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Delaying school payments tough for many districts

Our local school districts, along with others across the state, are facing some tough times in the next few years.

And the state isn't helping.

Last week, Pawlenty administration officials said they might delay more school payments this spring as the state runs into another deficit. Schools have already been battling with delayed state payments of $1.2 billion last year.

All or part of state payments to schools in March, April and May could be delayed until June. State law exempts from delays a handful of districts with small budget reserves.

Many schools were forced to borrow money, with interest, to pay their bills after the last delay.

Our local school districts have been fiscally responsible yet are continually forced to make cuts because of state funding reductions and delays.

Schools deserve better.

The state needs to come up with a different way to fix the budget deficit. By continually fixing the budget on the backs of school districts, it's hurting teachers, students and taxpayers.

Our local districts will get through it, like they always do, but it won't be easy. We'll likely be seeing more cuts this spring.

Park Rapids Superintendent Glenn Chiodo told the school board this week that it's going to be difficult for schools across the state.

"Nobody is immune to what's going on," he said. "We'll deal with it, we'll get through it...we'll play with the cards we've been dealt."

That's the right attitude to have. Schools districts will have to adjust and work with whatever they are given.

The state's budget mess is not going away. As the 2010 legislative session approaches, this will once again be a priority.

The state needs to fix the deficit but we hope options other than delaying payments to schools are considered. School districts have already taken a beating and have had enough.