Where should schools slash? You help decide

/ 14 February 2012 / jennifer

Duluth News Tribune Editorial, February 14, 2012 –

This time the Duluth school district’s budget problem is projected at $4.8 million. And solving it can’t include any new tax revenue, not after voters overwhelmingly shot down a trio of referendum questions last fall.

That means cuts, nearly $5 million of certain-to-be-painful cuts.

What can go? What can’t be touched?

School district officials already have met with labor-management groups and with staff members to begin gathering ideas. The School Board met last night as a committee with the budget as its top priority.

Now comes the public’s opportunity to contribute. A trio of meetings is scheduled tomorrow and Thursday. The first is at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the board room of Historic Old Central High School. The Thursday meetings are at

5 p.m. in the East High School Media Center, 301 N. 40th Ave. E., and at 7 p.m. in the Denfeld High School Media Center, 401 N. 44th Ave. W.

“We’re hoping to get new ideas on how to address the deficit and make cuts — (as far) away from the classroom as we can,” Superintendent Bill Gronseth said in a meeting with the News Tribune editorial board yesterday. “We want to increase public knowledge and see if they have ideas. … The earlier we have those ideas the more time we have to fully explore them and put some numbers on them.”

Educating the public about the budget and the state-mandated budget process is important. Things some people might not mind slashing may be legally off-limits. At the same time, things considered untouchable may be among the only options left.

“It’s not easy,” School Board Chairwoman Ann Wasson said at the same meeting with the newspaper. “Minnesota school financing is crazy. I still get lost sometimes working through it.”

A list of gathered ideas is to be considered by the School Board March 8.

That’s a list of cuts only, remember.

Perhaps voters who so overwhelmingly eliminated the revenue side of the solution — and School Board member Art Johnston, who led the campaign against the referendums, even charging in the News Tribune that the district was “showing no effective cost constraints” — can lead now, pointing out those cost constraints and suggesting the steep cuts that have to be made.