By Harry Welty
My sister tells me that,
according to some teachers sheís met from
Iím in my eighth year on the Duluth School Board and Iíve been thinking about my legacy. If I were a President I would be a lame duck by now. At the same point in his Presidential career Bill Clinton was observed carrying around thick biographies of the great presidents. It was a sure sign that he was reflecting on his legacy. Would historians stay offa his blue stained dress and/or would they remember him for eight years of economic prosperity?
Unlike a President I could
run for reelection but I donít think I will. Like
Sad to say, I may even be
infamous for my failure well beyond the borders of
I had another objective. I wanted to give our teachers more freedom in their classrooms to experiment and work in teams. Unfortunately, I started my school board service just as the highly prescriptive and bureaucratic "Profiles of Learning" was imposed on us by the State. So much for freedom.
Itís true that we did set up one middle school in Morgan Park as a pilot program. Morgan Park has gotten three extra teachers for three years. They team teach but the pilot is coming to an end this year. To staff all our other 6-8th grade classes at the same level we would have to spend another 1 million dollars. But enrollment declines mean that we have to make four million dollars in cuts for the next year. So much for the middle schools. And thatís not all. Despite being told all through the last election that K-12 education would be held harmless the Governorís ďunallotmentĒ will trim at least $700,000 from this yearís budget. We are perilously close to the kind of freedom that Janis Joplin sang about when she said it was just another word for nothing left to lose.
Finally, I had hoped to leave
Although the ten percent reserve wasnít my idea Iíve come to look on it as our security blanket. Itís been generating a million dollars in interest every year. If it were to be spent down we would have to start borrowing money and paying interest. The difference between the million dollars we currently earn in interest and the million dollars we used to pay in interest is nearly twenty teachers!
But the reserve has always been hard to explain. Teachers want it in their paychecks today, future borrowing be damned. Parents and newly elected school board members think of it as a ďrainy dayĒ fund to tap during each yearís annual emergency. An unpopular Superintendent or a school board fearful of the next election could spend it down in a heartbeat to win temporary popularity.
Folks who run for the school board are generally crazy about public education. Itís ironic that teachers come to distrust such people. A school board truly lies between a rock and a hard place for just as teachers blame their school boards for stinginess, legislators view them as the least responsible elected bodies - always bargaining too much away. This is what Governor Ventura meant last year when he called public education a ďblack hole.Ē
So what have I accomplished in eight years? I put a voodoo curse on teachers while saddling them with the bureaucratic profile of learning and denying them a decent wage settlement. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention. I wanted to close a high school too. Now thatís some legacy!
is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at www.snowbizz.com