Enrollment numbers need a closer look"So, if numbers are numbers, how could administrators see the latest figures as an increase of 282 students? Because the district had projected a loss of 267 students this fall, which is roughly in line with the 300 or so students lost to the district in each recent year."
By: Virgil Swing, for the Duluth Budgeteer News
Duluth had five new or extensively renovated schools when the school year opened, and I have no doubt they attracted some students that might have gone elsewhere — and will continue to be a draw in future years.
The district said recently it had 8,711 students this fall. This means district revenues will rise by $1.9 million due to the increase in state aid that goes with the 282 students enrolled beyond what had been expected.
But enrollment growth is a numbers story, and the numbers don’t support the view that students are flocking to these impressive new buildings. A closer look at the numbers shows that enrollment is up by 15 from last spring. That’s a pretty small flock.
And when enrollment is compared to last October, which might be a fairer comparison, the numbers show a drop of close to 200. That makes it look like the flock is still flying south.
Finally, enrollment figures show that the Edison charter schools — which some on the school board and in the teachers union have over the years regarded more like a rival rather than another part of the city’s schools — is up by 140 this year over last spring, nearly ten times the increase in the traditional public schools.
Those numbers make it clear that all the construction and renovation made under the infamous Red Plan haven’t proven a draw for parents yet. In fairness to school officials, they aren’t citing the Red Plan project as a big boon. However, School Board member Ann Wasson was more excited, saying, “I’m thrilled to see the public is understanding this.”
So, if numbers are numbers, how could administrators see the latest figures as an increase of 282 students? Because the district had projected a loss of 267 students this fall, which is roughly in line with the 300 or so students lost to the district in each recent year.
Politicians facing a tough primary election often play down their prospects, with these diminished expectations making a third-place finish look OK. The latest Duluth enrollment looks good as long as you have diminished expectations.
Two of America’s most powerful unions have been signing up workers in Minnesota in hopes they can represent them. A legislative hearing was held late last month as part of the unions’ effort to persuade Gov. Mark Dayton to recognize the unions by executive order.
What’s different from other organizing efforts is that the unions would represent independent business owners, not employees of such businesses. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Service Employees International Union want to form a union of those who provide child daycare in their homes.
The effort raises lots of questions, especially: Whom would they bargain with? In most cases, daycare operators set up a fee schedule and present it to parents. Would these independent business operators go on strike if parents didn’t accept the fees? Would they picket their houses?
Testimony at the legislative hearing indicates joining AFSCME and SEIU could increase daycare operators’ power in licensing and subsidy discussions, secure group healthcare coverage and use the parent unions’ political clout.
Many independent workers join organizations to have a greater control over their working lives. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, nurses and lots of others form such groups, usually known as associations. But why would daycare operators want to call its association a union? Perhaps because unions, especially public employee ones, have traditionally had great power in blue-state Minnesota.
I can understand why the big unions might push such an effort (though this one should fail), and I can sympathize with daycare operators who usually have modest incomes for all their hard work.
But why the governor would even consider going along is hard to figure, other than the fact unions have been a key part of the political base of his DFL Party. Dayton has not indicated he’ll try to make this happen – but he hasn’t shot down the idea either.
Daycare provider Heather Falk of Cloquet is a strong opponent of this idea, saying the union model doesn’t make sense in this case. She’s right.
Budgeteer opinion columnist Virgil Swing has been writing about Duluth for many years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.