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The local, regional and national press has featured many recent news stories with a common theme: As cities and states wrestle with unprecedented budget problems, legislators and school districts are being forced to try all sorts of things to save money.

National Public Radio story focused on the easiest way to cut costs: increase classroom sizes. According to the NPR story, half the nation’s districts expect to increase class sizes to help offset some of the coming financial pressures. Former DC schools chancellor Michelle Rhee’s suggestion is to put more kids into the best teachers’ classrooms, therefore at least lessoning the impact on learning.

A recent New York Times article highlighted how some Florida districts are placing students into massive “learning labs” against their will in order to keep class sizes down.

Closer to home, the Star Tribune reports on a recent state legislative proposal to freeze public school teacher pay for two years to deal with the third year in a row of flat state funding … especially as future increases look unlikely.

Finally, here in Duluth our own DNT printed a Fergus Falls editorial requesting that the state provide funding numbers earlier this year … to allow districts like Duluth to know their budgets before late summer, when adjustments to staffing are much more difficult for the schools and the individual teachers.

Here at Marshall, we found ourselves in the news this week as the results of our conversations about the cost of our girls hockey cooperative with Proctor and Hermantown. As the numbers of girls playing hockey dwindle at our school, the per-student cost of the program has become prohibitive. With our projection of having only one girl in the program next year, we could not justify paying a third of the overall cost of the program — as the other much bigger schools are insisting. Despite our offer to run the cooperative in a way similar to Grand Rapids-Greenway, where there is a proportional cost based on participation, the other districts have turned us down.

As much as we’ve enjoyed our partnership and would love to keep girls hockey at Marshall, everybody today is faced with tough choices.