Harry's statement to the Duluth News Tribune published, August
I have much to be modest about when asking Duluth voters for a fourth term on
the Duluth School Board. My determination to bring about equity, my candor, and
my experience are, however, something I value deeply and which I think recommend
my continuing service.
I ran four years ago determined to make the Red Plan a thing of the past. To my
shock, my inquiries for public data, to lay old questions to rest, were met with
fury, stonewalling, and, finally, hysteria. And the Red Plan was never dead. For
10 years, Duluth School Board majorities refused to acknowledge that their
financing of the Red Plan would loot locally levied property taxes from the
classroom for decades to come.
Twenty years ago, in 1997, my second year as a School Board member, Duluth
school property taxes were $23 million; $9 million of this was for debt
servicing, and $14 million went to the classroom. Today, local school property
taxes are $31 million. But this yearís Red Plan debt servicing takes $28.7
million, leaving only $2.5 million for the classroom. That is $11.5 million less
for our classrooms despite an $8 million property tax increase.
If you care to do the math, our average teacher costs $90,000 per year. I will
leave it to others to explain the insistence of some that the Red Plan is over.
What is not over is the loss of $11.5 million for the classrooms each year at a
time when our district is expected to meet the needs of a growing poor and
minority student population desperate for teacher contact time in order to
bridge an infamous learning gap.
Like it or not, Duluth now has a nearly half billion-dollar investment in new
schools to protect. Our board has refused good offers to sell derelict
buildings, even though such sales were made a critical part of the Red Planís
I will do what I deem necessary to raise the funds we need to educate our
children. I will, to the best of my ability, hold true to my conviction that
voters should be offered referendums to raise the necessary funds. However, if
given no alternative, voters must know that I may decide to vote to raise
additional taxes even if the public has soured on providing them.
I can hardly blame the public. Ten years ago, district residents were denied a
referendum on the Red Plan, and this was just after our state Legislature placed
a heavier property tax burden on more modest homes than on those of the more
Not every child can do what Abraham Lincoln did: educate themselves beyond a
meager few years of an elementary education to the law, to Congress, to the
presidency, and to the rescue of the American nation. What Lincoln would have
given to have been educated in the Duluth public schools!
We owe it to our children to remember President Lincolnís words: ďwith malice
Letís give our children an education we can be proud of.
Harry Welty is a candidate for an At Large seat on the Duluth School Board.
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