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Published July 25 2013

Forum editorial: West Fargo schools act wisely

There will be a little grumbling in West Fargo because the school board is moving ahead with a new school without a vote of district patrons. The grumbling is misplaced.

First, the board acted responsibly to address rapidly growing enrollment in neighborhoods south of Interstate 94. The population of school-age children is exploding at an unexpected rate as new housing attracts young families. The district needs an additional elementary school right away.

Second, the board’s decision is fiscally sound because money for the new school will be generated by an existing building fund levy, and from any excess dollars from the 2011 bond vote. The estimated cost of a new elementary school is about $12 million, and under various scenarios to be considered by the board, it can be done without additional taxes.

The grumblers will complain the new school should go to the ballot. But two factors militate against that. The first is the immediate need to accommodate growth of about 300 students a year. Going through the requirements to get the question on the ballot would delay construction at least a full school year, and further complicate the district’s space crunch.

Second, a school board is local representative democracy. Board members are elected to do the district’s business on behalf of the people who elected them. Sometimes that means making a big decision, like financing a new school. The alternative, direct democracy, would create delay and chaos if every major decision went to a vote. It also would absolve the board members of the responsibility granted to them by voters.

Don’t like what they are doing? Vote ’em out. Run for the school board. Get involved. That’s what representative democracy is all about. However, in the case of financing a new elementary school, the grumblers will find the board enjoys considerable support.

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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.