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Students say: 'We need your money'

As a senior at East High School, Luciana Ranelli won't be around to feel the pinch on school programs if the Duluth school district's operational levy fails this fall.

As a senior at East High School, Luciana Ranelli won't be around to feel the pinch on school programs if the Duluth school district's operational levy fails this fall.

But that's not stopping her from publicly supporting its passage. In fact, Ranelli says, her senior status makes lending her voice to the campaign more important.

"The implications of this levy not passing are very real and it's my responsibility... to make sure that people have the same opportunities that I've had," Ranelli said. "It's only fair."

The vote on the levy, which calls for renewing the district's funding at the current level of $365 per pupil or increasing it up to $1,200 per pupil, takes place Nov. 4. District officials have warned that school programs from athletics to honors classes, could take a hit if the levy fails.

To ensure they don't, Ranelli, as well as students from Central and Denfeld high schools, will hold a rally tonight in front of Old Central High School in support of the operational levy. Ranelli plans to bring along a sign that she made that reads, "The future is us."

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"We have a lot of senior citizens and people without children living in this community that may be out of touch with education these days," Ranelli said. "As students, we need to be living witnesses and say 'this is my school and this is what we do at my school and this is why it's important.' "

If programs get slashed, the future of students could be compromised, said Kaitlin Bagley, a junior at Denfeld who also plans to attend the rally.

"We need extracurricular activities like music and sports and other clubs because they help make us well-rounded people, and you need to be well-rounded to get into good schools and eventually get good jobs," Bagley said.

The issue is very important to her, but she says it's difficult to sell to some of her peers.

"Some people just don't really know much about it, so they don't care," Bagley said. "We want to inform people and get them riled up so they will act."

Macaulley Whitlock, a senior at Central also involved in the campaign, said she hopes people can set aside their differences about the district's long-range facilities plan and step up for kids, even if it costs them to do it.

"I know people are worried about the cost, but in the long run, this is not a lot of money to be paying to make sure the students in our community get a good education," Whitlock said. "Education should be the top priority, but for some reason it keeps getting lower and lower on the list of things to do in Duluth."

Whitlock, Bagley and Ranelli all are scheduled to speak at the rally at 6 p.m. They expect anywhere from 25 to 50 students from the three high schools will attend. After the rally, students will make their case in front of the Duluth School Board during its regularly scheduled meeting at 6:30 p.m.

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SARAH HORNER covers K-12 education. She can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5342 or by e-mail at shorner@ duluthnews.com.

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