The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 21, 2014

Declining enrollment means cuts for LSH

District eyes free preschool despite budget constraints

LE SUEUR — The Le Sueur-Henderson Public School District is trying to balance improvements to student opportunities with inevitable cuts that will have to be made before the 2014-15 budget is set by June 30.

Declining enrollment is at the root of the problem, said Supt. Rich Hanson.

When Hanson came to the district three years ago, enrollment was 1,070 students. This year it's 1,020, and with roughly $7,000 allotted for each student in state funding, that's an overall reduction of about $350,000.

“Our enrollment is continuing to decline. The classes that are graduating are larger than the classes that are coming in, and that's really impacting us," he said.

Hanson doesn't have an estimate of how much will be cut from the budget next year, and he doesn't have specifics on what programs or how many employees will be cut because administration and the School Board are still investigating the impact on students before making decisions.

Hanson does know that staff will be reduced. The district is not just looking at teaching staff, he said, although the specific areas being looked at haven't been determined.

“We have tried to protect our staffing and be prudent,” Hanson said. “(But) 80 percent of our budget is staffing. When we have to make some of these more significant cuts, that's where we have to look.”

Marsha Sullivan — a parent of three children in preschool, second and fourth grade — said the lack of concrete public details about potential cuts makes it difficult to offer feedback.

"It's been hard to know what the concerns might be. Some people who are teachers, or who know teachers, are talking about the different proposed cuts and things happening," she said.

Several teachers spoke at a recent School Board meeting, voicing concerns about cuts to teaching staff and the impact on programs, overall student learning and increased class sizes.

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