Local view: Duluth School Board has realistic options to avoid another tax levyThe Duluth school district has been soliciting community comments on curriculum for the future, perhaps with the thought that we taxpayers will support a levy this fall to help pay for what we suggest (“Board to decide next week about asking voters for more money,” May 14).
The Duluth school district has been soliciting community comments on curriculum for the future, perhaps with the thought that we taxpayers will support a levy this fall to help pay for what we suggest (“Board to decide next week about asking voters for more money,” May 14).
Undoubtedly, the district will need better funding just to do what it has been doing, and I see reluctance from taxpayers to even support that, not because we are trying to get even for the district taxing us $315 million without our consent for the Long-Range Facilities Plan but because we can’t afford it, not while also paying for new and remodeled buildings for the next 30 years.
A building consolidation plan was necessary, as was a long-range education plan. When the School Board didn’t consolidate the two it left taxpayers with no magnanimous feelings toward the board. My generation of older district residents and even some of our children will be dead before the buildings are paid off.
Taxpayers will not give up on a good education for our children, though, so here are some realistic recommendations.
First, the district, in concurrence with the state, immediately must recommend to our Washington legislators the abolishment of the U.S. Department of Education, which has been inept. In 1979, Congress took billions from the states to build a building and to staff it because Congress was convinced the federal government could do a better job of educating our children than the states and the present school districts. This bureaucratic department proceeded to scold individual states and districts, implying teachers were incompetent. More testing, not teaching, was foisted on districts to prove the feds could do a better job. Millions spent to support nonteaching initiatives has been a waste of public money and has resulted in extremely poor relationships. Give the money back to the states by abolishing this useless federal department.
Next, the Duluth district must spend only foundation aids and actual reimbursed dollars, not promised dollars, for special education. This amounts to about
$3 million per year.
Also, the district must set goals of no more than 400 students to one counselor then do substantial ability testing with counselors reviewing test results with each student.
And the district must emphasize that to graduate from high school students possess employable skills or be college-ready. Advanced-placement programs are available for students in grades 10 to 12, and some of these programs can be taught within our high schools.
In addition, our district and, I would recommend, the state must evaluate, with expert educators and available studies, the need for all-day kindergarten and preschool programs. Preschool programs and every-day, all-day kindergarten are unnecessary wants; they’re not needs.
Finally, the district must diligently establish realistic class sizes and graduation rates. The Minnesota Department of Education, through a study, determined that 97 percent of all students taking 280 hours of vocational technical courses — or about one hour per day for less than two years — will graduate. So the district must see that vocational technical courses are available to all students. Isn’t that a better graduation rate than the present 90 percent of 12th-graders?
Do all this and I can see the Duluth district in good financial condition soon and not needing an excess levy.
Tony Stauber was a teacher for 17 years, was a district administrator in Duluth for 20 years and was a Duluth School Board member for four years.