Mike Jaros is saving Duluth. Itís as simple as that. Thank
you, Mike. Iím suddenly very glad you beat me the two times I ran against
But the News Tribuneís April 4 editorial, ďMultiple
questions of intent behind Jarosí school fight,Ē doesnít see it that
way. The News Tribuneís top dogs all seem to think that shiny new schools
guarantee a better education. We will put this theory to the test in November
when angry voters get the chance to reauthorize an annual property tax for
classroom spending. If that $5 million is lost along with the $6 million being
cut this year, weíll soon find out whether bricks and mortar or teachers
educate our children.
The top dogs must have been educated by bricks and mortar.
That would explain why no teacher ever taught them about the Boston Tea Party.
The newspaperís editorial is right about one thing:
Jarosí intention is to kill the red plan. Itís in his DFL DNA. He was
elected back in the Minnesota Miracle days when a bipartisan legislature freed
Minnesota schools from their dependence on property taxes. For Jaros, it was a
matter of funding schools without resorting to the highly regressive property
tax that will fund the red plan.
Iím amazed that the News Tribune didnít consider this
after having published its excellent series on poverty in Duluth. Duluth is
the third poorest city in Minnesota. Many of our elderly people live on fixed
incomes, and their chief asset is their home. Now the Duluth School Board is
using its newfound power to finance the biggest school building project in
Minnesota history on the backs of the poor.
The law that has bestowed this authority is far more
complicated than the newspaper has reported. Itís not just Jarosí law but
two or three other laws that interact with each other in unexpected ways. This
interaction is what gives the School Board this awesome taxing authority and
without Jarosí law, it all falls apart.
The discovery of this authority by Johnson Controls has been
a great surprise to many of us. It has been about 15 years since Jaros got his
law passed and no one ó not Jaros, not the Legislature, not the Minnesota
Department of Education, not the School Board and not even the School
Districtís lobbyist ó had the slightest clue that the Duluth School Board
could use it to impose such a colossal building plan without a vote.
The last time the School Board offered a successful building
bond was 1992 and it too was passed without a referendum. But ó and this is
a very big but ó it did so under another statute that allows citizens to put
a building plan on the ballot through petition. Itís called a ďreverse
referendum.Ē In 1992, for reasons none of the top dogs can remember because
they werenít living in Duluth at the time, the public had no objections and
the $25 million plan was put into effect. But the voters could have demanded
an election had they wished.
Not this time. The statutory authority of 1992 was
intentionally avoided by Johnson Controls and the School Board. They didnít
want a vote. Instead, they anesthetized Duluth and turned up the heat so
slowly that we didnít realize that the water had started to boil until it
was too late. Itís frustrating to hear the red planís few remaining vocal
supporters demand to know where its critics were when the water was cool and
the red planís dire consequences were still unclear. To put it simply, we
There is only one problem with the red plan that the top
dogs have conceded. It will, according to a map sent by the district to the Minnesota
Department of Education, split Duluth along 14th Ave. East into rich/poor,
high minority/low minority halves. There is a great irony in this and Jaros
knows it well. His law originally allowed some building without referenda for,
among other reasons, to encourage integration. Itís ironic because the red
plan kills our integration program and segregates Duluth. It completely
violates the spirit of Jarosí law. Over time the red plan will impoverish
Jarosí western district as its prosperous residents flee to eastern Duluth.
Shiny new schools will not stem this exodus.
The News Tribuneís passive-aggressive criticism of Jaros
is an embarrassment. Instead, the newspaper should ask the same questions that
Jaros has been asking. Why should the voters in Jarosí district pay taxes to
segregate themselves from the rest of the city? And why should they give up
their right to vote?
Itís the Boston Tea Party all over again. If the News
Tribuneís top dogs donít know what that is, theyíd better ask a teacher.
Harry Welty is a former member of the Duluth School