ensure that any capital improvements are a good use of those dollars. To that end, we work with operations experts, school staff and community members when recommending capital improvements. Our current capital improvement investments are prioritized for student safety and security, modernizing kitchens to improve quality of food for students and air-conditioning instructional spaces to improve air quality and learning environment.

Why doesn’t the district just cut administrative costs more? You spend too much at the Davis Center.

If MPS completely eliminated everyone at the Davis Center -- which would also eliminate payroll, evaluation, communications, technology and human resources, among others -- MPS would still face an $8 million budget shortfall.

Current projections are that non-school departments will have to reduce their budgets by 10%-15%. While the positions affected by these reductions are not positions in the schools, everyone – teachers, students and families – will feel the impact of reduced and slower services. Departments were already reduced by approximately 30% over the last three years

How can you do things like put air-conditioning in schools if you have a budget deficit?

MPS is funded through many different funding sources. Construction work in schools, also known as capital improvements or capital renewals, are generally funded through the sale of bonds, which is entirely separate from our limited and currently insufficient General Fund.