Teachers and staff of Minneapolis schools are expecting hundreds of layoffs due to a $33 million deficit only a few years after the city and state completed a taxpayer-funded $1.1 billion football stadium.
Minneapolis Public Schools — the state’s third largest district currently tasked with educating 36,000 young people — is expected to lay off 350-400 full time employees after last fall’s announcement that the education budget’s deficit had doubled for the following school year.
Teachers of many subjects are on the chopping block, including English and Math. Social workers in charge of shepherding troubled students and security guards meant to provide protection during an event such as a mass shooting are also expected to be cut.
“Don’t put it on the backs of the classrooms … that’s unacceptable,” Washburn High School mother Jeanne Massey told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “This is the biggest blow to the schools in anybody’s memory… It’s completely gutting the school. In an era when kids are at risk for gun safety, there’s no protection in the school.”
Massey expressed her indignation along with others at Tuesday’s school board meeting, and a larger protest is planned for an upcoming April 10th meeting ahead of the budget’s final approval in June. The school district had previously been paying the deficit by tapping into emergency reserves, but district spokesman Dirk Tedmon says that there’s now practically “nothing left for an emergency.”
Meanwhile, the taxpayer-funded US Bank Stadium hosted its first Super Bowl last month, with billionaire real estate tycoon and Vikings owner Zygi Wilf expected to reap $200 million from the new stadium each year in personal profits. The city of Minneapolis and State of Minnesota together spent a combined $498 million of taxpayer money to aid in the construction of the stadium, as well as to the destruction of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, which the new stadium replaced.
Taxpayers also will be chipping in over $7 million a year for operations and management, and do not receive discounts of any kind for funding the new facility.
Supporters of the stadium say that it spikes tourism and spending, which in turn helps the city. Many economists, however, say this spending tends to replace other local entertainment options that otherwise would have been utilized, and that city benefits for a new sports stadium are negligible, perhaps even ultimately harmful.
Former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, himself a passionate sports fan, has been one of many who have spoken out against the city’s choice to commit so much in financial resources to the stadium.
“It used to be a football game,” Carlson said. “Now it’s become a celebration for the very, very wealthy.”
Carlson and others have demanded more public oversight in how public spending is being directed into the stadium.
“Been battling the issue for three years and still can’t get through,” he said. “I’m proposing something called the sunshine law. I want a sunshine law passed that guarantees the public the right to know how, when, where and why its money is being spent.”
When city and state officials approved the $1.1 billion construction of the US Bank stadium in 2012, the local education budget was suffering a deficit of $27.4 million. Six years later, the stadium is raking in money for Wilf and the NFL, while students like Ethan Buss of Washburn High School continue to worry about the quality of their educations:
“I’m afraid that our school is going to become less safe and we’re going to have less opportunities to learn and grow as students,” he said.
Nathan Wellman is a journalist from Los Angeles who has written for US Uncut and Grit Post. Follow him on Twitter: @LIGHTNINGWOW