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Support your schools...locally

It's been a grueling time in the neighborhood. I mean the big neighborhood--not just Perham city limits, but out to Dent and around East Otter Tail County.

In an area that remains unusually prosperous, it seems bizarre that financial hard times have forced discussions about closing Dent elementary (one of the most charming rural schools around), cutting gifted-talented offerings and abandoning most of the school arts programs.

How on earth did we work ourselves into this dismal situation?

It's easy to blame the state. And, truth is, there is some justification in pointing our fingers at the governor and, to a large degree, our Republican lawmakers.

But framing education funding issues along political party lines is an almost certain path to the ever-widening abyss.

A couple years ago, I heard Gov. Tim Pawlenty speak at a conference. His contention: In real dollars, funding of public education has grown significantly, while public school performance has steadily declined. More money won't make the problems go away, stated the governor.

It's hard to argue that point--unless you're part of the Perham-Dent school district.

Here, public education works--we just need a little more money...not necessarily a whole lot of money, but a little more.

As an outsider coming to the community, I think I can speak with some objectively as to the performance of the Perham-Dent schools. Folks, I gotta tell ya: This really is a remarkably good district. I say that with all due respect to all of the former schools I've been associated with. I couldn't begin to list all of my reasons for stating this--because I'm running out of space! Some other time...

Even our more fiscally conservative school board members appear to have softened their edge, and there is a growing consenses that we need to put a increased levy question on the ballot.

When you think about it, isn't a "local" tax hike the best kind?

Minnesotans are vehement in their sentiment on "local control of the public schools." That's why we have local school boards; why we label ourselves "Independent School District 549." Yet we always blame the state about inadequate state funding.

Well, here's our chance to make a clear statement about how we support our school district...locally. Through local planning, local ideas, local innovations, locally-decided budget cuts--and soon, we can display our support at the local voting precinct.