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Local view: Teacher layoffs are not caused by red plan

As a member and current chairman of the Duluth School Board, it is troubling to see another board member disseminate misinformation with the apparent intent of misleading and confusing the public. But that seems to be the goal of Gary Glass in hi...

As a member and current chairman of the Duluth School Board, it is troubling to see another board member disseminate misinformation with the apparent intent of misleading and confusing the public. But that seems to be the goal of Gary Glass in his recent column ("Plan B would free money for salaries," June 26). Glass' column was clearly part of the ongoing effort by Let Duluth Vote to obstruct the school district's long-range facilities plan with a series of factually incorrect assertions.

First, there is no relationship between recent teacher layoffs and the work on the facilities plan. Teacher salaries come from the school district's general fund, while the facilities plan is paid for with building funds.

Part of the reason for teacher layoffs is declining enrollment: Fewer students require fewer teachers. The main reason for layoffs, however, is that the state simply has not provided the funding increases necessary to operate our schools.

We were grateful in November when local voters approved the continuation of the existing operating levy. However, without an increase in the local levy, and with no increase in funding from St. Paul, layoffs were inevitable. With or without the long-range facilities plan, layoffs still would have been necessary. That's simply a fact.

Second, citizens should know that Let Duluth Vote's building plan would not lessen the burden on taxpayers. Recently, the board learned that Let Duluth Vote's plan would be a lose-lose proposition. It would lead to drastically fewer improvements to district facilities with no building consolidations, while increasing taxes as much or more than the district's plan. The Let Duluth Vote plan fails to address the facilities, technology and energy-saving needs of a modern school system for the sake of a shortsighted and very expensive attempt to maintain the status quo.

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These are challenging times for the Duluth public schools. It isn't easy to deal with declining enrollment, difficult facility issues and inadequate state funding, all in the context of a severe recession. But we need to confront these issues and make the tough decisions required.

We certainly don't and won't all agree on what these decisions should be, within the community or on the board. But one thing we all should agree on is deliberate and repeated attempts to mislead the public, which unfortunately seems to be the goal of some in our community, creates a negativity that detracts from the many positive aspects of our students, schools and community. When such misinformation is published, I believe it is part of my job to correct the record.

Tim Grover lives in Duluth and is chairman of the Duluth School Board.

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