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Lake Superior School Board Meets to Talk about Fiscal Adjustments

On Tuesday, May 7th, the mem­bers of the Lake Superior School Board met with Superintendent Jay Belcastro and Principals from each of the district schools to talk about ways to deal with the $570,000 budget shortfall that the district is currently facing. Also in attendance were around 35 parents and a num­ber of district teachers. The long and short of this budget shortfall is that the district is going to need to cut some administrative and teach­ing staff. In reality, reductions of this kind are primarily going to fall on the students. There are many components that factor into school budget shortfalls and the Lake Su­perior district is not alone in facing such challenges.

Reasons for the budgetary short­fall are varied and frankly, compli­cated. According to the data presented at the meeting, as of 2024, there were around 1642 “resident stu­dents” living in the Lake Superior District. 1264 of those students at­tend district schools. The remaining students are homeschooled or are pursuing their education in alter­native settings. The State of Minne­sota spends approximately $11,000 on “per pupil expenditures” for stu­dents enrolled in district schools. From fiscal year 2021 to 2024, the Lake Superior District saw a de­cline of 93 students, leading to a loss of $1.2 million in funds. This year alone, there has been a decline of 44 students attending LSSD schools.

The overall picture of how we fund public education in this coun­try suggests that approximately 11% of funding for K-12 education comes from the Federal Govern­ment while 45% and 44% come respectively from State and Local funding sources.

The district has recently made investments using ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) Funds to update district bus transportation and provide comput­er technology for students. With the use of ESSER funds, these invest­ments have helped the district save around $1,500,000 in needed im­provements that did not come out of the operating budget.

Knowing that a funding shortfall was on the horizon, district admin­istrators began to look at ways to trim costs, which will be achieved primarily by reducing full time staff positions. What follows is a draft overview of reductions and there may be additional reductions and additions that are not included at present.

Two Harbors High School will cut three General Ed. 6th Grade Teachers and a Paraprofessional position. These reductions will to­tal $285,000.

Minnehaha Elementary School will cut one General Ed. Teacher and one General Ed. Specialist. Re­ductions will total $160,000.

William Kelley Schools will cut Paraprofessional hours for a total reduction of $5,000.

Additionally, a Transportation Director position will be cut for a reduction of $30,000, a Finance Assistant position will be cut for a reduction of $50,000 and the re­duction of a bus route next year will save $40,000.

Though no specific decision was made at the meeting with re­gard to adopting the proposed fis­cal adjustments, there are clearly some difficult decisions that will be forthcoming, as evidenced by the concern shown on the faces of the parents and teaching staff who at­tended the meeting.

Truthfully, we should all be con­cerned about the systemic under­funding of public education at both the State and National level. As was expressed by one Board member, “We have to put the education of our kids at risk because we cannot get a country or a state that gives us the revenue to survive and educate the kids like we want to”.

Our public education system is run like a business and while sound business principles are good and necessary, we would do well to remember that public education is first and foremost an investment in our children and in our future. There are around 55.4 million pub­lic school students in the U.S. Their education provides us with citizens who can think critically and analyt­ically, who are equipped to enter adulthood as productive members of society, and who create new knowledge through scientific, tech­nological and economic advance­ments.

As Teacher Appreciation Week comes to a close, it is worthwhile to note that a civil society and a func­tioning democracy are not possible without an educated population. It should also be noted that contract negotiations between district teach­ers and the school board remain on­going.

Superintendent Belcastro encour­aged meeting attendees to look at Senate Bill 4995, which is currently before the Legislature. Bill 4995 is authored by Senator Grant Haus­child and others and is designed to increase financial aid to rural school districts by creating a tax based replacement aid, “whereby the state will send funding back to a school district if they have a voter approved Operating Referendum in place. The school district then uses this aid to reduce the total cost of the levy, which is then distributed across the real market value proper­ties by the county auditor. The new tax base replacement aid creates a seasonal tax based adjustment factor based on the amount of seasonal property in the school district. That factor is used to generate the aid amount, if an Operating Referen­dum is approved”.

All residents who live in Lake County have a stake in the health, wellbeing and adequate funding of the Lake Superior School District.

Rick Evans
Rick Evans
My wife, Marsha Kinzer (a proud DEHS Greyhound, class of ‘77) introduced me to the North Shore on vacation in 2012. It became our regular escape when the stress of our careers in education became overwhelming, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the breathtaking scenery, the nice people, and “salad” containing Jell-o and marshmallows. So you can either blame or thank my loving wife for my being here, because when we needed to choose a retirement hometown, Marsha advocated hard for her beloved Duluth, and here we are, six months later. Yes, this will be my first northern Minnesota winter. Yes, I welcome thoughts and prayers. Government, public policy, and social justice weighed heavily in the curriculums I taught at the high school level over a thirty-eight year career. In addition, we were a laboratory school focused on critical thinking in conjunction with technical and scientific writing. So when I found myself adrift on the great ocean of retirement and spied a raft, I jumped at the chance to take up what I’d left behind…minus the bad teachers’ lounge coffee. My position at the NSJ allows me to combine my passions for government and writing, and it’s helping me to feel less out of touch in new surroundings. When I’m not being “Cubby” (Marsha’s favorite new nickname for this green reporter) I enjoy pointing at eagles and saying, “Look, honey. There’s an eagle.” I’ve had an active side hustle as a professional musician for almost as many years as Charlie Parr. As a guitarist/singer/songwriter, I graced the stages of clubs and festivals around southern Wisconsin, including an appearance on A Prairie Home Companion. Should I even mention A Prairie Home Companion, or am I the only one here old enough to remember what that is? Look! An eagle!
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