Budget Emails

I’ve summarized my recent emails to and from MMSD Board of Education President Bill Keys below. I want to thank Bill for taking the time to respond to my notes. I’ll post any further messages and/or links.

My emails to and from the MMSD Board of Education (along with some to and from President Bill Keys):
Good Evening, all (May 25, 2004):
I am writing, first to thank you for the time and effort you devote to the MMSD.
Second, I’m writing to find out why some of you voted recently to increase administrative compensation ($589K), while at the same time eliminating gym instructors AND increasing student fees?
Perhaps there is an opportunity to re-think this?
I would suggest telling the administrators to find 589K from their budget to fund the comp increase. In return, the student fee increases can be reduced/rolled back and perhaps a few more gym instructors retained.
Let’s fund student curriculum & programs first, then deal with administrative costs.
Gym Instructor Cuts:
Admin comp increase:
Best wishes –
Note from Bill Keys (5.27.2004)
Dear Jim,
Thanks for your email regarding this year’s budget. In truth, administrators will be taking a pay cut because for the first time they will have to pay part of their health insurance. Like the rest of the staff and students they are having to pay for the inadequate school financing structure that the state legislature continues to inflict on public schools in Wisconsin.
I do understand the issue of fees very much, and truly wish that no students would pay any fees for anything. Unfortunately, we must raise the money in order to sustain programs. Last year we did it with a referendum giving us permission to exceed the revenue caps. This year, surprisingly, we have found little opposition to raising the fees.
At 10:47 AM 5/28/2004 -0500, you wrote:
hi Bill:
Thanks for your note, and your time.
You are correct that the (is it 5%?) health care cost participation will affect net compensation (many other folks, unfortunately, pay a much larger percentage of health care costs than that).
However, total admin compensation costs still have gone up ($589K).
I continue to believe, given the issues we face today (health care, obesity, more and more jobs that require extended periods at a desk), that we are better off shifting the 589K increase back into the admin budget (surely possible) and funding the gym instructors (and perhaps a few other student items).
Another option would be to stop paying for powerpoint licenses….. 🙂 A complete waste.
With respect to fees; that is one approach. However, as you know there is a collection and management cost to any fee; not to mention an irritation factor for some.
I support Ruth’s efforts to develop the MMSD budget from the ground up, based on student curriculum and achievement. We live in changing times.
Going from year to year with a same service approach (and a discussion of “cuts” or reduction in the increase prior to a full budget analysis) eliminates our opportunities to rethink the way we do things, why we do what we do, and results in a rather short analysis of the implications of budget decisions.
Finally, I urge you to put forth some ideas with respect to local education funding. There are many options, and frankly, the MMSD board is in an excellent position to convey a point of view!
Best wishes, and enjoy your weekend.
Frankly, Ms. Robarts misrepresents the budgeting process when she characterizes it as anything BUT building from the ground up. Having been a teacher for 31 years in Madison, I have been involved in many budgets, and do know that we always built from the ground up, and always around educational services. But a system cannot exist without administrative costs, even admitted to in your own email regarding the mere collection of fees. There are bills to pay, supplies to order, reports to file, and on and on. The system cannot exist at all without these. As a teacher I could not have ever functioned without these services. And I certainly always wanted my administrative staff to be well paid, to be respected through sound salaries, and to feel valued in the system. If they were, my work as a teacher was easier and better, and students invariably benefited. I grow weary of attacks on administrators, just as I did with attacks on teachers. They are one and the same. These attacks are also launched against secretaries, custodians, and trades people.
We are always working hard at advocating through our legislators and governor and numerous organizations who want to provide full support to public education through equitable taxation. We are at a crossroads in our nation’s cultural attitude: will we fund schools or prisons, health care or war, the collective good or individual profit.
At 06:24 PM 5/28/2004 -0500, you wrote:
Hi Bill:
Can I post your note online? (along with my question and followup email)?
These things are public, of course, but I prefer to ask.
Sure! Thanks for asking, but I know that what I write is available for public consumption. In fact, I like to see it get even wider circulation. I don’t believe that the public has yet come to understand how desperate this situation is, and how even more desperate it is going to get without significant changes to funding formulae.
Hi Bill:
Thanks for your notes, and your time!
My concerns with respect to the present budget “process” are frankly twofold:
a) Equitable treatment of curriculum issues, salaries/benefits for all (your message mentions these things); Which is why I was surprised to see you propose a rather large & unusual strings fee (vs. spreading the pain, as it were). I also felt that the issues that received board attention are generally hot button topics (wrestling, strings, for example vs. other aspects of the budget). Those programs are a tiny portion of the current 308M+ annual expenditures.
I think the recent process is indicative: cuts, or reductions in increases were floated before the actual budget. Further, evidently, due to a software migration, it’s not possible to compare year to year numbers? (Please comment on my observations here, if you see things differently).
b) Change is difficult, without question. I am concerned, though, that MMSD is perhaps too oriented to a “same services” approach. This can significantly limit future budget flexibility. One example: the recent discussions with respect to math and english curriculum deserve more attention at the Board level. (There’s been no shortage of national discussion on our K-12 science and math problems).
(Friday’s Cap Times column by Doug Moe talks about a McFarland High School Grad who is VP of a Twin Cities based online University with 11,000 students!): “Smithmier, a 1988 McFarland High School grad, is vice president of the Division of Professional Studies of Capella University, an exclusively online (and fully accredited) university that now has nearly 11,000 students enrolled from all 50 states and many foreign countries.”)
I’ve learned things in so many ways over the course of my 41 years……
Looking at this from a technology/services and business process perspective (my working world), I smell revolution in the air. Any time you have growing costs (in fact, needs not being met), growing demands and to an extent, entrenched interests all around (“same services”), things are ripe for change. Perhaps it will play out over my children’s lifetimes, but it will indeed come.
I like to think the MMSD can lead! This is why I mention the funding issue.
Why not put forth a plan? Sometimes, the state/federal folks need a push.
Finally, as to writing, I encourage you to write online and I will, of course link to it!
Enjoy your weekend!