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March Mania

Reader's View: Education letter does disservice to North Branch, Minn.

We here in North Branch, Minn., were dismayed to read a letter to the editor on the News Tribune Web site that included commentary on our district and its decision to consider a four-day school week ("Can a four-day school week really save money?" March 15). No one here had any contact from the letter writer. Her opinion from Arlington, Va., is far removed from the inequities facing many Minnesota schools.

If the writer looked back at our recent budgets, as she suggested we do, she would discover we have cut more than $10 million since 2003. She noted that "Minnesota's per pupil costs went up by nearly $400," but she failed to note the vast majority of those increases came in the form of local operating levies, not funds supplied districts directly by the state.

So while many districts may have realized increases to their per-pupil funding, North Branch Area Public Schools, without an operating levy in place, is not one of them.

What was most unfortunate about the letter, in addition to the News Tribune's decision to run it, was the completely unwarranted distrust it festered in our community. Our district has worked very hard to educate our community about funding inequities in the state and the challenges we face as a result. In one fell swoop, and without so much as a courtesy call, this letter eroded that trust, based not on facts but on over-generalizations that have nothing to do with North Branch's current situation.

It also was disappointing the News Tribune would decide to run an opinion on Minnesota education funding that was supplied by a think tank in Virginia without bothering to check facts. Both the newspaper and the column did North Branch Area Public Schools a great disservice and created a trust barrier the district will now have to spend considerable time overcoming.

DEB HENTON

NORTH BRANCH, MINN.

The writer is Superintendent of North Branch Area Public Schools.

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