Candidate’s view: Vote for Martell and for the levy referendums in Duluth

Today, Thursday, the DNT published my opinion piece. I’m quite pleased with it:

On Aug. 19 I read the two most intelligent things about the Duluth schools that I’ve seen in the News Tribune in recent years.

This was from At Large School Board candidate Loren Martell’s commentary on the Opinion page: “We have to rein in spending now. We have to get to some truth about the financial arrangement we’ve gotten into with the Red Plan. We have to make a sober and accurate assessment and start reprioritizing. Any pennies we can spare have to be directed to the classroom. We have to refocus on the core of education curricula, teachers and teacher development. We have to quit blowing millions on everything else under the sun. We have a half-billion-dollar investment hanging out there. It was a reckless investment, but we’d better roll up our sleeves and make it work.”

Then there was the front-page story proving that our new superintendent has paid close attention to Martell and unhappy voters. It opened: “Superintendent Bill Gronseth is recommending that the Duluth School Board pass up the opportunity to impose a $300 per pupil operating levy on local taxpayers and instead ask voters to approve the levy themselves, risking the loss of additional state aid if voters say no.”

These two men need each other, and Duluth needs these two men sitting on the same side of the microphone.

Gronseth persuaded the School Board to place the fate of Duluth’s schools into the hands of voters, where it should have been from the beginning of the Red Plan. It’s a Hail Mary pass asking angry voters to raise taxes again, but it’s our children’s only hope of rescue from unpardonable 50-student classrooms.

As another At Large candidate for School Board, I recently submitted my own opinion piece to the Opinion page. It was not hopeful, but I sent it before our superintendent and School Board’s magnificent decision.

“The Red Plan reminds me of a neutron bomb that kills people but keeps buildings intact,” I wrote before withdrawing the op-ed in favor of this one. “We now have beautiful schools but instead of attracting 500 children from outside to our schools, 10 percent of our students, maybe 15 percent, have fled to other schools. We have about 10 more kids in our classrooms than when I served previously on the School Board. The list of what we’ve given up for these new schools is long and dreary.

“There is only one way to save Duluth’s schools before they sink even deeper: Bring class sizes back down to the level they were at before former Superintendent Keith Dixon breezed into town. After the Music Man’s parade, someone always has to sweep up the horse manure. I’ve got a broom.”

All of Duluth must be the broom. If we don’t pass the referendums that have been put in our hands, ghastly as the Red Plan tax increases were, all that spending will have been wasted. Our children will have to keep eating Dixon’s road apples.

We can prove Dixon’s addled supporter who called Red Plan critics “old, cheap and stupid” was a fool. We care about our kids. We care about our schools. We care about the truth. We care about our right to vote.

Our children can’t learn with 50 kids in a classroom. Without this referendum, our schools also will lose a million dollars in state matching money. Our schools will suffer. You don’t want to know how badly.

Loren Martell took up my torch after I put it down in despair. Today he knows more about the finances of our school district than I do. Please vote for Loren Martell. That will leave you with one more vote for another At Large candidate. Cast it wisely.

Harry Welty is a candidate for two open At Large seats on the Duluth School Board.