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LETTER: Old school buildings mean fewer opportunities

To the Editor:

The school building referendum in Carlton is getting as hot as summer weather. With early voting opportunities available, having accurate information to cast your vote is especially essential.

While the majority of the anti-referendum signs I've seen are posted on properties that are actually in the Wrenshall district, I have noticed a few signs that have me concerned. Namely signs that say "New buildings do not equal better education."

On the surface, those signs are very accurate. You can get a great education in old or outdated buildings; I think our kids are getting a good education in the buildings we have. While learning environment plays a huge role in education, those signs are very misleading. The old, outdated facilities and infrastructure we have in Carlton do negatively impact the educational opportunities available to our students which, in turn, affects enrollment through school choice.

Those signs show a basic lack of understanding of the budget and finance process in our district. Our district has an operating budget, which was extended through referendum last November. That budget is what keeps our district running, whether it is used for salaries, curriculum, heating, gas for the buses or maintenance. It is also the source of the money for repairs to old and/or broken systems.

Every penny used to repair our old systems or buildings is a penny that is not applied to curriculum, teacher and paraprofessional salaries or a host of other items that could create better educational opportunities for our students. As an example, if a new building could save us $10,000 in heating costs a year in our operating budget, we would have that $10,000 to spend on education instead.

So, no, new buildings don't necessarily mean better education. But old buildings with high maintenance costs do mean fewer opportunities for our kids.

Rachel Peterson