Crookston School District superintendent adds that new contract with teachers will be an increased expense.

Based on the budget compromise hammered out in St. Paul this week between DFL Gov. Tim Walz, the DFL-led Minnesota House and Republican-led Minnesota Senate, it looks like school districts in the state will receive a 2% education funding formula increase in each year of the next budget biennium, in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

In the Crookston School District, Superintendent Jeremy Olson tells the Times, that will amount to around $154,000 in additional revenue each year. Considering that Olson, Business Manager Laura Lyczewski, school building principals and school board members conservatively based their 2019-20 budget projections on no education funding increases from the state in either year, a 2% increase each year is certainly a positive development, Olson noted. But, he’s quick to add, the local budget projection also didn’t factor in increased costs sure to come when the board reaches a contract settlement with the teachers’ union, the Crookston Education Association.

“So, while (the 2 percent increase) is obviously positive for the district, it’s not like it’s going to be a windfall,” Olson cautions. “We will have an expense with the teacher contract.”

The current teacher contract is set to expire June 30. Olson said the general practice is to wait until all of the state funding is determined once and for all before entering into negotiations with the CEA. He figures negotiators representing the board and teachers’ bargaining unit will embark on opening negotiations in a month or so.


Good news on special ed

Olson also notes some good news on special education funding in the state budget. There is something known as the special education “cross subsidy,” which is the funding gap the district needs to fill in when state and federal special education dollars come up short. Last year, the gap compensated for by the district was around $1 million, the superintendent says. While he doesn’t know how much the cross-subsidy is going to actually be reduced going forward, Olson says “our legislators should be applauded for recognizing the problem and beginning to work on a solution.”