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Editorial: Summit could be about survival

An education summit with 100 invited citizens at the high school Saturday aims to focus on ways to improve local education and set priorities.

First-year Superintendent Tom Westerhaus called for the summit. It's part of his emphasis on meticulous, long-range planning.

In light of budget deficits that are affecting all forms of government, and business, too, the prioritizing at the summit takes on more urgency. Put bluntly, the theme for the future may be more about what kind of school classes and programs district residents can afford.

Faced with a $682,000 deficit next year, the school board acted to plug that gap last week by drawing on money set aside in reserve, and by asking local school building staff and teachers to come up with a collection of cuts totaling $370,000.

That $370,000 permanent reduction will carry on into future years, when projected deficits start ballooning past $1 million. If the economy doesn't right itself soon and if enrollment doesn't grow again, future budget cuts will be more painful. Certain classes will be eliminated and teachers laid off.

The grim outlook makes Saturday's summit timely. What aspects of education do we value for our children and can't do without? In times like these, dare we even consider adding 4-year-old kindergarten and community education, as some have suggested?

So all bets are off. The summit discussion should be lively and free-wheeling. Best of all, the local citizenry generates the list of final ideas. That should help with the buy-in later if district administrators and the school board must choose what courses and level of education River Falls will protect in the next decade and beyond.


Online viewers plug deficit

The Journal's online question this week asked: Next year's school district budget will be $370,000 in the hole. Pick one idea to help balance it.

As of Tuesday noon, the responses were:

  • Do some staff layoffs, but protect core classes, 9.84%
  • Don't cut anything; either take more money from the Reserve Fund or aggressively seek more state and federal grants, 13.93%
  • Reduce number of athletic teams, 14.75%
  • Cut back on staff, administrative travel and training, and the same for school field trips, 48.36%
  • Hiring freeze, 13.11%

    To vote and to catch local news updates, go to

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