MI-B seeks collaboration funds for new school

MIB-1Following legislative action in 2014, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board created a school collaboration fund from local taconite production and occupation taxes. The broad goal was to encourage fiscally challenged Iron Range school districts to share resources, curriculum and staff, or even consolidate.

But in practical, baldly political terms, this fund was created to fund a controversial proposal to “co-locate” three Iron Range high schools — Mountain Iron-Buhl, Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert — on one Mountain Iron campus. That concept went down in flames amid public backlash. Ultimately, people were confused and insulted over claims that putting all the students in one school was somehow not consolidation.

Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert pulled out of the discussions entirely. But Mountain Iron-Buhl still wants a new high school. As a relatively small school (enrollment was just over 200 last year, or about 50 per class) the prospect of getting enough money through traditional referendum is slim.

So MI-B has a new idea, detailed today in the Mesabi Daily News. They are going to create a new school district and ask for the collaboration funding on their own. That new district would then form some kind of strategic relationship with the St. Louis County Schools, a confederation of small rural schools throughout the county. Again, it’s not being described as consolidation.

On Monday, the IRRRB will meet to discuss this plan. The initial proposal would require MI-B schools to get voter approval for the deal.

From the Mesabi Daily News:

“It’s not a merger of the districts. I think they are looking at consolidating some operations,” said IRRR Board Member Sen. David Tomassoni, who was also on a committee that determined guidelines for the fund. “Instead of letting funds come at the whim of school boards, people have to vote.”

The account currently holds $7,282,694 — $4,916,476 from production tax dollars and $2,366,218 from occupation tax money.

The next installment to the fund will be $2,776,292 on Thursday. Other allocations to the fund this year will be in May and August.

The proposal has one straight-forward outcome: Mountain Iron-Buhl would get a new high school from which about 50 students a year would graduate. The rest is administrative and political maneuvering to convey the notion that this is fiscally responsible collaboration.

That’s for people to decide. But it would be hard to imagine the voters of the MI-B district turning down a new school that’s mostly paid for.

This concept has been floating around in the Iron Range political sphere ever since the three-district co-location plan failed two years ago. The MI-B district employs influential Iron Range lobbyist Gary Cerkvenik, who is the architect of this deal.

It has been my position that school collaboration and consolidation on the Iron Range is necessary. As class sizes have shrunk across the region, students have been deprived advanced curriculum, foreign language education, music, vocational training and shop. The important part isn’t bricks and mortar — it’s the educational opportunities available to all students born and raised on the Iron Range.


  1. There’s been a downward swing in population, to be sure. But there are also students living within one district’s boundaries going to other schools, sometimes for better educational opportunities, sometimes for sports opportunities, and sometimes for family reasons. It is hard to argue that students should be prevented from getting what is best for their individual needs. But I take issue with busses/vans from one district going to or into another district to pick up kids. This also has to be part of any discussion of school student numbers.

    I agree that lower numbers of kids results in fewer class offerings. Can cooperation between districts help by providing more classes that are on interactive TV?

    Is it possible to be more creative in scheduling so that a student can attend a specific class in another school, but stay with his home school?

    Certainly Eveleth, MIB, and Virginia are closer to each other than schools within some city districts. It would be great to see some creative planning done to build on each schools strengths. …Though I’m sure that the administrative people already have plenty on their agendas.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.