The always helpful Duluth News Tribune reported from our Press Release that our Plan B would close some elementary schools. Nowhere in out petition language have we ever mentioned this and this information is certainly not to be found in the Press Release we sent out yesterday. Take a look for yourself:
Let Duluth Vote prepared to work with District on Plan B
Members of Let Duluth Vote are now prepared to accept the School District’s offer of help to design an alternative to the Red Plan after a meeting last Monday between five of their representatives and the staff of the Minnesota Department of Education. Duluth School Board member Gary Glass organized the meeting to help evaluate Let Duluth Vote’s preliminary plans. A slightly revised plan B based on those discussions won unanimous support at last night’s meeting of Let Duluth Vote.
The most serious challenge facing Glass and Let Duluth Vote is the original petition language for their Plan B which must be adhered to. That language outlines a $194 million building plan. The plan Let Duluth Vote would prefer to implement would cost much less, about $128 million. It is based on the District’s last “ten-year facilities plan” for maintenance and repair which totaled $36 million. By way of comparison, Johnson Controls study came up with maintenance and repair cost estimate of $205 million. Let Duluth Vote believes that this was a highly inflated budget and their discussions with the Dept of Education reinforced this conviction. The group’s Plan B would also include additional health and safety spending and eventually, in five or ten years, some new school construction if Duluth’s student population begins to expand. The plan keeps the District’s three existing “corridors” and three high schools.
Plan B makes educational program spending its top priority and contemplates K-6 elementary schools. Middle schools would be maintained but possibly added to existing high schools at a later date.
The District’s $293 million Red Plan currently has the Education Department’s approval to spend as much as $35 million of the District’s operational money on the building program. Let Duluth Vote is interested in reversing this funding so that some of the Red Plan’s building expenses can be directed to the classroom. If this can be accomplished and the District backs away from the Red Plan then the failure of an operational levy this fall might not have the devastating consequences predicted by Superintendent Dixon and the current school board. Because school finance laws could make this difficult it may be necessary for the District to ask the state legislature to pass permissive legislation.
Yesterday, in a sign of the public’s growing opposition to the Red Plan, eleven retired Duluth School Board members signed a statement that was highly critical of the District’s building plans. Plan B might begin to address their concerns. In addition, Let Duluth Vote’s more modest building plan could result in a significant rebate of levied taxes to taxpayers in ten years when the first Red Plan building bonds are retired.
Bill Hanson, the School District’s Director of Finance, sent a letter to Let Duluth Vote spokesman Brenda Anderson recently indicating a willingness to hire a consultant to help develop plan B.