School Board Members' View: Support for levy an investment in Duluth's future
On Nov. 6, citizens in Duluth have the opportunity to support our Duluth Independent School District 709 public schools and invest in Duluth's future. This will give us a chance to build on the gains and improvements made in the Duluth public sch...
On Nov. 6, citizens in Duluth have the opportunity to support our Duluth Independent School District 709 public schools and invest in Duluth's future. This will give us a chance to build on the gains and improvements made in the Duluth public schools since 2013, when the Duluth community voted in favor of the previous operating levy.
As the expiration of this previous levy looms at the end of 2018, it is clear a majority of residents support continued efforts to decrease class sizes, upgrade and modernize our instructional technology, and provide student and staff support to increase student achievement and update the curriculum.
Without a local operating levy, current state funding by itself will not adequately support the initiatives, programming, and needed improvements Duluth needs and deserves for its public schools. Furthermore, the local contribution in Duluth historically has been much below the state average.
The Duluth School Board is offering voters a choice of three different levels of operating levy this year. If the first and second levy requests pass, Duluth essentially will be at the state average for local contribution. This local contribution accounts for only about 12 percent of the district's general-fund budget, but it is vitally important to improve the educational programming we provide.
Approving the first question would renew our current levy, which expires at the end of this year. As a renewal, it would not involve any property tax increase. Should voters vote against a renewal, the district would lose about $3.3 million in local funding, and the 16 to 18 full-time teachers and curriculum supported by that funding would be seriously compromised.
Approving the second question would give the district the opportunity to add approximately 25 new teachers districtwide and increase support at specific school sites where needs are identified. An independent survey conducted this past spring told us that residents overwhelmingly admire and support our teachers and yet are seriously concerned about the large sizes of the classes they often must teach. Passing the second levy question would address this directly and would result in a property tax increase of $8.64 per month for the average home in Duluth.
Approving the third question would give ISD 709 the opportunity to update technology across the district. Technology in our schools is significantly out of date. Most of us are not using the same cell phone, home computer, or internet speed as we did five years ago, but our schools often have to use outdated and inefficient hardware and software. Our teachers tell us they and their students often do not have access to relevant and needed technology. In the 21st century, this impairs both teaching and learning, so passing the third levy question is important if we want to provide students and teachers with devices and curricular and technology support needed to maximize their benefit. If voters approve the levy at this third level, the cost to the average home in Duluth would be another $5.03 per month (for a total of $13.67 per month above the existing levy amount).
Supporting our public schools is an investment in Duluth's future. A strong public school system and an educated workforce benefit all of Duluth: its neighborhoods, business community, and local colleges and universities. A strong and dynamic public school system is a major factor drawing people to Duluth and an important reason for them to choose to live here. It is as much a part of Duluth's infrastructure as the roads, transit, utilities, and medical services. Our community needs to come together to support one of its most vital assets: our children.
The funding requests in these levy questions reflect community concerns and a continued commitment to equity throughout the district. The Duluth School Board unanimously supported all three levy questions at its August meeting. The Duluth community has shown a vibrancy and a can-do attitude in its approach to many problems and can do so again by giving the Duluth ISD 709 students and staff the tools and support they need to continue to build on our strengths.
We ask for your support for our students and our schools by voting "yes," "yes," and "yes" on the three levy questions.
David Kirby is chairman of the Duluth School Board. Rosie Loeffler-Kemp is vice chairwoman of the School Board. And Jill Lofald is chairwoman of the School Board’s Education Committee and is a former teacher.