Newspaper article

Most Vulnerable Students to Get One-Two Punch under Sequester

Newspaper article

Most Vulnerable Students to Get One-Two Punch under Sequester

Article excerpt

Political rhetoric about spreading out the pain notwithstanding, if it comes to pass the sequestration will deliver a one-two punch to Minnesota's most disadvantaged students. The two revenue streams that will be cut dramatically and immediately are directed at programs for disabled children and schools that serve concentrations of children in poverty.

In fiscal year 2013, the state would lose $7 million in Title I funds, which are used to compensate schools for the extra cost of educating impoverished students. The U.S. Department of Education estimates this would mean the loss of 100 teacher and aide jobs and the elimination of support for 8,000 children and 40 schools.

Also sequestered immediately would be $9.2 million in federal special-education reimbursement. Because schools can't cut programs for disabled kids or turn them away, administrators would need to find funds to pay for the estimated 111 staff whose salaries would be slashed.

The cuts would further compound a crisis educators are desperate to bring to lawmakers' attention. Reimbursement for legally mandated special-education services doesn't come anywhere near the cost, and rising poverty means rising need.

On Monday, MinnPost published the third installment of a series examining this juncture, which advocates have begun referring to as "The Tipping Point." Published in January, the first two stories outlined the strain unmet mental health needs are placing on schools and laid out district leaders' legislative wish list.

Cross-subsidy: a massive diversion of funds

This week's story described the so-called cross-subsidy, the funding wrinkle where massive cuts in state funding for public education have been hidden over the last decade. Schools already must divert some $600 million, or nearly a fifth of state aid for each student, to make up the shortfall.

That's nearly twice as big a gap as a decade ago when a combination of structural changes to Minnesota's tax system crafted by former Gov. Jesse Ventura and subsequent cost-cutting by then- Gov. Tim Pawlenty started the cross-subsidy's upward spiral.

Hand-in-glove with the cross-subsidy, caseloads have shot up in recent years. …

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