As the state tries to balance its books, schools are paying the price ‚Äî at least for now. Two hundred and thirty-one of Minnesota’s 337 school districts ‚Äî that’s 69 percent ‚Äî received a memo last week outlining how much their March and April payments will be reduced. In all, the state is delaying $423 million in aid payments.

(Can someone please explain how delaying payment helps to balance anything. According to state law, payments must be made by May 30th anyhow.)

Already, the Prior Lake-Savage School Board has responded to the reduction by cutting $3.7 million from its 2010-2011 budget. Seems like they’re not planning on seeing that money at all, eh?

The teachers’ union is planning its own counterattack, of course, and if you’re still planning on watching the Super Bowl ‚Äî despite the lack of Vikings (and The Who playing CSI theme songs) ‚Äî you’ll likely catch an the onset of Education Minnesota’s new TV ad campaign against budget cutters targeting schools to erase the deficit.

“There’s been much speculation about cutting education to solve the budget crisis,” [Education Minnesota President Tom] Dooher said at a news conference. “But cutting education is the wrong move at the wrong time. … Now is the time to protect it, reform the way we pay for it and make it our top priority. … Minnesota stands to lose its position as the nation’s leader in education, not because another state took it from us, but because Minnesota gave it away.”

Somehow, I doubt a four-day school week is the answer. But that’s exactly what is happening in school districts in west central and northern Minnesota.

Make no mistake about it: These decisions were entirely financial in nature. While school leaders intend to put the savings back into the classroom, and they certainly don’t want to see test scores, graduation rates or other measures of academic achievement fall, their main interest was not to better student achievement but to simply keep the doors open.

Meanwhile, Bernadeia Johnson, deputy superintendent of the Minneapolis schools, is preparing to take the reigns as the district’s superintendent. What does she have in mind? Watch this video and find out.

Hopefully, she’ll address the issue that Minnesota was among the lower tier finishers in a national report on practices for training, evaluating, and retaining quality teachers ‚Äî scoring an overall D-minus. It seems we’re using “broken, outdated, and inflexible” policies that ultimately hurt how children learn. Oh, my. And on top of that, we’re breaking their backs!