Volunteer group campaigns for Duluth school levyA volunteer group kicked off its grassroots campaign Tuesday to ask Duluth taxpayers for more money this fall that would go toward textbooks and more teachers to reduce class sizes.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
A volunteer group kicked off its grassroots campaign Tuesday to ask Duluth taxpayers for more money this fall that would go toward textbooks and more teachers to reduce class sizes.
The Duluth school district’s current operating levy of roughly $365 expires next June. The campaign — called “Stand up for Kids — has been organized by community members to raise awareness about the financial challenges facing the district.
“Our support doesn’t keep up with the needs of the district,” said committee chairman Tom Albright, a 1997 Duluth East High School graduate. “There are clear benefits for having lower class sizes,” such as more attention from teachers and better student achievement and behavior.
Some middle and high school core classes this year had nearly 50 students, cited as record numbers by many district employees.
The district’s last attempt in 2011 to pass an increased operating levy failed. Among 25 non-metropolitan districts of similar size, Duluth falls slightly above half for its total levy, when including the long-range facilities plan. When leaving that out, it ranks almost the lowest for operating levies, at 24.
The group would like the School Board to ask voters for more than just a renewal, but no amount has been officially discussed. It also hopes that the amount put to voters will be one question, rather than three questions with increasing amounts as done in 2011, Albright said.
Classroom money is needed for students, but there are benefits to homeowners and the businesses, he said.
“Duluth competes on a state, national and even global plane for businesses looking to expand and relocate,” Albright said. “As families move to town with Maurices and Cirrus, if they want to locate in Duluth or Proctor or Hermantown, when they choose Duluth, it increases home values.”
Organizers realize the challenge in convincing the community to spend more money on schools, especially after a nearly 12 percent tax increase in December.
“Half the levies put out across the state don’t pass,” Albright said. “It’s not an automatic.”
But the city has a “dynamic and vibrant” economy, he said, and its public schools need to keep up.
A fundraiser was scheduled Tuesday night hosted by Mayor Don Ness and several business leaders.