Enrollment Chess

Today’s DNT article on a proposed expansion of the Wrenshall schools opens up all sorts of questions that demonstrate the difficulties for Minnesota’s schools. Rudy Perpich opened up a Pandora’s Box with both his Charter School’s and Open Enrollment innovations. He had been a long-time Hibbing School Board member before he got to St. Paul (he wanted to use his tenure in Hibbing to bump up his state pension when he left office) and he wanted to shake up public schools from their complacency.

School Districts and their politically vulnerable school board members have to weigh all sorts of imponderables before making big decisions involving taxes and referendums. Wrenshall schools are becoming overcrowded and the Board wants to hold a referendum to expand and update facilities. Some locals are against the fix up and taxes.

At present 100 Duluth kids are filling out Wrenshall’s student body. That is a trend that predates the Red Plan but which was also inflated by the Red Plan. The Wrenshall voters ought to ask themselves whether those Duluth students might leave them if they don’t fix up their schools. However, the question being asked in Wrenshall now seems to be whether they will spend all that money and then see the Duluth students leave anyway. Put another way will they be throwing good money after bad?

They have only to look at the Duluth Red Plan experience to see a similar result. The Keith Dixon led Duluth School Board gambled half a billion dollars on their great new schools attracting students back from the Charter Schools. Instead, the Red Plan caused a student diaspora. I think Loren Martell’s recent column suggested that Duluth lost 4,000 students after the Red Plan. Who can blame Wrenshall voters for being skittish?

Wrenshall has also been in the news when the Carlton District petitioned to consolidate with Wrenshall and it turned up its nose to a union with its smaller suffering neighbor. That too was a calculation. I’ll be honest. I’d love to have both schools send more of their students to Duluth especially the students that the Red Plan drove out of our District.

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