By Paul Lundgren on Sep 29, 2013 in Current Events, Politics
Whatever your feelings about the Red Plan, let’s not take it out on the schools themselves. We’re not hurting the School Board and/or Johnson Controls and/or former Superintendent Keith Dixon if we vote against the school levies: we’re depriving the students, your kids and mine. Duluth is on an upward trajectory, so let’s keep the momentum going … after all, if we want to attract companies and highly skilled workers to Duluth, we’d better be investing in our schools. Vote Yes and Yes.
Claire, let’s give the school board a chance to do what they failed, spectacularly, before:
Explain why this money is needed.
Sigh. It takes about two seconds to find why the money is needed and to find direct quotes from Gronseth saying why.
- decreasing classroom size
- closing the achievement gap
- raising graduation rates
- expanding/enhancing the curriculum
The board has been saying these things for a couple years now. Gronseth even cited them at times last election cycle when the district chose not to pose a levy question. The reasons were the same the election cycle before that and this current election cycle.
It goes both ways. Citizens need to make an effort to educate themselves about why this levy is important and hope that the school board and district officials do likewise.
Sigh, right back atcha, Derek. From the first hit on the “Let Me Google That For You” —
“We need those funds to function this district, what it means is that we have faith in the people of Duluth that they believe in the future of our students, the future of our community, I’m hopeful that we can put our faith in the people of Duluth as we move forward,” said Bill Gronseth, Duluth Schools Superintendent.”
Wow! That tells me nothing.
The remainder of the story more helpfully articulates that we lose matching funds if we do not continue the levy (that’s helpful, Northland’s News Center — thank you). It does nothing to explain the extra $200.
So I hit the second link:
“‘Duluth citizens want something better for our students.’ Superintendent of Duluth Schools, Bill Gronseth is making it his mission to give Duluth students a better learning experience.”
The same story, deeper in: “‘The number one priority that citizens brought up, time and time again was our class size and that’s certainly connected directly to funding,’ said Bill Gronseth, Superintendent of Duluth Schools.”
So what will that extra $200 buy the school district? I need more than a platitude (that class size is connected to funding) — how will this extra $200 change class size?
Perhaps people on PDD confuse my questions with ignorance. I’m a union-card-carrying educator whose mailbox is filled with education research and education propaganda (even if I agree with it, I recognize that some of it is propaganda). I know the deck of cards Gronseth is dealing from.
Let’s compare these quotations from the Parks referendum from a few years ago:
“A “yes” vote will establish the Special Levy fund for Parks and Recreation operations and capital improvements. The Parks and Recreation budget allocation would no longer be obtained from the City of Duluth’s General Fund. Those funds could be allocated to keep our branch libraries open 5 days a week and expand hours at the main Public Library, thus allowing the Library to operate at full capacity. Both Parks and Recreation and the Duluth Public Library system will benefit.”
Pretty lucid. Which is why I voted yes, unreservedly, for this referendum. Is it too much to ask the same from the school board?
rhetoricguy asks a reasonable question. The public does have a right to know why the money is needed, and I agree that the district has not always, in the past, been clear about those needs, which is part of why the last levy failed.
So, here’s the situation:
-Due to a combination of cuts in state funding, the failure of the last levy, and (yes) the difficulties selling off some of the old school properties, the district is very tight on money. The result is that over the past few years, class sizes have skyrocketed. (Last year, my daughter had over 40 students in every class she had at East.)
-We’ve made some progress on the state level with funding, so that will help somewhat
-The first levy question simply keeps the school levy at its current level. (Districts are required to ask voters to renew operating levies every few years.) If the first levy question fails, the schools will have even less money, and the problems will get more severe.
-The second levy question raises the school levy modestly. (Average homeowner will pay $4 extra per month.) The district has made it clear that its top two priorities, were the second levy question to pass, are reducing class sizes and buying new textbooks. (My daughter’s algebra text is falling apart, for instance.)
I think the need is clear and the priorities are clear. As a parent, I am asking my fellow Duluthians (whether they have kids in the schools or not) to please vote yes on both levy questions.
As I said, part of the reason we are in such a bind is that, due to the breakdown in communications between the district and the public, the last levy failed. I think the district is working hard to try to repair those relationships, and I hope people are ready to put the past troubles behind us and start getting our schools in order again.
Where is the local media on this? Oh, right- I forgot- the DNT is owned by an out-of-state company that hates public education and the TV is…well, TV…
I’m sold on the first vote; I feel like I need more info on #2 (the extra $200). Not that I don’t believe, you, Joel — I’d just like to hear it from the district.
I’m the education reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. I can’t speak for the television stations, but I’ve written several stories already about the operating levy and will cover the issue more as it gets closer to the election. This year has been especially complicated because lawmakers changed things surrounding local levies; hence the several stories.
Today’s LTE in the DNT urging people to vote yes for the levies rocked it.
Claire, thanks for the heads up on the editorial. However, I read it and it’s just more rhetoric and platitudes that ‘we should spend more $ to improve our schools, increase city population’ etc. Generally speaking, that is true, of course. But, as rhetoricguy so succinctly observed, we need to know how this $200 will be applied. The editorial does not say how. The debate over library/parks funding, by contrast, was reasonably specific about how our tax spending would actually work.
It’s ‘only’ $4 per month this time; but these small amounts add up over time. My household can’t be the only one that combs over our budget to see, for instance, whether we should eliminate Netflix discs to save $8 a month. We do this, in part, because of every levy/tax increase that, over time, adds up to a substantial chunk of our household budget. We have learned what happens when we don’t ask of our local government representatives how the money will specifically be spent. I am not going to vote for levy increases anymore only because it’s the “right thing to do,” without some reasonable specifics of how the money will be spent.
It’s not apples & oranges comparing the Park/Library and School levies. Laws about how school levies are written pretty much dictate the questions come out as gobbledygook. Non-school levies can be written more clearly.
Rhetoric Guy’s ‘unabashed support’ for the libraries levy is appreciated. Thank you! I was part of the leadership team of that levy and that year’s failed school levy. The differences struck me. I think more people were directly impacted by closed libraries, noticed it and voted. But the schools’ impacts were mostly inside the schools. Not even parents are inside schools that much.
That same Parks / Libraries levy funded “Parks and Recreation operations and capital improvements.” Not exactly lucid language…but no less important than the upcoming school levy. Please vote yes to both questions.
It was a parks referendum. The libraries had little or nothing to do with it, except for marketing propaganda. With the passing of the referendum, which I voted for, the city of Duluth has new money earmarked, by law, for the parks. The money the city had been spending on parks can now be spent on the libraries, until the city needs the money elsewhere.
The libraries could still close in the future.
It’s not exactly accurate to say that “the libraries had little or nothing to do with it,” since the city did hire eight new library employees and reinstate the normal operating hours that had been reduced years ago with budget cuts.
Here is the info the school district mailed out regarding the ballot questions.
The election is coming up. I’d like to urge my fellow PDDers to vote “yes” and “yes” again on these two questions. Duluth is poised on the cusp of greatness. We’re getting *great* national press, people are moving here (I know two booksellers from Chicago who just retired and moved here this past month); there’s so much more of a self-confidence in this city than was evident when I moved here 20 years ago. Then, people seemed almost apologetic for living here. Downtown was a desert, with nothing going on. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of here. Now, we’re damn proud to live here and it shows. Friends elsewhere are always telling me that Duluth sounds like an incredible place to live, with lots going on.
There’s a momentum that began, I think, around the time we elected Don Ness mayor, that’s making this city an even more attractive place to live and people elsewhere are noticing this. If we want companies and people to want to move here — and face it, if we don’t get companies and people to move here, the city stagnates — we’d better be investing in our future. And that means investing in our children, in our schools. People don’t want to move places with crappy schools.
My teenaged daughter at Duluth East has classes with 40+ kids in them. I just checked one of her textbooks: it was published in 1993, so it’s older than she is. Are we going to accept this state of affairs? Yes, people bring up the Red Plan — but if you vote against these levies, you’re not hurting those who conceptualized and imposed the Red Plan upon us. Dixon is long gone. Johnson Controls has moved on. School Board members … they have other lives.
You are hurting your children and mine by voting against these levies. They’re the ones who are going to have to live with it every day of the school year, with over-crowded classrooms and out-of-date textbooks.
Stand up for kids. Hell, stand up for Duluth’s future! Vote yes and yes.
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