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Letter: Column meant to highlight concern about school disparities

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For 18 years, I’ve written many columns informing citizens where I stand on issues.  Given the response I received regarding my recent column about the preferential treatment given to wealthier neighborhood schools, I have clearly touched a nerve.

Not everyone liked, or agreed with, my viewpoint. Andrea Mayer-Bruestle criticized me for using “class warfare” to divide the district. Call it what you may, but when all households are forced to pay more for the wants of a single school serving our wealthiest residents, it is wrong.

Liberty Ridge’s $5 million kindergarten center is indicative of the preferential treatment given to our wealthiest neighborhoods. Many residents have also questioned the high cost of East Ridge High School’s amenities, noting that East Ridge also serves our high income neighborhoods. The opulence of the East Ridge facility fuels the perception that the district gives preferential treatment to our wealthiest neighborhoods.

Ms. Mayer-Bruestle claims the “real interest” of my column was to give “Nuevas Fronteras its own school building.” That claim would be troubling, if it were true. Ms. Mayer-Bruestle knows nothing about my “real interest.” While giving Nuevas Fronteras its own building would be ideal if our district had unlimited resources, we must live within our means. I have stated before, and I will state again: I will not support displacing existing students from one of our neighborhood schools to make room for an expanded Spanish immersion program.

My column had nothing to do with the future of our Spanish immersion program. Instead, I tried to shed light on a troubling trend whereby wealthier neighborhoods are given preferential treatment at the expense of all taxpayers. Based on feedback I’ve received, many residents share my concern about the disparities between various school buildings. If that’s “class warfare,” let’s remember who fired the first shot.

Jim Gelbmann is a member of the South Washington County School Board. His opinions do not represent the opinions of the entire School Board.

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