Fairy Tales #1

Two readers of the Minneapolis Star Tribune were quick to send me this story from last week. It is as one of them said a “fairy tale.”

I was sufficiently jaundiced that I called its author, Don Jacobson, just now to find out whether any of the people associated with the Red Plan’s building had given him any compensation for submitting it to the Strib. Mr. Jacobson wondered, what the implication of my question was. It was, of course, that the Red Plan’s movers and shakers were trying to buy good press. It turns out they weren’t. They were just very lucky to find a freelance journalist who wanted to write about green buildings and needed to do so quickly in journalism’s new economic model which has created unsalaried Freelancers who need to generate income quickly without the time to go out and interview both sides of a controversial story.

Dr. Dixon got some very good press indeed.

“…there are lessons to be learned from Duluth’s $300 million effort to build four new schools, rehabilitate seven others and close seven more. Two key players in one of the most ambitious facilities upgrades in Minnesota public schools’ history told members of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in Minneapolis on Tuesday that the public will support such renovations if they’re adequately explained.”

Had I been interviewed I would have pointed out some of the unfortunate costs of building the Red Plan’s green buildings, Among them:

1. Public furor that has made it impossible to pass subsequent operational levies.
2. A guarantee to rob the existing $5 million annual dollars from the school operations budget to pay banks for building bonds and the subsequent skyrocketing of class sizes from a little over 30 kids in high school classes to well over 40.
3. The reduction of class offerings.
4. The necessity to break past School Board promises not to increase local school levies most recently with a 12% increase last year.
5. The burgeoning cost of the Red Plan that rose by $60 million dollars from its first unveiling to the the present.
6. The exodus and continued absence of at least ten percent of the student population as the Red Plan Juggernaut proceeded.
7. The subsequent loss of hundreds of teachers and the undermining of the Teacher’s pension plan which must be financed by the labors of a shrinking pool of active teachers.
8. The absence of any audit to show whether the Red Plan schools have managed to save a cent’s worth of energy costs.

Among the story’s shortcomings

1. The false assertion (or assumption) that the Red Plan was only financed through laws for student safety and health.
2. That “polls showed most [residents of Duluth] supported the move.”
3. Dixon’s claim that Duluth ended up agreeing with the Red Plan because “…even the most conservative residents will agree that the costs are worth it if you can show them a return on investment over time.”

Considering that Dixon had to flea Duluth as the Red Plan went sour its ironic that the reporter should pass on an architect’s assertions that “its important to show skeptics that improved student performance and energy; cost savings are linked.” This never took place and no proof has yet been offered that the Red Plan will show such a result.

It remains to be seen whether student performance will be enhanced. The most recent test results show not positive connection to the the Red Plan. If anything they seem to hint at a regression.

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