Yesterday’s Trib editorial prompted the following fulmination which I’ve edited a bit from its first appearance.
The title for this post is somewhere between ironical and scornful. Irony is a rather mild form of commentary. It could be humorous it could be bitter. Whatever punch it offers it is frequently a reaction to results which contradict expectations or promises.
Scorn is caustic like an acid or a base. Causticity in chemistry is the result of elements and compounds which are powerfully attracted to each other because their atoms have different electrical charges. Salt, Sodium Chloride, NaCl is an inert material. Its constituent parts are not. Chlorine Cl has such a powerful charge that it is used in swimming pools to kill bacteria. Sodium is so reactive that when it is thrown in water it burns.
After three years of looking at the Red Plan my little brain has become like sodium when it runs across any Red Plan claim that is too chlorinated. It never stops. As the years pass Red Plan proponents keep coming up with new reasons why we disenfranchised voters should love our new schools. I haven’t kept track of them all but here are a couple justifications with ironical consequences.
Claim 1. We simply had too much building space which was expensive to maintain
Red Plan result – but the Red Plan was designed to be something like 12% more than the space required to house the expected number of students. As more students flee Duluth (so far about 1,500) our new schools will have unused space.
Claim 2. By reducing the space we would also have lower energy costs because we would not be heating excess space
Red Plan Result – but some of the building like the energy hogging glass topped atrium at Denfeld will undermine energy efficiency.Further more by busing kids farther to schools we will increase the cost of transportation.
Claim 3. We had long neglected our schools.
Red Plan Result – Sorry this one is just not true
Claim 4. We needed equity across the district (implying fairness for poor and minority children)
Red Plan Result – but the equity argument was used to justify a new stadium in East Duluth and the discontinuance of the desegregation program to divert its million dollars to other less integrated schools.
Claim 5. And, guess what? The Red Plan will stimulate the local economy enriching the community
Red Plan result- never mind that it is based on a regressive tax and that over half of the pay will go to people outside Duluth.
If I thought about it longer I’d come up with many more. The School Board is like a kid throwing mud (justifications) at a wall in the hope that at least some of it (their arguments) would stick. The latest comes today from the Trib. To wit: these aren’t just new schools they will be integrated into the community.
An example of this mutual benefit could mean the closing the Mt. Royal and West Duluth branch libraries. This implies savings for the City although the city’s librarians might wonder what’s in it for them. Will they become school district employees? Will school employees start serving the city? (I got an irate call from an ex Duluthian and librarian from NY, NY just before skipping town today who wanted to call everybody she could about the Red Plan. She marveled at the incompatibility of the two library systems. Before we admit the public to our schools to check out books we will probably have to install metal detectors.)
According to the Trib all this was hashed out at the marvelous community planning process that left us the Red Plan. Oh, perhaps that explains why the City Council was so eager to get information about the Red Plan from the District in the last couple years. They set up meetings which were taken over by Dr. Dixon who hogged all the time, as is his want, by chattering until the clock ran out. No time for questions. The fact is neither the City or the voters had a clue what the implications were. Because no vote was held no civic conversation took place. All this was justified on the faulty line of reasoning that we elected the School Board to make these decisions.
I will not argue with the utility of making our schools available for the community. When I was a Board member I worked hard to find ways to work with the County and City and Schools to find similar efficiencies.
Ironically, we had one sterling example of a school that had become a “community center” and in a neighborhood that desperately needed it. The Trib even wrote stories about it. Lincoln Park’s principal, Ed Marsman, had managed to get all sorts of community services into the school so that many adults came there for their health, recreation etc. This all died under Dr. Dixon.
But who will pay to staff all the Trib’s rec centers and libraries in the schools? The District is losing students, state aid, sneaking operational levies into Red Plan’s construction, signing expensive contracts early to pay off senior teachers while stripping away less senior staff. Does anyone expect a state facing a six billion shortfall is going to boost LGA Local Government Aid for cities? And does anyone expect the City of Duluth to pay to support the schools?
Schools today are shut up at tight as a drum because we’ve become paranoid about who we let in them. Today all our high schools have police assigned to them. How will an understaffed school offer all these community services? Answer – It simply will not be able to.
I’ve said before that the Trib has become a shill and apologist for the Red Plan. This lame editorial is a strong hint that they are building a case for endorsing Roger Reinert because he has had the good sense to ignore the Red Plan. I, of course, haven’t become mesmerized by the L Ron Hubbard of the Duluth Schools, Dr. Dixon, and to my dismay the Trib Editorial Board is composed of Scientologists.