COLUMN: "Fiber and Steel"

This is my weekly column for the Sunday, April 4, 2010 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Fiber and Steel
By Aaron J. Brown

I’m going to talk about the Iron Range economy today but it’s not really about the economy, is it? It’s about us. From the workplaces and bars, coffee klatches and school functions, Iron Rangers wonder about the future. Too often, the content of these conversations wander close, but not close enough to the hard reality of our situation.

As Range demographics irrefutably change to an older society, one with fewer young families than in the past, the path to keeping or attracting young people becomes more difficult. It’s not different here than in most other places, the rust belt cities and flat states, just pronounced because of this region’s unique nature.

Since the catastrophic regional depression of the early 1980s – an era from which we have yet to recover – our leaders, men and women of different political ideologies, have deployed a single plan. The “3T” plan: Taconite, timber and tourism. This plan is essentially a default. Default works great when things are working well. They aren’t. You don’t need me to tell you this.

It’s true that the “3T” plan is part, maybe even a majority of our future. Taconite and iron mining is an inextricable segment of the Range’s economy; indeed, it’s the reason we all live where we do (even if we don’t know it). Timber, by virtue of our massive stores of wood products, is also a vital part of the economy. Tourism doesn’t need explanation. Beautiful lakes, woods, parks and history make this region special, not just to us, but to the many millions of people who want to escape the relative hellscape where they live. All of these things equal dollars and jobs for us and people we know. All of this is warm and comforting and inadequate. Indeed, it’s the opiate of our masses.

In recent years there has been token acknowledgment of a fourth “T,” Technology. On the Iron Range this “T” has been embraced with same enthusiasm as the metric system. That is to say that there is tacit acknowledgment that it’s a real thing that the world is doing; just no follow-through.

But there is a place nearby where this is changing for the better. The city of Duluth has been courting Google to choose Duluth as a test site for its new Google Fiber technology, the vague, purportedly revolutionary sort of thing I’m talking about. Google Fiber would be a super high speed internet service available to households and businesses that could make cities in its sphere of influence competitive in yet unknown ways with other parts of the world that are beating us, whipping us in the new economy.

Maybe Google Fiber is a salvation; maybe it isn’t. Something else caught my eye. When Duluth was presented with the opportunity to pursue Google, it did so wholeheartedly and with a broad coalition that included more than the usual suspects. Duluth is pursuing Google Fiber with creativity, and yet with understanding of itself, both its limitations and potential. From YouTube to Facebook, from the Chamber of Commerce to students playing online video games, Duluth is trying something new.

Iron Rangers are the brothers and sisters of Duluth, indeed many of our people now live there. It is now time for the Iron Range to deploy modern tactics of its own. Failure to do so will mean nothing to us, but everything to the people who could deliver the Range the jobs, people and future it so desperately wants. Moreover, the process of stepping outside our normal bounds could prove the ultimate truth: We control our own destinies on the Iron Range. No solution for the future can exist without us all doing something difficult to benefit our children and grandchildren.

We sit here waiting for Essar Steel to build a plant in Nashwauk that will not even remotely replace the jobs lost over the past 30 years. Even if the Essar project is wildly successful it won’t completely solve our problems, specifically the problems that face our local schools, cities and businesses. We need more. No one else will give us what we need unless we ask for, then demand, then create our own solutions. New industry, telecommuters and innovative ways to harness natural, renewable resources are the only way out of this anxious wilderness.

No one worries about the mettle of the Iron Range people. Strong and belligerent as ever, we stand ready to do something. The question is what? And for whose benefit? The future of the Range depends on fiber and steel, timber, tourism and technology. We must do this for our children and grandchildren. Period. We need a 21st century economy, not 20th century excuses.

Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Read more at his blog or in his book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”


  1. Anonymous says

    A thoughtful piece Aaron…I’d suggest the answer is hidden in each individual to “create our own solutions” verses contining to have an attitude of “give us what we need” or “demand what we need”.

    Who do we “demand” from..and with what justification? Who do we expect to “give us” something… and why?

    The organized side of labor on the Range, reflected in all Range politicians, has a history of “give me” and “I demand” which drives away new investment… (other than ore and timber which inherently requires those industries to be on the Range).

    Until this attitude changes, you won’t find “new industry” willing to invest up here. There’s far to many other places which are much more friendly to businesses and job creation.

  2. I appreciate your ideas in this piece. If you can get folks on the range to act as a single voice and seek solutions, it would be a great step forward.
    My comment is more towards something I think your article failed to mention; that is education. Creating solutions, pulling investments and retaining jobs suitable for the 21st century will require more than a high school degree. Perhaps it doesn’t start with a “T” but “E” has never been more important in this economy.

  3. A fair point, Thomas. My exclusion of education in this piece was not willful, rather I see our educational infrastructure (especially after some reorganization these next couple years) as ready to handle the economic changes. Our K-12 and community/technical education is actually one of our best selling points.

    Technology in itself won’t work without a population educated in how to use it. It’s interesting to me how I might have a student well versed in texting and mobile devices, but who lacks basic understanding of internet communication and the media. I’m working on expanding curriculum in this area in my “real job.”

  4. Anonymous says

    Come on Aaron, get your head out of your butt, quit dreaming!

    Yes, once upon a time the Iron Range had the best school districts and the best teachers in the state, maybe the country. The reason? We had an industry, businesses and parents which believed in and supported education.

    Those days are gone…driven in large part by the anti-business climate created by old school labor unions, old school politicians.

    Look at the recent high school test scores from the Minnesota Dept of Education. I picked math as you seem interested in the technology side of things. The numbers aren’t any better for reading…

    What “K-12 best selling points” are you referring to??

    2009 MCA-II Mathematics test results…

    Percent proficient:

    State wide average 63.86%

    Cherry 49.31%
    Hibbing 53.25%
    Nashwauk/Keewatin 48.25%
    Greenway 26.27%
    Grand Rapids 37.28%
    Virginia 49.32%

  5. Anonymous says

    Hmmm…just noticed the blog author has enabled “comment moderation”…meaning my last factual comment highlighting the state of the Range education system probably won’t get posted.

    I respect the blog author’s right to present one side of an issue…or both, whichever he chooses. It’s his blog…

  6. I am making the assumption that you are the person who has been commenting on my last few policy/politics posts with diatribes about unions.

    Maybe you just came to this blog, but if not you’d know that I’ve been talking about school consolidation to improve curriculum, closing the gap in those reading and math scores that’s been growing these last several years and reversing the decline that you and I agree has befallen the Iron Range. You’d also know that I’ve gotten in scraps with union members a couple times because I don’t follow orthodoxy.

    I agree that there are a lot of complacent leaders around here. I’m working on that. Fixing that is more like farming than like hunting and I sure as hell could use some help. I agree that 20th century labor practices no longer apply to all sectors of the ever-changing economy, but I reject whatever vague proposal you imply, from doing away with unions to, well, what is your proposal?

    More and more I come to a conclusion that the policy debates of our times — from national politics down to the minutia that govern Iron Range fits and fumbles — is constipated because discussion is air-puffed with soundbites instead of reasoned alternatives.

    I’ve said it here, and I’ve said it in a half dozen columns like this one in the last year, that our problem is related to attitude.

    I propose a more focused use of Iron Range local mining (in lieu of property tax) revenue on public works and incentives for local governmental unit consolidation and long term fiscal stability. I further propose that the state restore the LGA system that kept property taxes low and built fairly-funded communities over the ’80s and ’90s. I favor a progressive income tax that funds a well-managed government, one that creates a responsive education system, a flexible health care system tied to people and not employment, and that prepares technology and transportation infrastructure for what we’ll need 10 years from now, not what we wanted 10 years ago.

    What specifically would you do differently? I’m serious, I’d like to know.

  7. Oh, and I do allow open comments for a 48 hour period after posts. After that I moderate. Partly to block spam and partly to keep long arguments from continuing beyond their usefulness.

  8. Anonymous says

    Ok Aaron…good question. Here’s what to do:

    Benchmark…Don’t rely on your knowledge, or mine only. Find out what nations, what states, what cities and what districts have the best education system. Then develop a plan to replicate that system in your home, your children, their classroom, their school, their city, their district and their state.

    Make sure you benchmark globally. Our kids are completing with the world, not just the Twin Cities..or South Dakota. For example, on an international scale:

    What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart?

    Finland’s teens score extraordinarily high on an international test. American educators are trying to figure out why.
    February 29, 2008

    “By one international measure, Finnish teenagers are among the smartest in the world. They earned some of the top scores by 15-year-old students who were tested in 57 countries.

    They dye their hair, love sarcasm and listen to rap and heavy metal. But by ninth grade they’re way ahead in math, science and reading — on track to keeping Finns among the world’s most productive workers.

    The Finns won attention with their performances in tests sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group funded by 30 countries that monitors social and economic trends.

    In the most recent test, which focused on science, Finland’s students placed first in science and near the top in math and reading, according to results released late last year”.

    So..find out why the Finns, and numerous other countries are so good Aaron. Also find out what states and districts are the best, and why.

    Then go forth and replicate the best of the best system beginning with your own kids, their classroom, their school. Start within your greatest sphere of influence…and expand from there, as far as you feel compelled.

  9. I’d like to know why Finnish schools are better, too. I do know that when schools are asked to do more than they should, or when massive disparities between schools in one place vs. another exist, all sorts of problems occur. It is well worth more checking. Let me know if you come across anything.

  10. Anonymous says

    I will…One thing we do know, throwing more money at K-12 in the U.S. isn’t the answer.

    Does Spending More on Education Improve Academic Achievement?

    Published on September 8, 2008 by Dan Lips , Shanea Watkins, Ph.D. , John Fleming and Shanea Watkins

    The evidence about education spending and achievement leads to the following important lessons:

    •American spending on public K-12 education is at an all-time high and is still rising. Polls show that many people believe that a lack of resources is a primary problem facing public schools.

    Yet spending on American K-12 public education is at an all-time high. Approximately $9,300 is spent per pupil. Real spending per student has increased by 23.5 percent over the past decade and by 49 percent over the past 20 years.

    •Continuous spending increases have not corresponded with equal improvement in American educational performance.

    Long-term measures of American students’ academic achievement, such as long-term NAEP reading scale scores and high school graduation rates, show that the performance of American students has not improved dramatically in recent decades, despite substantial spending increases.

    The lack of a correlation between long-term education spending and performance suggests that simply increasing spending is unlikely to improve educational performance.

    •Increasing federal funding on education has not been followed by similar gains in student achievement.

    Federal spending on elementary and secondary education has also increased significantly in recent decades. On a per-student basis, federal spending on K-12 education has tripled since 1970. Yet, long-term measures of American students’ academic achievement have not seen similar increases.

    •Education reform efforts should focus on improving resource allocation. Instead of simply increasing funding, efforts to improve education should focus on improving resource allocation.

    Comparing high graduation rates and per-student expenditures in the nation’s 50 largest cities, spending per student exceeds $10,000 per year, yet graduation rates are below 50 percent.

    For example, in Mpls, per-student spending is approximately $15,000 per year, yet less than 50 percent of Mpls students are graduating from high school.

    In these communities and across the country, policymakers should focus on reforming policies and resource allocation to improve student achievement.

    The high and increasing percentage of funding that is allocated to non-classroom expenditures is evidence of the need to improve resource allocation in the nation’s public schools.

    According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 52 percent of public education expenditures are spent on instruction. This percentage has been slowly decreasing over recent decades.

  11. Why are Finnish students so well educated? All school is free in Finland, including college. Kids get free lunches and health care at school. How do they pay for it – TAXES.

    Here is their tax structure:
    In Finland Taxation of an individual’s income is progressive. In other words, the higher the income, the higher the rate of tax payable. In 2009 the income tax rate (national tax) for an individual is between 7%-30.5%. In addition to direct taxation there is also municipal tax in Finland. This tax is payable by an individual on his or her income and it fluctuates between 16% – 21% depending on the municipal authority. Church tax of 1%- 2.25% is also payable.
    Reduced rates of tax or exemption are available for certain income earners.
    The standard rate of Finland corporate tax in 2009 is 26%. They also have high capital gains taxes.

    Whether this type of society is for the USA is something that we will have to decide. Since Reagan, we have moved in the opposite direction.

    By the way, school bashers always use Minneapolis Schools as their whipping post. With a significantly more challenging demographic to educate, they spend far less per student than our elite metro private schools like Blake, SPA, Breck and others. If money is not the key to quality, then some of our most wealthy families appear to be throwing their money away!

    To Aaron’s original post, the Range leadership will need to commit their own sweat and resources to bring world-class technology to the area. Everyone loved the RangeNet project until it was time to pony up their own dollars.

  12. Anonymous says

    Bill..listen to yourself.

    “Education is free in Finland?”

    You must be one of the 50% of U.S. citizens who pay no federal income tax. I understand though..when people like you who have no skin in the game, you logically have no incentive to improve things.

    I was carrying on a reasonable dialogue with Aaron, then enters a guy who really believes there really are free lunches.

  13. Anonymous says

    Ok Bill…I’ll give you another chance. Yes, private schools are more expense than public.

    My first hand knowledge says the majority of families/parents sending their kids to private schools are not “rich”. However, they are committed, very committed, to their kids education.

    What do private schools have over public?

    1)A learning atmosphere. The kids going to these schools know it’s ok to be smart. It’s ok to study. In fact, it’s expected/demanded you study. It’s viewed as a stepping stone to their next educational experience, whatever it is. These schools do not view high school as the “end of the educational road”.

    2)Very good teachers. Most have masters degrees. They’re expected (by the people paying to send their kids there), to work hard at producing a smart kid.

    3)Involved parents. After all, they’re giving up a lot to send their kid there.

    4)In addition to academic development, they inherently teach personal development. The teach you to have a greater purpose in life. They’re not babysitters and they don’t tolerate babies, they kick ’em out.

    5)Good physical facilities. Not a big, big deal but it certainly plays a part.

    6)Generally, smaller class sizes. However, this means nothing without points one and two mentioned above.

    Now…the question is, can the Range public schools emulate this?

    I say they can if the community…and parents demand and expect it of themselves, their kids, the school board and the teachers. It has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with what you do with the money you have….your money, not someone else’s.

    Now quite complaining about getting picked on, complaining that your last handout was too small, that your next one is coming too slow and do something.

  14. You raise some good points, anon, but I don’t think Bill was looking for a “handout” when he posted his comment. He raises some very fair points about what education costs and how it is delivered. From unfunded mandates to local issues, public education faces a tremendous amount of variables these days. The status quo might not be working in many cases, but it is not a “handout” either. That sounds like the sort of either/or nonsense that drives our cable news debates.

    I see our education system in need of major reforms, but I also don’t see investing in education — in teachers and classrooms — as “throwing money” at a problem either. If we face a national security threat no one quibbles about the billions of dollars spent on, well, whatever. I would contend that, in the maintenance of the American nation as a superpower, education is of equal importance.

    I’m not saying to waste the money. But the notion that today’s current education spending frozen in time forever will solve everything so long as we bust the unions and wave some kind of magic wand is just not a good idea, much less politically possible.

    I think we can agree that reform and creativity are needed in the education system, along with the economic development plans of the Iron Range. And I think that’s a real good place to leave this discussion.

  15. Anonymous says

    I’ll leave the discussion Aaron but make no mistake Bill is looking for a handout.

    Whenever somebody thinks something is free, it inherently means he’s not paying for it.

    But the true is, somebody pays. And to him, that somebody means someone else, not him. That’s a handout.

    It’s an important subject, I hate to see you leave the discussion.

  16. It’s time to move on. We can’t solve the world’s problems in the comments thread of a lightly read regional blog. That said I find your word choice of “handout” to be a red herring and your inference that people who support progressive policy don’t expect to pay for anything to be a tad insulting. Are people who support conservative policies greedy? Do they wish harm on those without resources? Of course not. The question is what will work? Again, five back and forths on this is enough for one post.

  17. Anonymous says

    We agree Aaron…

    Neither conservatives nor liberals have a lock on greed.

    However, conservatives tend to be greedy with what’s rightfully theirs, liberals tend to be greedy with what’s rightfully others.

    Also neither ideology generally wishes to harm another.

    Conservatives though tend to harm people less by not taking what isn’t rightfully theirs. Liberals tend to harm people more by taking what’s not rightly theirs.

  18. Anonymous says

    Just to validate my previous post Aaron…an article written in NYT.

    Bleeding Heart Tightwads
    Published: December 20, 2008

    This holiday season is a time to examine who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but I’m unhappy with my findings. The problem is this: We liberals are personally stingy.

    Liberals push for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.

    Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals. Other research has reached similar conclusions. The “generosity index” from the Catalogue for Philanthropy typically finds that red states are the most likely to give to nonprofits, while Northeastern states are least likely to do so.

    The upshot is that Democrats, who speak about the hungry and homeless, personally fork over less money to charity than Republicans.

    “When I started doing research on charity,” Mr. Brooks wrote, “I expected to find that political liberals — who, I believed, genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did — would turn out to be the most privately charitable people. So when my early findings led me to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error.

    I re-ran analyses. I got new data. Nothing worked. In the end, I had no option but to change my views.”

  19. Paul Virginia says

    As someone else said, a thoughtful piece for a complex problem. Ignoring the diatribes, I would also add a “cultural problem”, and I do not mean organized labor. It is (and some of these comments are a good example) an anti-intellectualism that in many ways underlies much of the culture now. One of the things the boom and bust destroyed was self organization; it first destroyed what existed with an influx of temporary workers lasting a generation and deluding everyone,from local officials to ordinary people that the money would flow forever. It also hid many preexisting problems, including the end of the baby boom school populations in 1982. When that collapsed, the consequences affected everything, from demographics to addictions and social dysfunction. The range is not alone in this; it happens everywhere communities are built without a sustainable economic infrastructure. While the population has shrunk in general, the devastating components are in young families and educational level. While there is still a progressive element underlying the political views, there is also now a significant redneck, idiot culture, one that alternately worships ignorance, alcohol and gasoline. Another is still a local range dominated elite that self perpetuates its own power; this resists new ideas and absorbs much of the public money supposedly aimed at diversifying our economy (A gasification plant without collateral anyone?). We do need new ideas, but one commentator’s right wing diatribes are repackaged neoliberal idiocy, proven over the last decades as an abysmal failure in every way. Somehow, if we merely got rid of people’s right to a living wage and vacation plans, gold would fall from the sky. Reliance on more of the same is not a solution. Instead, I would argue that we must view the communities realistically. We cannot speak within “Da Range” mythology anymore. As Gov. Perpich said 20 years ago, “the Range will never be the same: never, never, never”. We have to deal with the multiple consequences of environmental destruction, economic collapse and social dysfunction. As you point out, even if Essar is fully built, it will not replace the jobs lost in the last decade, much less in the last quarter century. The new jobs, despite everyone’s hope, will still not be what they replaced. The modern plants will be more automated, require more education and will not hire everyone from here currently hoping for the day. There may be a short boom, but not everyone will be employed as a truck driver or ironworker. The people and the communities need to change both their view of themselves and their expectations. Eventually, truck drivers in the plants will be replaced by remotely watched gps boxes the size of an Ipod. We must rethink what the communities will be, rather than waiting for the savior. We cannot be suburbs, but even more so, we cannot be another Babbitt or Hoyt Lakes, built for one purpose. We also have to stop being insular, holding onto letter jackets and locality as if they mean something. As my Uncle once said, “we left that mining location happily, it was a miserable place”. I recently saw a story where a local group had developed an archery program within the school. While it is an admirable skill, to me it is an example what is wrong. That group had not worked to enhance the science curriculum, nor to reinstate the lost Arts and Literature classes, but instead was concerned about continuing on “the hunting culture”. While I am a hunter, describing most hunting, which now consists of overweight people in pickups with advertising stickers as a “culture” is the problem; it knows nothing of the world, how it has changed and what we must do to prepare for it. We need people using creativity, knowledge and technology for themselves and the community. Another generation of barely passing high school graduates will not suffice. Until we get past that problem, nothing will change. The young and bright will continue to leave.

  20. Quite possibly the best comment I’ve ever received on this blog. I couldn’t agree more about the nature and vastness if our problems, and the need to solve them with new ideas. I just might promote this to the front page, it’s that good.

  21. I like it Paul…It’s a bit wordy but all liberals will like it for that reason and the fact it covers a plethora (my big word for the day) of issues facing the Range.

    However, big words seldom accompany good deeds.

    But more importantly, as someone once said..”it’s important to know that words don’t move mountains. Work, exacting work moves mountains”.

    I outlined my thoughts on specific action. What “exacting work” do you propose to improve the Range education system?

    Again, the time for outlining the problem/issues is long past. Let’s take action…I’m ready to help!!

  22. Paul Virginia says

    I would disagree about the “the time for outlining problems/issues is long past”. We always first have to define what the problems are, decide if they are resolvable and then have a plan. Otherwise we might end up “throwing money at the problem” something you always complain about. An example arises from the previous discussion. One post compares MCAT test scores amongst the various local and regional means. The post is tied to the argument that teachers unions hold back “change”. Those numbers hide alot, however. They hide income disparities and other demographic data. The numbers are averages of large populations and parsing out what is actually going on requires extensive analysis. Are there other social factors; how many of the children come from families with post-secondary education ( a significant sign), and how many do not? How many low income children are there? What resources do we have to invest at an early age where it is proven to make the largest difference? Why do we have multiple high schools within miles of each other, each offering a limited curriculum and individual hockey teams? Or are local elites and others (letterjacket disease) resistant to change for other reasons? Are there well funded and organized ECFE programs? Can they collaborate across districts? Is there still too much localism or nepotism within school boards and administration? ?Test scores are merely a symptom of other problems, and solving them is much more difficult than closing schools or firing teachers.

  23. Anonymous says

    Ok Paul…You disagree that it’s time to get take action, that spending time and money to further study the issues is required.

    Let me do a little leg work for you. I’ll answer the questions you think haven’t been answered…based on recent studies and readily available data.

    1) Paul stated: An argument has been made and posted that teachers unions hold back “change”.

    Comment: If teachers wish to unionize, it’s their choice and I’m willing to work with that. If plant workers wish to unionize, it’s also their prerogative. They should understand however that business owners, venture capitalists do not view areas which are strongly union as a positive. Therefore, be prepared for less investment than non-union areas of the world.

    2) Paul asked: How many of the children come from families with post-secondary education?

    Answer: In Minnesota, 88% (79,548) of children whose parents do not have a high school degree live in low-income families. 57% (108,565) of children whose parents have a high school degree, but no college education live in low-income families. 20% (190,947) of children whose parents have some college or more live in low-income families. Now that you know this Paul, what’s your plan?

    3) Paul asked: How many low income children are there?

    Answer: In Minnesota, there are 650,780 families, with 1,241,476 children. Low-Income Children: 31% (379,061) of children live in low-income families (National: 41%), defined as income below 200% of the federal poverty level according to the NCCP (National Center for Children in Poverty). Now…what’s your plan Paul?

    4) Paul asked: What resources do we have to invest at an early age?
    Answer: Minnesota funds a pre-kindergarten program and supplements Head Start. ($39 million in 2008, a $1 million increase over 2007). Again Paul, now knowing this, what’s your plan?

    5) Paul asked: Why do we have multiple high schools within miles of each other, each offering a limited curriculum and individual hockey teams?

    Answer: The reason we have schools where we do is communities decided to build them when their towns/cities were formed. And good thing they did. It’s also within their power to consolidate as they see fit. If you think your district should do more Paul, do something. Get involved. Propose changes.

    6) Paul asked: Can they collaborate across districts?

    Answer: Of course they can, and many do. Have you looked at what’s been taking place up and down the Range, across the country, over past years? If you believe there should be more, or less, of this in your district Paul, again go ahead and propose something.

    7) Paul asked: Is there still too much localism or nepotism within school boards and administration?

    Answer: Yes. No. What kind of answer are you looking for with this kind of question? School boards are made up of local people. I sense you’re looking for some “higher power” to tell you what to do. People don’t want nor need that. Run for school board and make the changes you think are needed Paul!

    8) Paul stated: Test scores are merely a symptom of other problems, and solving them is much more difficult than closing schools or firing teachers.

    Comment: Schools close and teachers are fired…and schools open and teachers are hired as communities demand. Again, run for school board and change this if you don’t like what’s going on.

    Paul, I really believe you’re not interested in proposing any plans or solutions. I’m really beginning to think you’re either a fool, lazy, buffoon or all three. As I said before, you’re coming across as wordily crying about how tough things are with no intent of doing anything about it.

    Aaron….too bad we’ve got to waste time with postings like Paul’s verses getting on with solving problems.

  24. You did some online leg work on those questions, which I appreciate; however, your responses aren’t the only possible solutions to the questions Paul raises. Anonymous, clearly you have a problem with unions. That’s fine. As you say, your prerogative. I’m not going to get down in the weeds with you on this because while you use some semblance of evidence in your claims you always have a knack for ending with some kind of name calling directly aimed at my commenters and, perhaps more importantly, your responses lack the understanding of local political challenges and educational barriers that Paul was talking about. There is not a cookie cutter approach to our problems. I thank you for your opinions. I’d be happy to offer you a guest post opportunity under your name if you’d like to express more. Email me at

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