MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – The Minneapolis School District miscalculated its current budget by as much as $17 million, continuing a tradition of questionable money management that’s plagued the district for years.
District officials told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Wednesday that the district faces a $15 million to $17 million shortfall for the current school year after administrators neglected to properly budget for increased costs tied to a new teachers contract, as well as pension payments and numerous other items.
The announcement follows and audit last year showing the district did not set aside enough money for many of its expenses, including the contract with the auditors who discovered the problem, which was budgeted at $100,000 and actually cost $108,000, according to the news site.
This year’s shortfall include $7 million in employee pension payments, a $6 million increase tied to a new labor contract, and millions more in school resource officer and plant operations that were not accounted for.
“There were several other areas that were not fully funded, $200,000 or $300,000 here and there,” said Diop, who vowed to get the district’s finances back on track.
For the current school year, district officials plan to withhold $22 million it normally deposits into “two funds that are not yielding sufficient profits” to plug the budget hole.
The massive shortfall is only the latest in the district’s long history of questionable spending practices.
EAGnews last year highlighted the district’s spending on controversial race-based teacher training in the past. The training, conducted by the Pacific Educational Group and affiliated or like-minded organizations, centers on the premise of “white privilege” – that America is hopelessly stacked against minorities who are victims of the crushing white supremacist system.
MPS penned “extravagant contracts” with PEG consultants directly until the mid-2000s, when the public caught on and forced an end to the deals, which were ushered in under the guise of closing the achievement gap between minority and white students, Better-Ed.org reports.
“Picking up some of the slack brought about by the departure of PEG in those years was the Community Standards Initiative (CSI). This organization, which also focused exclusively on ending the achievement gap, pocketed just over $400,000 before being terminated in a scandal (in 2014) when its leadership was found to be incompetent and unable to provide the services the district demanded,” according to the news site.
The site pointed out that the district continued to award five-figure no-bid contracts to similar organizations to conduct “Training Sessions for Positive School Wide Engagement, Equity and Social Justice activities to impact student culture and racial equity.”
Much of the race-based “achievement gap” spending aligns with efforts by President Obama to reduce the suspensions of black students across the country using a “restorative justice” approach to student discipline that allows students to craft their own punishments.
Ironically, Better-Ed points out that all of the extra spending has essentially been fruitless. Charts with data from the Minnesota Department of Education show the achievement gap in reading expanded by an astounding 10 percent between 2001 and 2014.
The same measure for math widened by five percent, from 48 percent in 2001 to 53 percent in 2014.
And, judging by teacher reports of classroom violence and the millions the district spend on additional school resource officers, the race-based teacher training and student discipline policies have been equally as effective.