When I left the School Board eight years ago our class sizes were among the smallest in Minnesota. Today a typical high school class has 40 students. Why?
It's because former Superintendent Keith Dixon's School Board pledged $5 million intended for classrooms every year for 20 years to pay for the
$315 million Red Plan. (Throw in interest and it's nearly half a billion dollars!) The School Board still doesn't understand this ill-fated bargain. When attacked for grandiosity, it offered "compromise." Instead it spent another $60 million, forcing the layoffs of teachers to pay Wall Street.
Now gangrene is spreading east from western Duluth. Our children are bused to other schools and test scores in western schools are in the single digits. That's an apocalypse. It won't stop at Lake Avenue.
While the Red Plan was forced down our throats without a vote, a School Board chairman dismissed critics by explaining our new schools would save
$5 million a year. Recently this chairman, once again running for School Board, told me the
$5 million in savings would begin once the Red Plan is paid off in 20 years. A whole generation of students will endure overcrowded classrooms while we wait for far-off 2030.
And things could get much worse. Furious, untrusting voters could vote against the two levies this fall that would reduce class sizes. That could push classes beyond 40 to 50 students. That would be like refusing to roof a nearly complete, half-billion-dollar house because the contractor lied and stopped work. Our children need a roof no matter what Johnson Controls and the School Board did.
"Honesty is the best policy," so here goes: Only a vastly improved School Board can save our schools and our nearly half-billion-dollar investment -- that and two passed referendum levies. Vote for them. Vote for me.
Harry Welty is a candidate for one of two open Duluth School Board At Large positions.