Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Apr 14, 2006

Endowing Duluth .

When I was elected to the Duluth School Board a decade ago Minnesota ranked fifth in per-pupil spending among the states. Our current nation topping SAT scores are built on that level of spending. Today, Minnesota only ranks 23rd among the 50 states in per-pupil spending. Itís likely that Duluth ís SAT scores will drop in response to this reduced spending over the next decade unless the people of our community do something to prevent it.

My school board years were marked with declining enrollments, shrinking revenues, and a furor over school closures. We spent so much time dealing with day to day crisis and minutiae that we had little time to worry about leaving a legacy. Every time we had to consider cutting a program parents and other citizens told us that they would gladly pay more taxes for their childrenís schools. Iíd like to put that claim to the test and I have just the way to do it - the Duluth Public Schools Endowment Fund.

The DPS Endowment began awarding grants to our teachers in 1995, the same year I was sworn in as a Board member. Since then the Endowment has awarded over 157 grants to Duluth teachers who have submitted proposals for innovative teaching. There is so much more it could do.

The Endowment now stands at $450,000 and all of its earnings on investments go to our schools. According to our former Superintendent, Mark Myles, one of the Endowmentís donors, it all began with an anonymous contribution of $200,000. Although institutions like Harvard and Stanford operate with billions of dollars in endowments public schools have traditionally depended on the kindness of the state legislature. Sometimes they get more cold shoulder than kindness.

When I was asked to become a trustee of the Endowment Board last spring the first thing I thought of was our School Boardís titanic struggle to build and maintain a 10 percent reserve fund for the District. At roughly ten million dollars and combined with other district moneys it added about a million dollars in interest earnings to the School District ís educational program annually. Before I left the Board a greedy state legislature threatened to take our reserve to cover their mismanagement of the stateís finances. I would feel a lot better if we had an untouchable endowment distributing a million dollars annually to enrich our schools. That would require a fund of ten or twenty million dollars. Could we raise that much?

Would one in ten of our 15,000 parents contribute ten dollars every year over and above their taxes to an endowment? Would more than ten percent of parents contribute? Would some contribute more? Would they make contributions annually 

Would our schoolís alumni make contributions or even leave a gift to the Endowment in their wills? Before this would happen weíd have to contact them. How could we do that? How did recent all-school reunion committees accomplish this? Are there people in Duluth who would help us figure out the answers to these questions?

Wouldnít it be neat if some of our recent graduates began making annual contributions? It would be thrilling to know that fifty years from now a few of our alumni had contributed a little something to the Endowment every year since graduating. Like perfect attendance or donating blood or buying savings bonds, making an annual donation would be a good habit to get started.

Iíd love to see families or alumni make donations in honor of a favorite teacher. Maybe they would also send us an anecdote to keep their memories alive. I know that Iíve had teachers who deserve this kind of recognition.

The Endowment is looking for the most passionate advocates for Duluth ís schools to join us on Tuesday, May 2nd at 9:30 AM for a morning presentation followed by lunch. We will figure out how to make these dreams come true. We will meet at ďThe View;Ē the remarkable restaurant run by our Secondary Technical students. Itís situated just below Central High School ís parking lot and has the best view in town as well as the most reasonable prices.

Dear Reader, we would love to have you attend. And even if you arenít the right person you may know the right kind of person. She could be the Mother who organized the school carnival, or the Dad who chaperoned at Wolf Ridge . Maybe itís a retired teacher or a grandparent who dotes on children or that dynamo who attended his or her last high school reunion. Even if you arenít the right person thereís no reason why you canít put this announcement in that special personís hands. They would be flattered and they might even decide to pitch in because of you.

Anyone who is interested in building a fitting legacy for the Duluth Schools should get in touch with me. My phone number is: 728-6928. (But Pssssst! Donít go telling that number to just anybody). Requests to attend could also be mailed to me at: 2101 E 4th St. , Duluth 55812 . I even take email at: harrywelty@charter.net.

Come on. This is going to be fun. Remember, the more hands the lighter the work.

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

This is The View's luncheon menu for after our meeting. 
Stick around and enjoy The View.

Chicken Caesar Salad  $ 5.45                   Walleye Shore Lunch       $6.95                   

Caesar Salad                $ 4.45                    Cornish Game Hen          $6.95

Desserts    $1.25