A must read by Erik Simonson

I like Rep. Erik Simonson. I didn’t particularly want to. The old Republican in me is still irritated that Duluth continues to automatically elect Democrats even though Republicans no longer consider me a Republican because I’m so darned “librul.” Heck, I even think Barack Obama has been a pretty good President and not a traitor. Like the President Erik is a very rational politician.

I wish, however, that Erik’s column in today’s Budgeteer had been written a year ago when something could have been done to head off what I fear will be a fateful collision between Duluth’s two public school systems. Of course, our ISD 709 school board made this year’s number one priority the silencing of a fellow school board member. Collectively we look a lot like one of those colonoscopy billboards. And while we were looking one way the Edison community pulled off a secession and, at this point, I don’t see how it can get undone.

Erik writes in part:

…the Edison board is not an elected board. It is an appointed board, not held accountable to the voters of Duluth or of ISD 709.

Is that a big deal? I am asking Duluth to have that very conversation. It does seem to me that at the very least, any school system receiving public funding should be required to have a board elected by the taxpaying voters in the district it serves. Why? Because I have a sense that if this school is built, we will see enrollment concerns in ISD 709, which will be followed by further discussions on how to do more with less. And I am just not ready to accept that is in the best interest of our kids.

Above the commentary you will find Richard Thomas’s droll cartoon (sorry its not on the Budgeteer website yet) with, Al, his Lake Superior Monster puzzling over the new high school to be. Richard called me before submitting it to get a little history on Edison. You can find plenty of that history on my blog.

Erik’s predecessor in the legislature, Mike Jaros, sent the School Board an email he sent to Erik. I tried to reach Mike afterwards to compare notes. He has some insights on the subject of Charters that predate mine. I could quibble with some of his observations in large part because I voted to explore Charters 19 years ago although I supported a teacher led Charter which was just featured in the DNT’s June 3rd bygone’s column.

* The Toivola-Meadowlands Charter School, created in 1993, has become something of a local laboratory for educational reform. At the school, students are often grouped by ability rather than age, classes are scheduled in 80-minute blocks and Fridays are free days.

Here’s Mike’s shout out to Erik:

Good morning Erik!

Thank you for the important column in the Budgeteer newspaper about Edison Charter School Corp-
oration’s proposed high school.

I remember well when former Superintendent Mark Miles came to St. Paul to lobby against Governor
Carlson’s proposed charter school legislation. This bill became law about twenty years ago. I could not be-
lieve it that Superintendent Miles was supporting Edison Charter Corporation be allowed to establish three
schools in Duluth School District 709.
Yes, our school board hurried and allowed the Edison Corporation from Boca Raton (means Rat’s Mo-
uth in Spanish) Florida for profit corporation. Reps. Munger, Huntley and I introduced a bill to stop this in-
credible action of our school board, but were not able to pass it because the Edison contract was already
I am glad that you are holding a meeting to discuss this important issue and hope our school board
and administration participate. I am disappointed that the board did not have an agreement with Edison
about their establishming a high school before the Red Plan’s two high schools was established. Now we
might have to reopen Central High School in the original building downtown and close Denfeld and East?

Thank you for your attention and work on the above problem!

Mike Jaros, Mn. Legislator 1973-1980; 1985-2008

As for Erik’s theory that all public bodies spending tax dollars should be elected I’m afraid there are a lot of examples of such unelected bodies doing just that. For starters, there is the IRRRB (Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board). Good luck prying that out of the hands of Iron Range legislators.

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