DFT Newsletter May 21, 1999

Good News/Bad News (More Edison bashing)
This week we had some good news and some bad news. The good news came from the state legislature. 1. The bad news came from the local school board. Unfortunately, as welcome as the good news was, it will have less impact than the bad news.

The good news is that the increase in funding from the legislature was greater than anticipated. 2. The basic funding source for education, the formula allowance will increase nearly 8% over the biennium. Special attention was also paid to underfunding of special education. A funding mechanism for districts with declining enrollment was also approved, as was additional funding for all day kindergarten. Special supplemental funding for certain districts such as Duluth was made permanent. Taken as a package, this legislation will go a long way to make up for past funding which did not keep pace with inflation. The increases were no more than could or should have been expected given the magnitude of the state budget surplus. Much more could have been done, but we are grateful for the increases. 3. There should be absolutely no need to make any cuts in ISD 709 programs or staff.

Unfortunately the bad news from the local school board 4. (the gang of five) may cause the school district to have to make cuts. As you know the school board on a 5 to 4 vote decided to let Edison move out of the old Central site and into Washburn. As well, Edison will probably open another school in West Duluth. Edison has promised to "cap" enrollment at 800 for next year and 900 the following. 5. This is viewed by some as a concession on the part of Edison.

I just don't buy it. I do not for a minute believe that Edison ever had any intention of having over 800 for next year or 900 the following year. I think that they got everything they wanted without having to give on anything. I would expect that Edison will continue to expand each and every year. 6. I have yet to see them follow through on a promise or honor their word.

7. What should be obvious to all is that each student gained by Edison represents a loss to Duluth. The amount of funding lost due to Edison is quickly approaching the amount generated from the excess levy.





8. This district is going to have to reduce programs, eliminate courses and close schools. In their zealous efforts to attack teachers and damage the union, the gang of five has done irreparable damage to the entire community. Teachers will lose jobs. It will be more difficult to sustain a decent salary schedule. It will become increasingly difficult to attract and retain the best teachers. However, the big losers will be the community and the students. 9. Students will have fewer opportunities. Materials will be reduced. At some point neighborhood schools will have to be closed. Duluth Public Schools may even have to close a middle school or high school.

10. The superintendent has tried to do the right thing. He has done everything he could to prevent Edison expansion. He tried to prevent them from gaining access to Washburn. Edison assured him that if they got Washbum they would not expand enrollment. 11. Officials at Edison gave their assurances that they would be willing to enter a contract arrangement to make Edison a part of the school district. Chris Cerf, who is the general counsel for Edison, assured me that they were willing to enter a contract agreement. What happened? Edison got exactly what they wanted from the school board without actually having to compromise on anything. Perhaps the superintendent has now learned what we knew all along. You just cannot trust Edison.

12. I believe that the school board now has an obligation to the public. They should now tell the public which schools they intend to close. They should be honest and open.

13. They made promises to the public regarding how the referendum money would be used. They should now promise the community which programs will be cut and which schools will be closed. They should run for re-election on the basis' of this promise.

Frank Wanner, President

My Response:

1. of course.





2. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Wanner tells the teachers that this means that they should expect an 8% increase in salaries over the next two years,conveniently ignoring the increasing costs of health insurance which must come from this 8 % increase.






3. Anyone who can make such confident statements would make a good superintendent. Frank has missed his true calling.

4. There he goes again. (I stole that line from Ronald Reagan)





5. Because Edison was set up as a charter school they don't have to do anything to please ISD 709. One reason they were set up as a charter school was so that Frank Wanner couldn't touch them. Another of Frank's triumphs.



6. In addition to spending lots of money on our school facilities Edison has honored all contracts and even paid us rent where they have no obligation to do so. The one critical obligation they have is to meet the academic expectations the Board gave them. Time will tell on this score.

7. What should be obvious to Frank but apparently isn't is that every student of ours Edison takes is a student we don't have to pay to educate. This is an oversimplification, of course. We have buildings to accommodate a set number of students and if we have to maintain increasingly empty buildings his prediction of school closings has a theoretical possibility.Frank would no doubt like to build up hysteria on this point before the election but it has already become obvious that by putting so many of their resources into the elementary grades it will be hard for Edison to compete with our secondary schools.

8 This is Fear mongering not unlike that committed by Richard Nixon, Joe McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover and today's survivalists.





9. Obviously, Frank doesn't consider Edison an alternative.


10. The Superintendent has found himself in the middle of a battle he'd prefer not to fight. I didn't know that Frank was privy to the negotiations between our two respective public school systems.



11. I believe this is true because Edison has such non charter schools elsewhere. However the tone of this diatribe gives good evidence for why Edison might be reluctant to set up such a "contract" school right now. Further, among Mr. Wanner's long list of threats is one to begin secondary boycotts of the businesses of Edison parents. This, by the way, is illegal.





12. Some of the new Board members are lobbying to identify buildings to close.


13.Frank was no doubt stung when the recent contract settlement was identified as the reason we were going to have to make program cuts. Since the legislature stepped in these cuts will be considerably lessened. Now Frank wants to find something else to pin possible program cuts on. But, as I've already indicated, since we don't have to pay to educate students enrolled in Edison this is not a plausible explanation for any cuts we might contemplate.