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Senator Prettner Solon misrepresents the Jaros bill to her fellow State Senators.

Prettner-Solon defends 
taking away the Red Plan referendum

How she's mistaken

State Senator, District 7
G-9 State Capitol Building
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155-1606
Phone: (651) 296-4188
Fax: (651) 225-7594 

State of Minnesota

COMMITTEES: Chair, Energy, Utilities, Technology & Communications • Health & Human Services Budget Division Health, Housing & Family Security • Commerce and Consumer Protections • Capital Investment

May 2, 2008

To: Senate members
Re: Duluth School District Long Range Facilities Plan


It has come to my attention that many of you have been contacted by Duluth residents about a local school district issue. This is a complicated and controversial issue that has sparked strong emotions.

The Duluth School District plans a large-scale construction project that will allow some schools to close, re-construction and maintenance on other buildings and new construction where necessary. 1. The plans have been discussed at numerous public meetings, at least 125 of them, over the course of the past two years and with Department of Education officials, who have signed off on all construction plans.

Over the course of this discussion, questions have been raised concerning the “exclusive” use of alternative facilities revenue authority and lease purchase authority that the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth school districts have available to them. 2. Duluth has not “misused” either provision; in fact all school districts have been granted such authority to use alternative facility authority in recent years if needed for health and safety capital projects that meet the MDE threshold for review and comment.

3. The problem is that Duluth has not “used” this authority to the degree necessary in the more than twenty years it has been available because the community and school board have not been able to decide what schools needed to be closed in any comprehensive plan that has been considered. I have lists of districts that have this approval for those who are interested. 4. Duluth’s Red Plan is legal, despite claims to the contrary, and 5. has been thoroughly reviewed and approved by MDE.

6. Minnesota has a strong tradition of local school control, and at this point it seems appropriate that the legislature resist getting closely involved in an intensely local issue. If the Duluth School Board’s decision to go ahead is overturned by the legislature (which could happen if the House tax provision becomes law), what kind of chilling effect will that have on other school districts experiencing declining enrollment who are trying to make fiscally responsible facility decisions to best meet the needs of their schoolchildren?

Again, thank you for your interest. If you have further questions, please let me know.


Yvonne Prettner Solon







1. No matter how many meetings were held the vast majority of the Duluth public had only a sketchy idea what the Duluth School District Long Range Facilities Plan entailed. Few people were clear that it would cost $407 million dollars making it the largest such school building project in state history. And no one knew that it would implemented without a referendum.

2. Duluth is following the letter of a law which was coauthored many years ago by Duluth Representative Mike Jaros which was intended to permit building without referendums to help integrate Duluth's schools. The current plan which is called the "Red Plan" divides Duluth's schools into a heavily minority half which Rep. Jaros represents and a low minority half in the Eastern half of the City. This violates the intent of Mike's legislation.

3. This is a myth. After a botched school bond referendum in 1989 the Duluth School Board began a ten year maintenance plan which pumped an additional $2 million into school repairs each year. Over the past 15 years $30 million has gone into upkeep. A few of the buildings are old but the buildings in question only average 54 years in age which is far younger than most Duluth homes. In fact, the first two schools to be worked on in the Red Plan are only 16 years old.

4. See answer #2. Yes, it is legal but it shouldn't be. Citizens in every other Minnesota school district have the right to petition to put major bonds on the ballot. Under this law citizens of Cities-of-the-First-Class lose this right to petition for a reverse referendum.

5. In a recent conversation with Rep. Jaros, Education Commissioner Alice Seagren agreed that the Duluth building plan was excessive but plead that because of a new understanding of the letter of the law her Department had no other choice but to approve it.

6. Minnesota has a strong tradition of local control. By permitting this novel use of the existing law the legislature has interfered with the right of Duluth voters to choose the bonds which will finance their schools. This has had "a chilling effect"  on the residents of Duluth. Ironically, if you look at Senator Prettner Solon's State Web page you will see that 58% of the people she surveyed oppose losing the right to vote which she is now advocating. This result has been duplicated in several other polls and surveys taken in Duluth. Senator Prettner Solon is not speaking for her constituents.

Reply written by Harry Welty
Eight year member of the Duluth School Board


If you care about Duluth and its schools 
don't put your faith in the Duluth News Tribune
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