Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published Oct 17, 2003

Damned if you do


Today at the Education committee I discovered that, because the Duluth Schools have done so well teaching our youngest students to read, Minnesota ís Republican Administration has told us that we are no longer eligible for a ďreadingĒ grant to help our students. Yet, under the Republican game plan for education if our students had done poorly the state would have taken our revenue away and given our students vouchers to attend private schools. We are damned if we teach our children well and damned if we donít.


Recently, energized West Duluth voters have organized the Save Our Schools Committee. They have told the school board that if we close a high school they will vote against the excess levy we have placed on the ballot. Many other voters have made it clear that they will vote against the levy because we havenít closed a high school. We are damned if we close a high school and damned if we donít.


H. Ross Perot once told America during its brief love affair with him that if Americanís wanted to know what was wrong with America all they had to do was look in the mirror. Itís hard to believe that such a scold could have wowed American voters but he managed it. If heíd done a better job hiding his paranoia heíd have become President.


Our divided school board is a perfect reflection of a divided city. We truly represent Duluth in our indecision and Duluth damns us for it.


Ironically, weíve recently made a decision by hammering out a compromise to keep the three high schools open for a few more years while backing off of some elementary closings. We took our sweet time getting to the compromise and it will only work if an excess levy passes. But giving the voters the chance to vote on the levy is another damnable decision. We are damned for putting the levy on the ballot just as we would be damned for depriving the voters of having their say on the levy.


Some of the levyís opponents are pretty predictable like the tax fighting leader who sucked at the public teat himself for so many years. Iíve heard he will soon put another full page ad in the paper condemning the levy. Then there will be Op Ed pieces ghost written by ex school administrators who mostly want to see their administrative successors fail.


Perhaps itís not surprising that the business community which has enjoyed a lot of recent property tax relief should argue against the levy. Despite their desire for good schools to entice new industry to Duluth they have recently polled two-to-one against a levy.


If these things werenít damaging enough to the levy, how about the Duluth teachers giving the levy a cold shoulder? I am mildly chagrinned by this because it has been the teacherís unionís own endorsees on the school board who have been the biggest flip floppers on school closings. Apparently the 75 teachers we laid off last year didnít make much of an impression on the union. Oh well, without the levy there will be seventy-five fewer teachers to criticize the school board after next yearís round of layoffs.


The voters will teach the school board a good lesson. Sadly, like the young princeís whipping boy in Twainís Prince and the Pauper it will be school children not the school board who feel the blows. Their schools will close. Their teachers will be laid off. Their classrooms will become more crowded. They will lose elementary specialists and time on computers. All of them, even the kindergartners, will have to walk two miles through our wicked northern winter to get to school. Because the School Board canít bring itself to delineate other cuts we can only guess in what other ways we will take one of the most successful school districts in the state and flush it down the toilet.


If the excess levy fails it will be a long time before the subscribers to the Duluth News Tribune read another story about the great improvements in our studentís reading scores. Oh well, letís look on the bright side. Falling test scores will qualify us for the reading grant again.


Post Script


I apologize to my readers for being such a boor and scold for the past couple of months. Writing about the school board has been cheap therapy for me. I have no idea why the Reader publishes this drivel. Theyíre as picky about their columnists as crows are about road kill.


Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at www.snowbizz.com