Reader’s view: Lack of large reserve fund imperils Duluth schoolsThe people of this town deserve to know the truth about the Duluth public school district.
By: Loren Martell, Duluth News Tribune
The people of this town deserve to know the truth about the Duluth public school district.
Nearly all laid-off teachers were called back by the district this year, but that doesn’t mean the full-time teacher number has gone back up. In November 2011 the full-time equivalency teacher number was 543.38. In November 2012 the number dropped to 504.47. The public schools lost another 39 full-time teacher positions. Since former Superintendent Keith Dixon came to Duluth and rolled the dice on an enormously risky consolidation project, Duluth public schools have lost 170 full-time teacher positions.
The district’s Katie Kaufman said in May in a weekly publication, after the School Board raided $27 million from the once-robust $30 million reserve fund, that the fund balance went down to “protect the classroom from annual general fund budget cuts, in other words maintain and not increase class size, lay off fewer teachers, and maintain programs.”
I hope no one expects praise for a goal achieved. The district’s problems are not due strictly to a bad economy and a lack of state funding, as continually claimed. In an e-mail to a former School Board member, superintendent applicant Stan Mack called the Red Plan’s financing scheme “a serious problem” resulting in “major leakage from the general fund caused by School Board action.”
Even after breaking its tax promise and moving $1.9 million more onto the taxpayers of this city, the district will use about $6 million from the general fund to pay Red Plan debt obligation this year. That exceeds, by $2.3 million, the claimed annual operational “savings” from consolidation.
What would have happened if the current School Board hadn’t been able to raid the reserve fund, built up by sensible, frugal boards of the past? What is going to happen now that it’s all but gone?