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Cloquet School Board votes to move forward with tuition agreement talks

Discussions thus far have been productive, but Superintendent Michael Cary said the districts are “certainly far from a finished deal at this point.”

File: Cloquet High School
Cloquet High School. (Jamie Lund / 2019 file / Pine Journal)

The Cloquet School Board voted unanimously to continue discussions with Carlton for a tuition agreement to send Carlton High School students to Cloquet during its meeting Monday, Aug. 9.

Superintendent Michael Cary laid out many of the financial details of the general framework that resulted from informal discussions that included Cary, Cloquet Board Chair Ted Lammi, Carlton Superintendent John Engstrom and Carlton Board Chair Julianne Emerson.

“We are trying to make sure that we are being fair to our taxpayers and looking at an agreement that we feel could be beneficial to our programs,” Cary said. “If we didn’t feel like the agreement was fair to our taxpayers or helps us improve programming, we wouldn’t be going down this road. We really think that it can be of benefit to us, the trick is whether or not we have the structure for us to benefit appropriately.”

The state of Minnesota is the primary revenue source for all school districts in the state, Cary said. There are a number of revenue streams dedicated to providing education on a per student basis. In addition, the school district receives an amount per student from the state for long term facilities maintenance.

In the agreement, the money Carlton receives from the state would flow to Cloquet for each high school student who enrolls in Cloquet, according to Cary.

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RELATED: Carlton, Cloquet to continue tuition agreement talks If further negotiations go well, an agreement could come together “rather quickly,” according to Carlton Superintendent John Engstrom.

In addition, Carlton would pay Cloquet an extra $800 per student “above and beyond” the educational and maintenance aid streams from the state.

“That money would be under the direction of the board, but our initial thought as the administration would be that money could be set aside in an account that we accumulate,” Cary said. “When we in the future need to go forward with any kind of a renovation or building project, then we would have that pot of money to offset the cost to our local taxpayers.”

School board member Gary Huard asked if Cloquet would be required to hire Carlton teachers displaced by high school students attending Cloquet, but Cary said that was not part of the agreement.

“We have no obligation in terms of providing anything for their instructors,” Cary said.

Cary stressed that while there has been progress, the districts are “certainly far from a finished deal at this point.”

Board members all supported moving forward with discussions, but they all wanted to be sure Cloquet had the infrastructure to support the additional high school students.

“I just want to be clear, I am in favor of doing anything we can to help neighboring district students,” board member Ken Scarbrough said. “I want to make sure that we’re able to handle them facility-wise.”

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The Cloquet School Board will have a special committee of the whole meeting at 8 a.m. Friday, Aug. 20, at Garfield School to discuss the tuition agreement with Carlton and other issues. The meeting is open to the public, but there will not be an opportunity for public comment.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONCLOQUETCARLTON
Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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