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Vote yes for kids -- and also for a healthy Duluth

Some not-too-surprising developments tend to occur in communities that invest in schools and education. Businesses move in and stay put because employees and their families want to be there. Houses get built. Populations swell. Economies stabiliz...

Some not-too-surprising developments tend to occur in communities that invest in schools and education. Businesses move in and stay put because employees and their families want to be there. Houses get built. Populations swell. Economies stabilize, even strengthen.

In Duluth, the population has been stagnant for decades, and financial woes have worsened so much lately that city leaders are reducing library hours, taking fire rigs out of service and selling off public treasures in an attempt to operate more efficiently and balance the budget. Tellingly, Duluthians are investing only $365.60 per student annually -- less than half the state average of $760.

Telling? Try embarrassing.

And it could get worse. On Nov. 4, voters will be asked to renew, nearly double or more than triple the Duluth school district's expiring operational levy. They could vote "no," though a "yes" vote to renew would only maintain the currently pitiful funding level. Nearly doubling the levy to $700 per pupil would leave Duluth about average statewide. A vote to more than triple the levy would send a clear message of support to young Duluthians who now sometimes seem unable to flee the city fast enough after graduation.

With education spending in Duluth so far below the state average, why would anyone vote against an increase? Two words: red plan. Many Duluthians are sufficiently upset about not being allowed to vote for or against the district's long-range facilities plan that they're ready to shoot down anything associated with the Duluth public schools. To send a message, they say. To show the school board.

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But the long-range facilities plan is about buildings and improvements that were repeatedly put off until a construction plan as drastic, as all-encompassing and as expensive as the red plan became an unfortunate necessity. The red plan has nothing to do with the operational levy, which is all about education, quality teachers, reasonable class sizes and offering the next generation of Duluthians the same -- or maybe a few more -- opportunities as past students.

The Duluth School Board last week started talking about the fallout should voters do the unthinkable and reject funding for education. It was ugly. Seemingly farfetched notions actually were discussed--had to be discussed--including closing schools throughout January to save money on heat or holding classes only four days a week to save on transportation and other costs.

If those ideas become reality, where would that leave Duluth, a city with only so many Tiffany windows to hock to pay off mounting debts? Would businesses and employees want to move here? Stay here?

Saying yes to education can lead to prosperity. Saying no would leave Duluth decidedly below average.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONOUR VIEW
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