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Looking for hope, despite red ink

July 28, 2008 By James Sanna, TC Daily Planet

When Generic Saint Paul Public Schools Student Lisa goes back to school in September, her school may look quite different. The new St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) budget for 2008-2009 includes $7 million in cuts. An additional million dollars will come from the reserves to make up an $8 million budget shortfall.

Individual school budgets were due at the district office May 1. Each St Paul public school decides how to allocate its slice of the budget pie, within federal, state and district requirements for programs. Their responses to the cuts might be very different, but generally, former principal and SPPS official Nancy Stachel said, schools might cut field trips, or reduce hours for teacher's assistants, or shelve plans to replace needed technology.

In some classrooms, she said, "The sad thing is, nothing might change because a teacher just increases his or her out-of-pocket expenses."

Continuing budget cuts will be the near-term financial future for SPPS. The district's - and the nation's - population is getting older, children are growing older, and adults are having fewer children. For a district that essentially built itself to educate the baby boom and its copious progeny, the drop in numbers of children is a shock to the system that will only dissipate after the decline in students bottoms out.

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