Duluth School District Backs Numbers as Board Member Calls Foul

By KBJR News 1

October 28, 2011 Updated Oct 28, 2011 at 10:29 PM CDT

DULUTH,MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - In a surprising move, two Duluth Public School board members are telling Duluthians to "vote no" to the request for an operating levy on the November 8 ballot.

(For more comparisons and remarks, watch the video.)

Board Member Art Johnston, who runs a Web site called "Truth in Duluth", says he believes the school district has been misleading residents with the facts they've sent out to the public about the levy.

The Northland's NewsCenter met with both Member Johnston and district administrators to get to the bottom of the dispute.

The district's business manager says he can back-up the statistics included in the public flyer, but board member Art Johnston says his numbers are accurate too.

Both men combed through the eight different areas in the "Fast Facts" sheet.

What the Northland's NewsCenter found is both Johnston and the district's business manager were able to show how they backed-up their numbers.

Where it gets complicated is whether Johnston claims of error in the fact sheet are verified.

For example, the district's fact sheet shows state funding for schools is 18 percent behind inflation.

Johnston uses numbers showing expenditures per student in Minnesota to prove that expenditures have actually gone up over time.

The main difference here is state aid per student and overall expenditures are two different items and they were also measured using two separate forms of inflation, one CPI, the other IPD.

State aid makes-up only part of money used toward expenditures.

Johnston also disputed the number for the average voter approved levy in the state.

"I've got a link to the final results of all the levies from 2010 and the average is $775. There's no question of that," said Art Johnston.

"Yet when I go to a report from MDE (Minnesota Department of Education), I see $936, and that's the number we've used," said Bill Hanson, the district business manager.

Here again, Johnston's number of $775 for the average levy includes both voter approved and non-voter approved levies in the state.

The district's number of $936 is just voter approved levies.

It was a similar situation when Johnston disputed what Duluth's voter-approved levy currently is.

The current voter approved levy is $365, which the district lists on its fact sheet.

Johnston claims the current levy is $405, and it is, but that number includes transitional money which is being phased out, and most importantly was not voter-approved. The voter approved portion is $365.

To check out board member Art Johnston's Web site go to:

To visit the school Web site for their levy-related numbers visit:

Posted to Web by Jena Pike