DPI News

Wisconsin DPI announced the formation of an advisory council on Charter Schools (PDF) and High Schools – via wispolitics Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, WEAC plans to spend $358K to support incumbent Libby Burmaster, more than the $313K (Burmaster = 250K, Underheim = 64K) both candidates have raised to date – via Alan Borsuk!
Mary Battaglia’s recent post asks what this government body does (Johnny Winston adds a comment).

Free Speech & Blogs Cause Flap in Tennessee

The fast growing internet writer (and free speech) world is making some waves. Bill Hobbs relates the story of the Tennessee House Speaker killing a representative’s bill because he “had the nerve” to start writing about the “goings-on” in the legislature. More here and here. Civil, respectful discourse can only benefit our society. Internet writers are simply stepping into the void created by a changing media landscape. I think Therese Berceau would be an excellent legislative blogger… “Fly in the ointment” – as a good friend mentioned 🙂

Madison Cares

Madison CARES:

is mobilizing neighbor-to-neighbor education, grassroots visibility, and volunteer energy. We’re working from community to community, and neighborhood to neighborhood. We also will communicate through Madison-area media, the World Wide Web, and printed literature.

The link above includes an introduction along with several documents. I’ll post additional links as they become available.

Kobza for School Board – Our Kids Deserve the Best

I submitted the following letter of endorsement for Lawrie Kobza to the local papers.
Dear Editor,
I am deeply concerned about the lack of commitment to school financing at the federal and state levels and I support changes in school financing. However, I am equally concerned about our local Board of Education�s tepid leadership given the current fiscal constraints.
The school board�s decisions seem to move from one crisis to another, and each spring, the board holds our community hostage to its budget cutting process. The board appears to be paddling feverishly in a canoe without steering. And the canoe continues to go in circles because there is no planned destination. Given the withdrawal of federal and state dollars for schools, the challenge rests with our local school board to begin to chart new waters.
That will only happen if there is a change in leadership on the school board. That�s why I�m supporting Lawrie Kobza candidacy for the board. Ms. Kobza is an exceptionally well-qualified candidate, who is dedicated to excellence in public education and has a proven record of leadership and creative collaboration. She has worked successfully with the community, MMSD staff and current board members on a number of school issues.
A good school board candidate needs to be a) a strong advocate for student achievement and excellent instruction, and b) a strong facilitator of meaningful dialogue between the community, educators and the administration. Only then can we develop the best policies � educational and fiscal � for Madison schools.
A group of parents and community members who are concerned about the current school board�s governance have made numerous suggestions for alternative approaches. These are posted on www.schoolinfosystem.org. Many of us believe that voting the status quo in the April school board election will continue more of the same feverish paddling without any direction, while the community faces continued threats of cuts to great programs and services.
Madison will need educational referendums to fund our schools, but we need to know those dollars are spent wisely. This requires a clear vision of what excellent public education means for Madison, how we�ll get there, what the costs are and what different investment options are needed. Various new collaborative financial relationships with the community may also be necessary in some instances, such as for sports or fine arts � two areas Madison values.
Our school board members won�t know what�s possible by talking among themselves. School board members need to invite community members and parent organizations to the table, so that we can identify issues and work together to maintain our excellent public education system. The only trumpet call from the current school board is a call to referendum. One call will not work much longer. Madisonians expect more from their school board.
I know Lawrie Kobza can meet those expectations. She will be thoughtful and thorough in her approach to the issues facing Madison schools. She will navigate us through tough times. I am sure her opponent cares about public education, but Madison needs a school board member who does more than that. Lawrie Kobza not only cares about public education, she also brings independence to the board. She will provide much-needed critical analysis of programming decisions and an openness to community involvement. Madison�s lucky to have a better choice for our kids on April 5, 2005 � Lawrie Kobza.
Barb Schrank
Madison, WI

School Board Has Public’s Confidence

I encourage the expression of any and all points of view on schoolinfosystems.org. To that end, I posted below a recent letter to the editor on public confidence in the Madison school board.
Ed Blume
The Capital Times :: EDITORIAL :: 9A
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Janet Morrow, Madison

Dear Editor: I am concerned by the “fact” that the public has lost confidence in the Madison School Board.
This is a lie. There is evidence to the contrary. The current board has engaged the public this school year more than ever. Board members have actively listened to public input and responded accordingly.
Take, for example, the possible boundary changes presented by the school district. Board members rejected the changes based on public input, altered them using ideas and suggestions from the community and directed the administration to come up with new boundary changes.
Through this process the public has steadily gained confidence in the School Board. Ignore the rumors and embrace the facts.

News and Update on Initiative to Form a PTO at East High School

Please share this information with others who may be interested in helping to
create a revitalized PTO at East.
March 30, 2005
Upcoming meetings:
Thursday, April 14
Thursday, May 12
All meetings are held at East High School and begin at 7 p.m., with time for
informal conversation from 6:30 to 7:00.


CapTimes endorses Kobza

Editorial: Lawrie Kobza for School Board
An editorial
March 30, 2005
Voters who care about public education are blessed with two fine candidates for Seat 6 on the Madison School Board. Both incumbent Bill Clingan and challenger Lawrie Kobza have deep roots in the community, both have solid records of involvement with neighborhood schools and both line up on the progressive side of debates about equity, discipline and curriculum in the schools.
So there is not a “wrong” vote that can be cast on April 5. But there is a “right” vote, and that is for Kobza.
The School Board has been rocked by too many personality clashes, and there are growing complaints that the board majority has not done a good job of involving the community in the decision-making process. We worry about the ability of this board to go to an essentially pro-public education electorate and win support for needed school funding referendums. The last referendum barely won, yet the board has continued to operate as if the disenchantment of the voters can be dismissed – or that a slightly different spin will do the trick.
We share Kobza’s view that it will take more than that. Kobza says, “I am concerned that the public will be less supportive of referendums than they were in the past. The public has little confidence that the board and district are managing the money the district already has wisely. The board and district must do a better job of making its budget and budgeting process understandable and relevant to the public in order to regain the public’s confidence in the board’s financial management of the school district.”
If elected, Kobza would bring fresh ideas to the board, along with a smart, professional style that, we believe, would allow her achieve the reforms she seeks. We are equally certain that she could do this without getting mired down in the “personality politics” that often thwart board cooperation.
A respected environmental lawyer, Kobza has expertise is in working with local government bodies. As such, she would bring valuable professional skills to the board. But Kobza’s passion in recent years has been the Madison public schools, and she has been deeply involved in grass-roots efforts to improve them. She’s the president of the parent group at Sherman Middle School, where she and other parents played a leadership role in stabilizing a school that over three years had three principals and four assistant principals.
It is inspiring to listen to Kobza’s story of the work she and other parents did to get Sherman back on track – she served on principal interview committees, worked with the district on building improvement plans and helped school staff develop a new discipline plan. And it is notable that Kobza is not just a “my-kid’s-school” activist. She’s a member of the Northside PTO/A Coalition, where she has been a leader on equity and summer literacy initiatives, and she was recently honored by the Northside Planning Council for her work with schools.
Kobza has direct ties to parents and community activists with whom the School Board needs to make deeper connections. That would help her implement her goal of increasing citizen involvement in budget decisions – perhaps using a model developed by the Waukesha School Board.
Kobza also has a savvy understanding of the dynamics of the current board, including how its internal conflicts have created perception problems in the community. With a tough, no-nonsense approach, she thinks she can free up the debate and create a healthier, more open and engaged discourse.
We believe Kobza is right, which is why we endorse her. It is difficult for us to go against Clingan, an amiable and well-intentioned board member whom we have backed in the past. But we simply don’t see the incumbent as someone who is going to change the dynamic on the board. In order to renew confidence in the board, a change is needed, and we think Lawrie Kobza is the best agent of that change.
Editor’s note: Thursday’s editions of The Capital Times will feature endorsements for the Madison City Council.

Madison Area String Festivals – Saturday, April 2, 2005

Saturday, April 2nd is the annual Madison Area String Festivals – a much-loved, special event for all Madison public school children who play in MMSD’s string orchestras from Grades 4-12. More than 2,000 children will be performing 12 songs.
Each of the 4 area high schools will host a string performance on Saturday. Your elementary or middle school child, who is playing in a string orchestra, will be performing at the high school their school feeds into. For example, Randall Elementary feeds into West High School, so the elementary string children from Randall Elementary will be performing Saturday at that high school.
The performances last about one hour, and the schedule for the day is:
Memorial Area String Festival – 10 a.m. at Memorial High School
East Area String Festival – 12 noon at East High School
LaFollette Area String Festival – 2 p.m. at Lafollette High School
West Area String Festival – 4 p.m. at West High School
Dress rehearsals will be held Friday – performers need to check with their orchestra teacher for times.
These are wonderful performances – 600+ children playing together in each of Madison’s four area high schools; a special site to behold and wonderful music to hear!
Parents and relatives – bring your still and video cameras! This is truly a unique Madison experience.

Think about the School Board that you want, Vote on April 5

I believe that our community strongly supports high quality schools. I know that the state and federal governments do not provide sufficient funding for the programs that we want. I am willing to pay higher property taxes to make up the difference when necessary. However, before I commit to higher taxes, I must have a high level of confidence in the decisions that put the matter on the ballot. I think that you do also.
Today I ask that you think about the qualities that you want in school board members as you prepare to vote on the May referendums, especially the referendum for the operating budget.


Referendum Coverage

Angela Bettis:

It�s official, Madison homeowners will be asked to vote on three school referenda in late May.
School Board President Bill Keys said, �This community is at a crossroads. This will determine what type of schools we want.�
But one man opposed to the referenda thinks Madison residents can keep good schools if the district is more creative.

Karyn Saemann also covers Monday Night’s Board Decisions. Sandy Cullen has more.

Extensive Madison Schools budget coverage is available here.

State DPI and Number of Employees

I have lived and followed education in 3 states. Alaska, Texas, and Wisconsin. The DPI is a first. After 4 years I have tried to understand this governmental body. There is a Leader, Ms. Burmaster and based totally on the web site anywhere from 441 to 600 employees in this agency. When I have asked what all these employees do for the education of the state no one seems to know. The many teachers I asked stated their only interaction with the DPI is to renew their license. This seems like a logical function of a state but does it take 400- 600 people? When I view the directory on the DPI web site I am amazed all these people work for the education department yet none of the people I know that work at SCHOOLS actually benefit from all these state salaried persons. Can anyone educate me on the department, I mean really what they do, before I am once again asked to vote for a leader of a governmental body I fail to understand?

In Response to Richard Chandler

I have the highest respect for Rick Chandler. He earned it as head of the state’s “budget shop” in the Department of Administration a few years ago.
I must, however, take issue with his defense of business taxes in Wisconsin.
The argumet over whether Wisconsin businesses carry their fair share of the tax burden gets admitedly muddied by the imprecise language of speakers like MMSD Superintendent Art Rainwater (Wisconsin State Journal) when he talked about “taxes” without specifying which taxes.
Confusion on the part of business tax critics is no reason for Rick to mistate the argument as one about whether businesses pay their fair share of property taxes.
That’s not the argument. The true issue is whether businesses pay their fair share of the state taxes necessary to provide an adequate level of state aid for school districts.
They don’t. The record is clear, according to the business community’s own Forward Wisconsin. If you visit the Web site of this shameless corporate cheerleader, you’ll read more than one item that contradicts Chandler. For example:

Wisconsin business taxes are lower than those in 35 other states. That’s the conclusion of a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston that measures more than 15 taxes that can affect corporate profits.
Wisconsin ranks fourth lowest in the nation in business taxes as a percent of all state and local taxes. The state’s business-friendly attitude is reflected in positive business tax changes that have been made in every biennial legislative session since the early 1970s.

If the current “business-friendly attitude” continues in the state legisalture, we’ll soon see the decline — not only of school spending — but in student achievement.
Ed Blume

Sensenbrenner on the April 5, 2005 School Board Elections

Lee Sensenbrenner has been busy, posting several articles today on the April 5, 2005 Madison School Board Elections (Vote! – find your polling place here: Madison | Fitchburg | Maple Bluff | Shorewood | Town of Madison)

Learn more about the candidates here. This site includes interviews, links and campaign finance information. The best place to compare the candidates and their views is probably the recent Cherokee Candidate Forum. This was an excellent evening and well worth checking out.

Chandler on Business/Residential Property Taxes

Madison Resident Richard Chandler:

There seems to be an orchestrated effort under way to blame high residential property taxes on businesses. This assertion has been made recently by some legislators, a school administrator and local officials who are opposed to a property tax freeze, spending limits, and other efforts to reduce Wisconsin’s tax burden by restraining spending.
The argument goes something like this: Over the past 30 years, the share of total property taxes paid by homeowners has risen while the share paid by businesses has dropped. The claim is that this shift is the result of tax exemptions for businesses. While it may serve some political purpose to make this claim, it’s not true.
Simply put, the changes in the percentages of property taxes paid by different categories of property over the past three decades are primarily the result of changes in the economy, not tax breaks. During this period, residential property values have increased rapidly in Wisconsin — and with it the amount of property taxes they pay. What’s usually not mentioned is that the share of property taxes paid by commercial property has climbed along with the residential share as we’ve moved to a more service-oriented economy.

Chandler is the former Wisconsin secretary of revenue and state budget director.

School Board Candidates Battle over Budget

Sandy Cullen:

Madison School Board members Carol Carstensen and Bill Clingan say they have worked hard to keep years of budget cuts away from the classroom.
But Lawrence Winkler and Lawrie Kobza, who are challenging them in the April 5 election, say the incumbents and other School Board members haven’t done enough to deal with the long-term financial challenges plaguing the district.
After more than a decade of state revenue caps that limit how much money school districts can raise in taxes without going to referendum — and with three referendums slated for a special election May 24 — this year’s board race could serve as a vote of confidence for board members or a mandate for change.
Both Kobza and Winkler have made change a rallying cry. And while Clingan and Carstensen admit that there are always ways in which the board can do better, they maintain that many of their challengers’ claims are unfounded.

Voter Fact Sheet: April 5, 2005 School Board Election

Consider the following facts and issues regarding the Madison school district to help determine whether you will vote for Board of Education candidates who will continue in the same direction as indicated; or, vote for candidates who will change the direction for the future of the District.

1. There is continuous dissemination of incomplete and misinformation, any of which are misleading to the public and self-serving of the Board and administration.

2. There is a continuous �cheerleading� approach to how great things are in terms of the education in the district and how awful things are financially due the state and federal governments and the economy.

3. There is a continuous approach to the absolution of and by the majority of the Board of Education for responsibility and accountability for actions, or lack thereof, in the leadership and management of the district and its educational and fiscal stewardship.

Voter Fact Sheet 150K PDF

Stoughton Won’t Renew Superintendent’s Contract

I found the story on the Stoughton superintendent interesting because the school board conducts an evaluation twice a year. Madison’s board has failed to evaluate the MMSD superintendent for years!
Bill Clingan, chair of the MMSD’s human resources committee responsible for evaluating Superintendent Art Rainwater, admits that Lawrie Kobza, his opponent in the upcoming election, is right to highlight an oversight in the superintendent’s evaluation, according to a story in Isthmus.
The story on the Stoughton board’s action in the Wisconsin State Journal says:
“According to the board’s policy, the superintendent is evaluated twice each year, the first during an informal session in the fall. The second evaluation is a formal session before the board’s April reorganizational meeting and includes written evaluation statements from each board member.
The president of the board then writes a composite evaluation based on the written work of the board members, and it is then reviewed by the board.”

Read the full story here.
Ed Blume
ps The comment option below is open for anyone with thoughts on how the Madison school board could evaluate the superintendent.

Does Pre-Kindergarden Improve School Preparation & Performance?

David R. Francis:

Using a new rich source of data, researchers Katherine Magnuson, Christopher Ruhm, and Jane Waldfogel conclude in Does Prekindergarten Improve School Preparation and Performance? (NBER Working Paper No. 10452) that early education does increase reading and mathematics skills at school entry, but it also boosts children’s classroom behavioral problems and reduces their self-control. Further, for most children the positive effects of pre-kindergarten on skills largely dissipate by the spring of first grade, although the negative behavioral effects continue. In the study, the authors take account of many factors affecting a child, including family background and neighborhood characteristics. These factors include race/ethnicity, age, health status at birth, height, weight, and gender, family income related to need, language spoken in the home, and so on.

Referendum means it’s time for finger pointing

I received this message from Brian Grau, a teacher from LaFollette who recently visited his hometown of Racine, who like Madison is going to referendum. Enjoy!
The Journal Times, Racine, WI, 3/24/05
Referendum means it’s time for finger pointing
By Jeff Ruggaber
Hey Racine! It’s that time again. Time to complain about money spent on schools! Who’s to blame? Let the finger pointing begin! Hey, there’s a group of teachers. Let’s blame them. They are just over paid baby sitters! I wish. I figure if I got paid $5.00 for each kid (25 per class), for 6 hours a day, for 180 days. I would make $135,000 a year! Let’s give those with a master’s $7.00 and hour per kid. That’s $189,000. Reality $39,000. Between my wife and I, last year we paid close to $7,000 just to keep our jobs (property taxes, classes to renew licenses, fee for licenses, and out of pocket expenses to supplement our classroom’s). I love paying close to $1000 of my own salary in property taxes. Healthcare. The district offered us the plan. Would you have turned it down? Should we pay more? Remember that teachers did trade salary for benefits.
Let’s point fingers at the school district. All they have done is cut spending year after year. Costs go up, spending goes down. You do the math!
Attention Racine: we have schools that were built during the Abraham Lincoln administration! Can you accurately guess from year to year how much it costs to keep these buildings running, when the ghosts of the 1800s still run through the halls! More cuts need to be made even if this does not pass. This district does not have the money to give you what this city deserves. Kids learning in run down, overcrowded buildings is a very real thing.
Next, let’s point fingers at the taxpayers. Those same people who spend $1 to $2 for a bottle of water. Those people who spend a dollar a day at the soda machine at work! Those people who don’t think twice at paying $4-$5 for one beer at Harbor Fest, Summerfest, Lambeau Field and the rest. Those people who are still driving their SUVs, pick-up trucks, Cadillac’s, and other gas guzzling cars. Those same people who pay $40-$50 a month so they can make sure their 12-year-old has a cell phone, $50 cable bills, $200 utility bills, $40 video games to baby-sit your kids, 20 cent increase for a gallon of gas this past week, the list goes on! Complain about those. Oh yeah, those things don’t go to a referendum, Why is it that when schools need more money, everyone complains? One person wants a user fee. The more kids you have, the more you pay. So I should pay more for the fire department if they put out my fire and I have 10 kids? Same concept! I’ve never used the fire department yet, can I get a refund? One lady offered the keys to her house. You got it! That will save three teachers jobs. Thanks! For those who think you don’t benefit from Unified because you have no more kids there, well then I think we need to make Unified and Non-Unified lines at every place of business. So when you go to the store, doctor, or gas station you can only go to the line where your tax money is spent.
Now the Racine Taxpayers Association gives the referendum a thumbs down. They say not enough cuts have been made. Have you been to our schools? Have you seen the plaster falling on kid’s heads? Have you seen the paint chipped so bad the wood is rotting underneath? Have you felt the below zero wind blow through the cracks in the 100 year old windows? Have you tried to teach in a classroom where the temperature varies from near 90 degrees to 60 degrees all in one day? Oh, that’s right, you think teachers should pay more for their insurance. Well if we do, then I want a raise back on my salary that I gave up for the past 10 years. The bottom line is that we have a serious problem.
So either fight for a better educational system and support it, or get out of our way. The future is now!
Without support, you can’t imagine how bad things are going to get.
Jeff Ruggaber is an art teacher at Red Apple School.

In Pursuit of Excellence: Jerry Brown on Arts Schools

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown (who is wisely blogging):

From today’s Oakland Tribune: The arts high school opened by Mayor Jerry Brown in downtown Oakland 2.5 years ago is now officially one of the best schools in California, at least according to the latest rankings assigned to all public schools by the state.

Read the comments as well (bottom of blog entry)

119M in Referendums – Lee Sensenbrenner

Lee Sensenbrenner on the 119M in planned May 24 referendums:

If the voters approve a referendum May 24 to prevent classroom and extracurricular cuts for three years, along with two other referendums to ensure adequate maintenance for five years and to expand Leopold Elementary School on the south side, the five-year property tax impact of the three referendums could amount to more than $119 million.
An alternate plan the board is considering, which would keep the maintenance and school construction but guarantee against educational cuts for just two years, would collect about $66 million in additional property taxes over the next five years.
All of this is done in the context of a school budget that totals $317 million for this year.

Board member & candidates comments.

News Flash: John Matthews Is Willing to Delay Negotiations for Teachers’ Wages Until After the April 5 School Board Elections

Despite a written agreement between Madison Teachers Incorporated and the Board of Education that aims at settling the teachers contract for 2005-07 by June 30, union executive director John Matthews and Superintendent Art Rainwater made a jovial � and unprecedented – announcement that they would delay discussion of wages and benefits until after the April 5 school board elections.
Delaying talk about pay and benefits for teachers is a puzzling step for union leader Matthews, especially given his March 17 comments that “No matter what the settlement is, it won’t be enough to reward the teachers,” Matthews said as the MTI proposal was presented Wednesday, “These are teachers, not priests and nuns who took a vow of poverty.”


Real Community Leadership

I’ve noticed in several postings that people have criticized the Madison School Board for lack of leadership. I believe that true leadership happens in the community and then comes to the board level for action. This has been the case in many actions that have been taken place in the past, present and will undoubtedly be the case in the future. All of these actions have had or will have a profound impact on the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Fifty-one years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated formal school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education. Twenty-five years later, this ruling forced the Madison School District to dramatically change how it educated elementary students. In 1979, South Madison residents lead by Dr. Richard Harris filed a lawsuit with the federal Office of Civil Rights concluding that the Madison School Board had knowingly created and perpetrated racial isolation by closing schools and changing boundaries on the city’s heavily populated minority South Madison. This lead to the creation of a task force that created the current school pairings we know today.
This community leadership has also lead to new initiatives such as Nuestro Mundo Community School, the district’s dual-language charter school. This school is responding to Latino community leaders’ concerns regarding the changing demographics in the city and school district. English speaking families wanting to expose their children to Spanish and Latino culture are also enrolling their children in the school.
In addition to Nuestro Mundo, the Madison School Board is supporting the building of Wexford Ridge Community Center on the grounds of Jefferson Middle and Memorial High Schools. Wexford Ridge Neighborhood Center currently runs adult and youth programming out of a two-bedroom apartment. Again, community leaders and residents supported the proposal that initially didn’t have the support of the Superintendent or a majority of the board. I am proud to state that voting for this proposal was one of my first acts as a member of the school board.
In the near future, on April 11th the School Board’s Partnership Committee will convene a meeting to discuss a proposal from a group of parents to form a girls hockey program. This program will be a cooperative effort with girls from Memorial, West, East and LaFollette as well as schools outside of Madison being able to participate on one team. I am in favor of this program because it allows girls to participate positively in athletics and uses parent’s creativity and community resources to fund the proposal.
In conclusion, the school board is elected to lead the school district, however, it is the community that truly leads schools. It is the above stated community initiatives that lead me to believe that the real leadership comes from the community, not solely from school board members. I look forward to seeing what future initiatives come from the community, so we can work together to make them happen for the betterment of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

It’s not the Schools, It’s the Computers!

John Clare:

The less pupils use computers at school and at home, the better they do in international tests of literacy and maths, the largest study of its kind says today.
The findings raise questions over the Government’s decision, announced by Gordon Brown in the Budget last week, to spend another �1.5 billion on school computers, in addition to the �2.5 billion it has already spent.

Cost of 3 MMSD Referendums: $85.1M

On March 28, the Madison School Board will vote to place three referendums on the ballot in a special election on May 24. The total bill for the referendums will be $85.1M if the operating budget referendum is for three years, as proposed by Finance Chair Carol Carstensen.


Madison School District Issues RFP for Auditing Services

The RFP is available for inspection on-line here (PDF):
ISSUE DATE: 02/21/05
DUE DATE: 03/31/05 2:00 PM Local Time

PLEASE NOTE: The deadline for requested modifications to the RFP WAS March 8, 2005. A vendor conference WAS held “on March 14, 2005 at 9:00AM in room 209 at 545 West Dayton Street, Madison, to respond to written questions…”

Elementary Strings is Academic Music Education – Parents and Madison Citizens Need to Ask School Board Why Supt. Is Not Supporting an Academic Curriculum with Direct Postive Benefits on Student Achievement

Madison parents and citizens need to ask the School Board a) why they continue to allow the Superintendent to treat elementary strings separate from the music education curriculum, b) why there is a continued delay in getting a committee together for fine arts, c) why the delay in seeking federal funding for fine arts for disadvantaged children, d) why the Administration continues to attack the fine arts academic curriculum rather than coming forward with ideas for strengthening this curriculum in light of the academic achievement benefits?
In July 2004, U.S. Secretary of Education wrote to all Superintendents of school districts in the United States:

“…the arts are a core academic subject under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). I believe the arts have a significant role in education both for their intrinsic value and for the ways in which they can enhance general academic achievement and improve students’ social and emotional development.”
“There is much flexibility for states and local school districts under the No Child Left Behind Act with respect to support for the core subjects. …Under NCLB, Title I, Part A funds also can be used by local education agencies to improve the educational achievement of disadvantaged students through the arts.”
“In keeping with NCLB’s principle of classroom practices based on research evidence, studies have shown that arts teaching and learning can increase students’ cognitive and social development. The arts can be a critical link for students in developing the crucial thinking skills and motivations they need to achieve at higher levels.”

Dave Bing Wants a Charter School in Detroit

Former Detroit Piston Star Dave Bing is trying to get a charter school off the ground in Detroit. Rochelle Riley has more:

The group is mad because Bing decided to partner with white philanthropist Bob Thompson, whose offer to build $200 million worth of charter high schools was rejected two years ago for fear it might hurt the city schools. The pair isn’t recycling Thompson’s old offer. Bing wants one school, near his company, one whose graduates could see their future down the street.
. . . Sambo? Sellout? Not black enough? Dave Bing is the definition of black for this century, always achieving and always looking for ways to help those coming up behind him.
So for those who think being black means letting the public schools die while throwing darts at those who would help, who think being black means letting the city perish before accepting help from someone white, for those who want to take Dave Bing’s membership card in the black race, then take mine, too.
Those who would rather call names than welcome solutions don’t represent my history, my present or my future. They’re segregationists who can single-handedly kill Detroit, if allowed.

Via Joanne Jacobs

Budget Hides Extras – Public Only Shown Cuts Not Budget: Current School Board Not Governing Budget Priorities

Mr. Rainwater says, “We are long past the time that we can solve our revenue cap problems by being more efficient or eliminating things that are nice but not necessary (March 2005 Budget Discussion Items Report – basically, budget cut document). Without the budget, this is a scary statement. Sadly, a budget would show this statement to be a scare tactic.
What’s scary to me is that we may indeed need a referendum, but the current board’s weak governance, lack of public discussion and review, alienation of many public groups won’t be able to make the case, because educating the entire child and excellent instruction for all are not driving the board’s priorities. That scares me.


Lobby for Safe and Drug Free Schools

Attached is a fact sheet from Shel Gross, Director of Public Policy for the Mental Health Association in Milwaukee County. He is the head of the Wisconsin Prevention Network.
The fact sheet is to help people lobby against the elimination of Safe and Drug Free Schools funding from the Federal government.
Lucy Gibson

Recent High School Grad Runs for School Board – Portland, OR

Nick Budnick:

Although there are certain things that you get with age, there are also certain things you don’t have with age. I can walk into a high-school classroom and sit down any day and act like a high-school student. I can sit down in a meeting with the teachers union and tell them what didn’t work in our class. I can also call up some friends who go to Franklin, and Grant, and say, “What’s happening?” I can do that; these folks can’t. When they hear information, they hear it through administrators and teachers.

via joanne jacobs

Referendum Racism

I realize that many people in this community aren’t happy about the recent decision made by the Madison School Board to go to referendum for the operational budget shortfall. This will indeed raise property taxes. I am more than sympathetic to senior citizens (or others) on fixed incomes and how this decision affects them. I also empathize with those who might not agree with the direction of the district by stating additional cuts in services should be considered or discussed. While I’m agreeable with those rationales, I will NOT stand for what I believe is blatant racism by members of this community who will use the changing demographics of the school district and community as an excuse for not voting for a referendum. Listed below is a copy of an e-mail recently sent to school board members. The sender is a City of Madison bus driver who has sent e-mails to the School Board before. I have retracted the sender’s name.
dear board members;i think it is an insult for you , not all of you.to ask for tax increases for the school budget problems.these schools are supposed to be so great in this city.they dont seem to be any better than when i went to school here.my niece was going to east high until a black girl that was 14 years old and already had 2 kids was giving her a hard time.my niece ended up going to another school.and just the other day, a gang of black kids were beating up a white kid at the east transfer point.also at east high.i know some people that said they have seen the black girls walk down the halls and push the white girls out of the way.i bet the public doesnt know about half the things that go on in this city.if you ask me i think you people should actually have better schools than just say you do.i thought schools were bad when i went and they were,i would hate to be a kid going to school here now.getting bullied and the school doesnt do anything about it.and you want us to pay more.i not only think that these schools suck ,this city is starting to also.
This is my response:
It is absolutely incredible to me that in 2005, there are people who perform public services in our community that are without question racist. It seems to me that you are indeed troubled with the changing demographics in the City of Madison. I want to remind you that as an employee working as a bus driver for the City of Madison, taxpayers are paying your salary as well. And, so are the thousands of Black and other racial and ethnic minority persons who probably ride the bus that you’re driving. To be frank, it must be very difficult to drive with the “white sheet” covering your eyes. Thank you for wasting the taxpayer’s time for me having to respond to your ignorance.
Johnny Winston, Jr.
School Board member, who is Black and deeply offended by your bigoted comments. And I wish we didn’t have to ask you for your money!

I am more than willing to understand those who disagree but racism has no place in our schools and in our community! I hope we can all agree on that!

Cherokee School Board Candidate Forum Video/Audio

Several westside PTO’s hosted a candidate forum Wednesday evening. The candidates discussed a wide variety of questions, including referendums, the budget process, strings, local education media coverage and differences with their opponents. Listen to the entire event (34.6MB mp3 audio file), or click on the links below to review specific questions & answers.


No Point in Cutting MMSD Administrators, They Just Grow Back

In January of 2005 Superintendent Art Rainwater told the Madison Board of Education that two administrative positions would be eliminated for 2005-06. He would cut the positions of Risk Manager and Data Manager when the incumbents retired at the end of 2004-05.
Imagine my surprise on March 14, when the superintendent cut half of the position of Risk Manager for a second time.


Board Scares Parents-Threatens All District Can Teach Kids for $13,000+ is Reading and Math: Yet MMSD Board Has No Budget, Keeps $2 Million for Extracurr. Sports, Increases Admin. Budget $1.5 Million in Two Years, Turned Away $10+ Million Fed. Rdg. Grant

This is not the headline of an article in The Onion. Rather, as the Astronauts on the Apollo Mission said, “Houston, we have a problem.”
After 10 years of continually reducing services to our children and community . . . long past the time that we can solve our revenue cap problems by being more efficient or eliminating things that are �nice but not necessary� (MMSD budget cut document – not budget) More than $13,000 per student and all the Distict can do is teach math and reading. This should send a huge red flag up. It is – to those who can afford to, they are moving their kids, home schooling, paying for private tutoring and other lessons, and sending their kids to private schools. Who’s losing inthis picture – underprivileged kids in education and priviledged kids by not being part of a diverse school environment. All the kids are losing – big time and the negative impact on the economics and culture of the city will follow – that’s why my parents kept me out of NYC schools and I went to high school in Connecticut. That is not what I wanted for my daughter, but I need to protect her education – she’s only got the next 5 years.
There is no budget governance and leadership by board members and by the Finance and Operations Committee, which Ms. Carstensen chairs – threatening statements are made to other board members and to the public, no questions are asked, no budget is visible and the state is to blame. I suggest board members hold up a mirror, and I suggest that other progressives in Madison who share my concerns and want an excellent public education system in Madison, vote for a positive change in leadership on April 5th and read the following:


Madison Teachers Present Contract Proposal

Lee Sensenbrenner:

In a departure from their usual procedure, the two sides are first considering all the changes in contract language put forward by Madison Teachers Inc.
This proposal, covering such changes as whether teachers would gain free access to after-school events and intellectual property rights to the curriculums they design for the classroom, was presented Wednesday afternoon to Superintendent Art Rainwater and his staff.

It’s Not Board Attendance that’s the Issue, Mr. Clingan, It’s Committee Leadership

At Wednesday, March 17, 2005, candidates’ forum, Lawrie Kobza provided information that Mr. Clingan did not convene the Human Resouces Committee, which he chairs, to evaluate the Superintendent. As Chair of that committee he also did not follow through on a review of an administrative RFP from last spring that was developed in response to the public’s concern about administrators (source: board minutes spring 2004). No follow-up, same issue with administrators this year as last and an increase in the administrative budget from $1.5 million in two years even with 2 less FTEs – it’s about leadership and putting children’s learning first.
Mr. Clingan pointed out that he had attended more than 200+ meetings. Attendance is important, but it does not demonstrate leadership and does not lead to meaningful committee work being done effectively on behalf of children’s education and achievement.
Committee Chairs are leadership positions as is Vice President of the Board. Mr. Clingan said that the Board evaluates the Superintendent and they do so at each meeting providing him direction. You can evaluate the Superintendent at each meeting, but that is not very strategic and tends toward wasteful micromanaging.
The superintendent’s contract requires the establishment of yearly goals. This is one of the most important undertaking’s the board does. Historically, the Human Resources committee takes the lead in the Superintendent’s evaluation – Ray Allen the former chair undertook coordinating this review.
If Mr. Clingan did not want to do this as Chair of that committee he needed to advise the Board president – apprently, since there are no goals in place for the Superintendent, this was not done.
The annual establishment of goals with the superintendent, which should be in place before the start of the school year sets the direction for the rest of the district and its employees and is an important communication goal with the community about what the district will be accomplishing in the short-term towards its long-term goals. What’s so complicated about that? Why isn’t it done?


April 9 – UW-Madison Science Program for 6-12 grade students

From University Communications:
Event to celebrate women in science
(Posted: 3/16/2005)
The Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy (WISL) on Saturday, April 9, will present “Celebrating Women of Science,” a daylong event that will feature talks by several prominent researchers, followed by hands-on science activities for teenagers and young adults.
WISL is a project of the chemistry department.
Scientists, including Laura Kiessling, Wendy Crone, Ann Kelley, Judith Burstyn and Gelsomina de Stasio, will speak on topics ranging from cancer to carbohydrates to the neural basis of eating. Chancellor John D. Wiley will make opening remarks.
Following the morning presentations, college, high-school and middle-school students can participate in any of eight hands-on science sessions. Among the activities, students can peer through a scanning electron microscope, handle live microbes or build working batteries on their own.
“Celebrating Women of Science” will take place in from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on April 9 in Room 1315, Chemistry Building, 1101 University Ave. The event is free, but registration is required by Friday, April 1, for the hands-on sessions. To obtain a registration form, visit http://www.scifun.org/ or call (608) 263-2424.

Read My Blog: Year Old But Still Good Thoughts On The Budget

I started attending meetings several years ago and, initially, was naive enough to take Carol Carstensen at her word when she said “if you don’t like our cuts, you need to tell us where to cut.” Board members then claim that they “have no choice” and that critics “only criticize but don’t offer solutions.” This is one disingenuous ploy, since it invites people to participate but leaves the door open for the board’s typical response: we know more than you do and we don’t like your ideas. This is not listening.
I was looking through some old records the other day, and found the following message that I sent to the board over a year ago:


Carol Carstensen Says I’m Angry and Threatens Elementary Strings: Raises Confidence and Governance Issues for Me

Carol Carstensen told me last night that I’ve been “angry” over elementary strings for the past four years. I learned many years ago never to “tell” people what they are feeling – 90% of the time you’re wrong, and in this case Ms. Carstensen is dead wrong about me.
Her comment to me came after I asked her why the board would agree to a recommendation that puts the ENTIRE elementary strings program at risk if a referendum does not pass yet the board did not ask nor would it even consider a) reducing the administrative budget (increased $1.5 million over two years even with cut of 2 positions), b) reducing any of the services to high school children for extracurricular sports ($2 million budget) – which makes sense. They are paying 20% of the cost of the program, and, so are the elementary strings children. Plus, the board has an athletics committee – not a fine arts committee. Something wrong with this picture? Yes, very much so, and it’s resulting in discrimination against underprivileged children who study instrumental music.


Wiki’s in Schools

Chris Jablonski:

Wikis have made their way into the classroom at Lewis Elementary School in Portland, Oregon. Students working on writing projects are accessing their teacher’s wiki from their Safari bookmark toolbar on their Macs via Apple’s Rendezvous. The wiki is installed on the teacher’s iBooks and is an adaptation of Instiki, which in combination with SchoolTool, an open souce management information system, streamlines the entire process. Apart from a couple of problems,–when the laptop is asleep or is outside the school the system breaks down–it gets the thumbs up from the students who use it. It takes away the burden of navigating file servers and word processor interfaces and lets the students focus on their writing.

I like wiki’s – they seem quite useful for the classroom.

Parents Question Math Strategies in Boston

Surely, the quote of the day:

”What’s going to happen when they go into a store? Are they going to say, ‘Do you happen to have 25 Cheerios so I can break it down?’ ” said Jacqueline Azulay of Roslindale, who sees her two daughters going to great lengths to break large numbers into manageable pieces. ”I think they need to teach basic math.”

Vanessa Parks dives into the math wars with many interesting quotes.

Leopold Expansion: Ridgewood Gets New Management

Alliance Residential Management is reportedly now in charge of managing Fitchburg’s Ridgewood Apartments. Visit Alliance’s searchable apartment database here to check out the type of properties and prices they offer.
Mary Battaglia recently mentioned Fitchburg’s possible condemnation of the Ridgewood Apartments.
It seems change is in the wind at Ridgewood, with implications for the planned Leopold expansion (Learn more about the Leopold Referendum) Leopold is 0.20 miles from the Ridgewood Apartments (map).

We need a new School Board

Carol Carstensen�s recent letter to the editor of the Wisconsin State Journal (�Carstensen replies to Robarts�) illustrates the choices before the public in this spring�s school board elections. Many of these choices revolve around the core question of whether one can support progressive ideals and challenge the board�s go along and get along status quo.
I believe that it is not only possible but necessary for progressives to question the status quo � particularly if it results in serious board consideration of balance between employee wages and benefits as part of a comprehensive search for ways to preserve our current staff levels and programs in view of current funding realities.
In her letter, Carol Carstensen erroneously reduces my suggestions to one simplistic idea and then condemns the idea as anti-teacher and ill-informed. Perhaps it is easier to attack a straw-person concept, but it doesn�t move the community or the board closer to the honest problem-solving that is required at a time when we need all of the input and ideas that we can get.


What is Wrong with this Picture?

The Madison School Board of Education and the District administration are proposing nearly $50 million worth of referenda and are begging for the support of the taxpaying public to significantly raise taxes. At the same time, Superintendent Rainwater bashes the business community for not contributing more tax dollars to fund public education. By accusing businesses of “eating their own young” and “contributing to their own demise” he is creating a very divisive atmosphere that makes it very difficult for taxpayers to see the value in more and more spending for mediocre results.


Carstensen Responds to Robarts 3/15/2005 WSJ

In response to Ruth Robarts’ recent letter, stripped of its satire, she is suggesting that paying Madison’s school staff less would eliminate the budget gap. Her proposal is that school staff should receive a package of 2.35 percent for salary and benefits combined. There are three major problems with her proposal:

  • This would impose a pay cut on almost all employees, with the deepest cuts affecting the lowest paid staff (educational assistants and food service workers)
  • A 2.35 percent package would save the district about $4.6 millionthere would still be a budget gap of at least $4 million.
  • State law makes such an approach impossible. The qualified economic offer law essentially requires that districts offer at least a 3.8 percent annual increase for salary and benefits combined.

Be wary of last minute proposals that sound good and promise to solve the problem without painful cuts. As a community we need to face the fact that the budget gap we face is real; it is a direct consequence of the state laws and funding decisions that affect all Wisconsin school districts.

/Carol Carstensen, Madison School Board /

Failing the Wrong Grades (cont’d) – Needs Better High School Preparation

Diane Ravich
It makes no sense to blame the high schools for their ill-prepared incoming students. To really get at the problem, we have to make changes across our educational system. The most important is to stress the importance of academic achievement. Sorry to say, we have a long history of reforms by pedagogues to de-emphasize academic achievement and to make school more “relevant,” “fun” and like “real life.” These efforts have produced whole-language instruction, where phonics, grammar and spelling are abandoned in favor of “creativity,” and fuzzy math, where students are supposed to “construct” their own solutions to math problems instead of finding the right answers.
These are the exact same points Professor Seidenburg, UW Madison, made to the MMSD School Board earlier this year. He also critized the MMSD Superintendent for turning away $10+ million over several years of Reading First federal grant money.

Wisconsin is not Alone in Budget Crisis

I did a simple search on Google: State budget and school funding. I was not surprised to find Wisconsin sharing in their education funding crisis with many other states. On the first two pages of my search I discovered California, Texas, Washington, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, and New York have news articles about their educational funding “crisis”. Each state has it’s version of revenue caps, TABOR like situations, or tax restraints that cause their current problem. Some just never raise taxes and can’t figure out how to fund a state and local program without taxes. Also interesting to note is Ohio and Illinois legislation funds their local schools at 51% while Washington state legislation is suppose to pay 80%. None of these states actually fund their schools at their promised level just as our federal government fails to fund it’s many mandates at it’s required level. I find this interesting because each time I watch the “MMSD Budget Horse and Pony Show”, as I like to refer to this annually released performance, I am told how awful the state legislation is and that Wisconsin is backwards in its funding of education. While there may be some truth to that, it is comforting to know my state is not the only awful backwards state out there. That comfort however, does not solve the problem. The reason I went on this search is I have twice, maybe more, asked the board to “think outside the box”. I decided since the board wants the public to present them with solutions and not complaints that I would find out how other states and communities are financing schools and present these ideas to them before they develop another “sequel”.
One state that caught my attention was Virgina. To solve their school funding problem they instituted a half a cent sales tax through out the entire state. This idea was suggested by a think tank organized by Gov. Doyle in Wisconsin but it was quickly run out of Madison. The plan is something to think about,as Virgina just signed their budget that added an additional 759 million dollars to the governors original budget towards public education. I will continue this search and loft new ideas at this site. We need a new way, a creative way to fund education because we are all tired of fighting for our schools and very tired of watching “sequels” with no new plots or twist.
The Virginia link: Leesburg2day.com/current.cfm.catid=54&newsid=8927.

Failing the Wrong Grades

Diane Ravitch:

While the problems of low achievement and poor high-school graduation rates are clear, however, their solutions are not. The reformist governors, for example, want to require all students to take a college-preparatory curriculum and to meet more rigorous standards for graduation. These steps will very likely increase the dropout rate, not reduce it.
To understand why, you have to consider what the high schools are dealing with. When American students arrive as freshmen, nearly 70 percent are reading below grade level. Equally large numbers are ill prepared in mathematics, science and history.
It is hardly fair to blame high schools for the poor skills of their entering students. If students start high school without the basic skills needed to read, write and solve mathematics problems, then the governors should focus on strengthening the standards of their states’ junior high schools.
And that first year of high school is often the most important one – many students who eventually drop out do so after becoming discouraged when they can’t earn the credits to advance beyond ninth grade. Ninth grade is often referred to by educators as a “parking lot.” This is because social promotion – the endemic practice of moving students up to the next grade whether they have earned it or not – comes to a crashing halt in high school.

Gifted kids have special needs, too

The March 13, 2005 issue of the Appleton Post Crescent had the following column by Jennifer Edmondson. She writes:
Before I began researching the topic of �intellectual giftedness,� I thought it was a bunch of trendy education baloney.
During the past four years, my thinking has changed radically. I have read books, called organizations for gifted kids, talked to teachers and parents of gifted kids, and I have attended seminars.
Gifted kids really do exist. More importantly, gifted kids have special needs. If those needs aren�t met, not only is that child doomed, but so is our society.


Biotech: Teachers Key in Setting Student on Biotech Path

“I don’t think you’re smart enough to be a doctor.”
Bernadette Tansey:

People sometimes look at Teresa Ramirez with wide eyes when they find out she comes from Compton.
The city south of Los Angeles is not the hometown that many expect to turn out a biotechnology fellowship winner who’s doing research at the National Cancer Institute before applying to medical school.
In Compton, Ramirez was grazed with a bullet when a junior high school classmate dropped a gun he had brought on campus. Some of her classmates joined gangs, and some have already died. She faced skepticism when she said she wanted to be a doctor.
“I came across people, even the priest at my church, who said, ‘I don’t think you’re smart enough to be a doctor.’ ”

Many are counting on biotech to drive Wisconsin’s economy (and provide the tax base for growing education demands…).

FOIA, Blogshine Sunday & Madison School Board Election

Freeculture.org sponsored blogshine Sunday, a day when news organizations run stories and editorials in support of public access to government information.
The internet has substantially improved citizen’s ability to see who is funding elected officials directly and indirectly.
The Madison City Clerk conveniently posts campaign finance information on their website. I took a quick look at PAC (political action committee) spending on school board races and found this:
Madison School Related PAC’s:

  • Citizens for investing in Madison Schools: apparently setup to support the June, 2003 referendum. Current Board Members Bill Keys and Bill Clingan’s campaigns contributed to this PAC (1000 and 800 respectively), as did Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) ($1500). This PAC raised and spent more than $30K in 2002/2003.
  • Get Real, a PAC that supported candidates who were not endorsed by Madison Teachers. Get Real raised and spent less than $1,000. Get Real made small donations to unsuccessful candidates Sam Johnson & Melania Alvarez. This organization’s campaign finance disclosure documents are signed by former Madison School Board member Nancy Harper.
  • Madison Teachers’s Madison Voters raised more than $40K in 2004 and spent about $34K on direct and indirect support of endorsed candidates (Johnny Winston, Jr., Shwaw Vang and Alix Olson – who lost to incumbent Ruth Robarts). MTI Voters July 20, 2004 report [pdf] showed cash on hand of $52K
  • Progressive Dane raised and spent less than $2,000 last year, including small contributions to Johnny Winston, Jr. and Shwaw Vang.

Every active member of the Madison School Board was endorsed by and received direct and indirect support from Madison Teachers, Inc. The only current exception is Ruth Robarts, who, while supported in the past by MTI, was opposed by MTI in her 2004 successful re-election campaign.


Our School Board Needs a Budget: No Budget Yet We Have a Cut List that Harms Underprivileged Children’s Education and Divides Parent Groups

The inside, unsigned cover page of MMSD’s non-budget cut list that tells the public that the administration is protecting math and reading for young children. For $12,000+ per student, the administration will teach our kids to read and to do math – what happened to science and social studies? What happened to educating the whole child or the district’s educational framework – engagement, learning and relationships?
You don’t put a cut list before a budget – no family would do that with their own budgeting process. How does a board member know where the money is going and how can board members ask needed, important questions about policy and direction? Looking at the proposed cuts in the elementary school you can easily see these cuts harm the academics and academic support for underprivileged child the most � it’s hard to determine if consider educating the whole child.


Axing the Arts: District (again) proposes cutting popular strings program

Jason Shephard, writing in the 3.11.2005 Isthmus:
Music teachers, parents and community activists are already agitating against Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater�s call to eliminate the elementary strings program, as part of a proposed slate of budget cuts.
�This creates a very disturbing environment in the community,� says Marie Breed, executive director of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra. �It�s particularly shocking for a strong arts community like Madison to dismiss elementary string education so easily, saying essentially, �We�re not going to support these children.��
By eliminating the fourth- and fifth-grade strings program, Rainwater says the district can cut nearly ten full-time equivalent positions, saving about $500,000 in salaries and another $100,000 in equipment, repairs and books. In all, the district needs to trim $8.6 million to comply with state-imposed revenue caps — or else secure referendum approval to exceed them.


Lawrie Kobza Leads the School Board – Superintendent Art Rainwater’s goals

Good for Lawrie! She’s leading the School Board and showing Bill Clingan how a board member needs to lead.
At the Northside Planning Council candidates’ forum, Lawrie Kobza emphasized that she would have public discussions to set annual measurable goals and objectives for the Superintendent. The last time his goals were set with the School Board was in 2002!!!!!!
Guess what? All of a sudden the Human Resources Committee is meeting to discuss administrator goals – first the meeting was set for March 28th, now it’s set for March 14th. But, it’s a power point about the process for setting administrators’ goals – not their goals. AND, no Superintendent’s goals – AGAIN. What does it matter anyway – goals should start the school year, not end the year!!!!!
The Human Resources Committee, which Bill Clingan chairs, has not led the work of this committee, until Lawrie Kobza pointed out the work was not getting done. Mr. Clingan said he was ill with pneumonia last fall. Okay, but he’s been chair since last spring, and he has a MMSD staff person assigned to this committee to work with him to set the calendar.
Got to have time to toot your horn during the last few weeks of the campaign, Mr. Clingan! Too little for the district, too late for the public. We see this action for what it is – election year politics!!!!!! Play ball.
For disclosure: I’m Lawrie Kobza’s Treasurer

Zaleski: Schools Could use a Makeover

Rob Zaleski:

Among its many features:
Twelve students per class, each equipped with their own laptop computer.
Classes meet not in huge buildings but in small rented sites scattered throughout the area. “The idea of sending 400 – or 1,400 – kids to a central site, as we have now, is madness,” Parish told me back in ’92. “Especially in today’s society, where there are social behaviors that nobody really wants.” …..
You don’t improve schools by chopping their funding, he says. But he does think the money that schools receive could be better spent.
There’s no denying, for instance, that the Madison School District is top-heavy with administrators, he says, or that the schools themselves are run in an extremely inefficient manner.

I find this thinking interesting. We do need to take a look at the process, costs & benefits. Zaleski is incorrect about an “assault on their budgets”. Madison school spending has grown over the past 10 years from roughly 194M to 317M in annual spending (and will, according to Roger Price’s recent budget presentation, increase 10M in 2005/2006). One can argue about where the money goes, or that more should be spent, but we do indeed spend a great deal on public education (Madison spends 12.9K per student while the national average is 7,734).

3/7/2005 Madison School Board Meeting Budget Comments

Board Members and citizens discussed the Madison School District Administration’s proposed budget changes (reductions in the increase, cuts and program eliminations – see this post for details. The overall budget will go up, from 317M to 327.7M as it does annually.) this past Monday evening:

Gladwell on Education

New Yorker writer and author (Blink & Tipping Point) Malcolm Gladwell spoke recently at the UW. He had two comments on education:

  • Students should wear uniforms
  • Math should be taught to each gender separately.

Video/audio clip and links here The clip is great as he provides a very useful example of inadvertent (or maybe not) gender bias.

Reading, Writing, ROI

James Nevels on Philadelphia School Reform:

How did we–teachers, principals and our chief executive, Paul Vallas–do it? We defined the district’s “customers” exclusively as the 200,000 children we serve. Not interest groups. Not adult constituencies. We held adults accountable for results.
To start, we instituted businesslike systems. First came a standardized curriculum so that all students would learn what we agreed was most crucial for success and could easily transfer among schools.
Elementary school students now spend two hours a day on reading and 90 minutes on math, double what they spent before. We conduct benchmark testing every six weeks in elementary and middle schools and every four weeks in high schools. This helps teachers to either dedicate more time to a subject in which students are struggling or provide advanced instruction in subjects students have mastered.

Underheim’s lonely visit to Madison

Anita Weier writes a great article on DPI Candidate Gregg Underheim’s appearance at a Madison Public Library (The candidate interacts with a retired teacher). Regardless of where you stand on this race, I give Underheim credit for getting out and talking with voters.

Leopold Expansion: Fitchburg City Council Approves Possible Condemnation of Ridgewood Apartments


The Fitchburg city council unanimously approved a redevelopment resolution Tuesday night that calls for a possible condemnation of the Ridgewood Apartments, and may use tax increment financing to support improvements.

These are the apartments across the street from Leopold Elementary. The Board is basing much of its claim that the school will remain at a high capacity due to these low income apartments.
There may be several years until these apartments are full again and will the population and price of these apartments affect the population?

Vote in the April 5th School Board Election – Next Important Opportunity for Public’s Vote to Make a Positive Difference

The most important vote to me is the April 5th School Board election, and I will be voting to change the School Board by voting to elect Lawrie Kobza to Seat 6. If we don�t change the school board, current board members will continue to accept the administration�s recommendations for budget cuts year after year without asking to see the �priorities� that remain in the budget. We need transparency, not smoke and mirrors, and serious school board discussions and decisions at meetings. Download file April 5th Board Election Critical

LaFollette Student Writes About the Achievement Gap

The March issue of the Simpson Street Free Press included this article by Jazmin Jackson about fighting the achievement gap. Ms. Jackson is a 15 year old student at LaFollette High School. She wrote this piece for the paper’s Fresh Face section, and graciously consented to let me post her article here.
Don’t Be a Statistic: Fight the Achievement Gap
by Jazmin Jackson
So you think �it�s not gangsta, it�s not hot, it�s not cool� to get good grades. Well consider this: It�s the 1820�s. Millions of African Americans are enslaved. A young African American boy would give anything to be able to read, but it�s against the law.
Now, fast forward to the year 2005. A 15 year-old black boy decides to skip school so he can smoke a joint with his crew.
What I want to know is when did it become cool to not get good grades and to not take advantage of the opportunity to learn? In what year did some kids decide that grade point averages could be sacrificed for popularity?


School Strings Cut Plan Blasted by Lee Sensenbrenner, The Capital Times

Strings Plucked: Once again, District administrators attack elementary music and art to the tune of nearly $800,000, including total elimination of the elementary string progam. Their pitch is off and their song is out of tune.
Keys and Carstensen have no plans to reach out to fine arts students and teachers for their support – aren’t annual threats of cut classes and lost livelihood enough? In his article Sensenbrenner writes “…School Board President Bill Keys said he hoped that strings supporters would help the district pass the spring referendums.
But neither he nor fellow board member Carol Carstensen said they had a ready plan to convince strings supporters – stung to see the whole program on the chopping block – to be a helping hand, not a pounding fist.”
Monday night Mr. Keys said that the Overture Center was not a metaphor for MMSD’s fine arts – however, the fine arts vision of those who brought Overture is what inspires.
Ms. Carstensen said she had tried to raise money throught the Founation for Madison Public Schools – I worked with her on those fundraisers. they were not designed to fund a fine arts curriculum but rather were meant to have an endowment for grants for creative projects for existing fine arts curriculum. further the foundation for Madison’s public schools, at the time, was not making grants for existing MMSD programs. That policy is now changing and may provide an opportunity to pursue.
If our leaders look at the glass as half empty that’s what we’ll get – a half empty glass. You never finish a painting unless you begin, you never get to the fourth movement of a symphony unless you start playing, etc. Failed expectations won’t get us where we need to go and it’s not up to two people – we need the community at the table.

Comments to School Board – Where Are You Putting Your Increased Revenue for Next Year, Why Do You Form Collaborations With Parents and the Community for Sports, Pets but after Four Years – Still Fail to Collaborate with the Community on Fine Arts?

Dear School Board Members,
Good evening. I plan to comment on the following � a) net reductions in classroom instruction budgets while the total budget grew this year, b) cutting elementary strings 100 % inequitably targets low income (minority) children and says you do not deserve what others in Madison have, c) limited options offered to the public and pursued by the board – fourth year that the board has not pursued with parents and the community ideas and possibilities for collaborations/partnerships for fine arts.
The budget discussion items document distributed last week is not a budget it�s only one option of cuts. The board needs to ask where the increased revenue dollars for next year will be spent and they need to ask for additional sets of budget cut options.
Annually advancing only one set of a seemingly random list of cuts out of context of where the money will be spent makes parents and voters skeptical about the board�s decisionmaking ability and this year public skepticism will threaten the passage of an operating referendum for instruction.
We may very well need money for instruction, but what do we need and what options can we pursue � referendum, private funds, grants for what Madison values. The current school board will not get people to vote for a referendum if what Madison values is threatened and important questions are not asked now. Voters will not have confidence in how and where the money is being spent and in how the board is protecting children�s learning and achievement through alternatives.
We cannot continue the path of current decisionmaking, because this board continues to lead us toward a narrow, conservative vision for public education bankrupting our children�s learning.
Download comments to School Board on Budget

Waukesha School District’s Virtual School Takes Off

Amy Hetzner:

Nearly 1,000 students statewide have applied to attend the Waukesha School District’s virtual high school, raising school administrators’ expectations that enrollment could hit 750 in the school’s second year.

I find this fascinating – a public district going for new business via the net (money follows the students). An education professional recently suggested to me that every student should be required to take one virtual class. Seems like a good idea. After all, we all learn a great deal online these days.

School Funding Update

I received the following email update from Tom Beebe (tbeebe@wisconsinsfuture.org) on school funding:
Exciting week for school-funding reform advocates
Florence High School is newest school to join Youth ROC
Baraboo brings WAES school district partnerships to 41
Two more school-funding forums held
WCCF analyzes Governor�s budget
Still not too late to tell the Governor to veto AB58


Leopold Expansion – Trust but verify

There has been a good deal of debate over suggestions that the proposed plans to add a second building to the Leopold School site would create a “megaschool” of undesirable proportions. Arguing that ‘everyone’ knew that the physically linked (MMSD calls it ‘paired’) schools would have a combined enrollment of more than 1100 students, proponents of the administration’s plan are confident that a school this size would have no additional challenges or needs. The idea that the addition should be built but for a smaller number of students is considered heresy by those who fear critical assessment of administration ideas.
Anyone who is interested in the debate – pro, con, apathetic – will benefit from taking a close look at the schematics for the addition, which are available on-line at:
Of particular interest is the size/layout of the cafeteria(s) [one room separated by a folding divider], the number of ESL class rooms for a school that can be expected to have 250 – 300 ESL students, and the size/location of the playground space, parking lots, and school bus drop off/pick up locations.

New Building On Leopold School Site Referendum

Overseeing the building of a new school on the Leopold site is one of the responsibilities of the Long Range Planning committee, of which I am a member. On this committee, board and citizen members have voted to ask the public via referendum to build a school on the Leopold grounds. This has been part of a long-range plan for quite some time. In 1988, I worked at Leopold Elementary School as a Parent-Community Liaison. My supervisor was the late Don Stern who was Principal at the time. Mr. Stern always told me that Leopold was the biggest elementary school in the district and the Leopold community was going to get bigger. Despite Leopold being the biggest elementary school, he had no Assistant Principal. This was never a burden for him. He loved Leopold School. But he knew that eventually another school would be built on the property. He told me this, and this was in the late 80’s!
I’m not supporting this building referendum only because of Mr. Stern. I’m supporting this because it is the right thing to do. The Leopold neighborhood has grown by leaps and bounds as will the whole Westside of Madison. The increased enrollment dictates that something must be done to alleviate the overcrowding in the school. Building on the current grounds is a fiscally efficient thing to do. Building else where in the community would add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the project. Building a smaller facility with a reduced capacity puts the community back in the same place it is now and will cause additional overcrowding at other west side schools. Not building a school on the Leopold site will increase the timetable for which another new school will have to be built on the far west side of Madison. One thing that is for certain, as these new developments are built and enrollments increase on the far west and far east sides of Madison, new schools will need to be built. The effect of this action will cause closing schools to be strongly considered on the north side and Isthmus. Future school boards will make these difficult decisions in five to ten years as growth dictates or perhaps even sooner as the financial challenges warrant.
The current school board receives many opinions regarding its lack of long range planning. In the case of Leopold, a great deal of planning has been done for the new school. The PTO, community leaders, parents, teachers and students have been heard loud and clear. This is what they want. If there are additional questions and concerns, they need to be addressed in the Long Range Planning committee. We have yet to have such concerns placed on the agenda. Anyone who has a dissenting opinion should use the Long Range Planning committee meetings as a forum to vent their concerns. Although, I am supportive of building a new building on the Leopold grounds, I want to hear from those who might question this logic or have concerns. Once these concerns are addressed, school board members can make an informed decision and be able to live with their decision and the decision of the voters on May 24th.

I’d like to ask more about rejecting $2 million for reading

Barb Schrank started a discussion below about questions people would like to ask the board and superintendent during the MMSD’s budget deliberations. Here post actually hasn’t generated much discussion, so I’m re-posting the questions that I’d like to ask:
I’d like the Board and Superintendent to tell the community more about why the Superintendent choose not to use the Reading First funds ($2 million approximately) to expand Read 180 which is currently used and supported by the district.


Failed Budget Governance: Start with Where Your Money Went this Year Compared to a Year Ago – Not with Cuts Out of Context

Our School Board is beginning a budget dialogue with the community using budget cut discussion items – wrong!
A first place for the Board to start budget discussions would be to look at where the money went last year (Download Comparison of 03-04 budget vs. 04-05 budget)
Where did the budget increase? Building Services, Student Services, Human Resources and Education Services – $18.3 million
Where was the budget cut? Elementary, Middle and High Schools took the biggest cuts – $2.1 million.
The MMSD School Board needs to start here, ask for an estimate of revenues for 05-06 and ask for scenarios with different allocations of these revenues. The School Board would then have a place to start a dialogue with the community.

Failed Governance: No budget, yet cuts

Last May, I wrote an opinion piece that was printed in The Capital Times. Since then, little has changed on the School Board and we are re-opening the “Spring Budget Drama” that continues to fail children’s learning and achievement. We are presented with no budget, but instead with budget discussion items and NO strategies.
What I wrote last May I feel is just as true today, sadly – very sadly.


Annual Spring Four Act Play: Madison School’s Budget Process

Spring is definitely coming. On February 17, the Madison School Board performed Act 1 of the four-act play that is our annual school budget process.
Act 1 is the unveiling of the Budget Forecast. In this Act, the administration solemnly announces that the district faces-once again-“The Budget Gap”. The Budget Gap is the difference between what the Board wants to spend and what we can spend without a successful referendum to increase operating funds. It is not a gap caused by a drop in state funding.
To nobody’s surprise, the Budget Gap is big and ugly. Under current state law, revenues from property taxes will increase about 2.35% for next year. However, the administration’s “same service” budget requires a revenue increase of more than 4%. The Gap for next year is $8.6M.


Upcoming Education Events

Our calendar is a useful place to checkout local education related events. There are several worthwhile events over the next few weeks (send yours in by clicking on the “Ideas” link at the top of our home page. We’ll post it).

  • School Board Candidate Diversity Forum (MAFAAC) 3/12/2005 @ Edgewood. 5:00p.m. Maps, links and information here.
  • Gregg Underheim, candidate for Wisconsin State DPI Superintendent is holding a Public Forum at the Lakeview Branch of the Madison Public Library Wednesday March 9th at 6:00p.m. [Maps & Driving Directions] note: we’ll of course post events for Underheim’s opponent, incumbent Libby Burmaster as well
  • Arlene Silveira emails that several westside PTO’s are sponsoring a Madison Schools Candidate Forum on Wednesday, March 16, 2005 at Cherokee Middle School [Map & Driving Directions] from 7 to 8:30p.m. [pdf flyer]

Madison Schools Budget Change Information/Links

The Madison School District’s Administration announced a series of 2005/2006 budget changes (eliminate some programs, reduce the increase in others, eliminate some positions). The overall budget will increase by about 10M+, from 316.8M in 2004/2005 to 327.7M in 2005/2006 (via Roger Price’s recent budget presentation. [slides pdf]).

Read the District’s introduction to the discussion items by clicking on the link below. This intro summarizes the priorities the Administration used to create the proposed budget changes (page 1 of the pdf link).


Superintendent Art Rainwater Proposes to Decimate Fine Arts: Turns Back on Curriculum and Academic Achievement Benefits of Fine Arts Education – Fails to Work with the Community, Year After Year

Superintendent Art Rainwater proposes (2005-2006 Budget Discussion Items)to cut another $1 million in elementary music and art education once again this year without any prior curriculum review and assessment of impact on children’s learning and achievement – that would have involved teachers and the community.


Here’s the Information:
Superintendent’s Proposed Fine Arts Cuts – Released to MMSD Board of Education yesterday:
Eliminate elementary strings curriculum 9.8 FTEs $496,860
Double up Special classes in Grade 1 5-7.5 FTEs $253,500-$380,250
Total Impact on Fine Arts Curriculum 14.8-17.3 FTEs $750,367-$877,110

plus another $100,000 in instrument purchase and repair budget.
Total existing k-12 Fine Arts budget approximately $7 million
which is 2% of the total budget. Superintendent Art Rainwater’s proposed cut would eliminate 14% of the existing fine arts budget – 100% of the elementary string teachers who likely would be laid off as they are specialized and not easily transferred. They’re also not administrators, none of whom are at risk of layoff.
History of Holding Hostage a Community that Values Music and Art Education:


Open Forum: Questions the Community Would Like to See the School Board Asking the Superintendent

I�m beginning a list of questions I�d like to see the School Board discuss and use to direct the Superintendent when the District�s budget is developed using this blog as a public forum. The state and federal governments are not holding up their end of school financing, yet our school board members need to develop a budget and to make preliminary operating decisions by June 30, 2005.
I�ve left the comments open for this blog and would like to hear what questions others might like to see the board discuss and provide further direction to the Superintendent during the budget process so that we develop a budget that puts children�s learning, academic excellence and achievement as the highest priority for our children this year and in succeeding years. I think our attention locally needs to be on how can we develop the best budget for these priorities so that we know what our funding challenges are for next year and will have better information for a referendum.


New Partnership Between School District and UW

It is amazing what can be accomplished without a school board meeting! As chair of the partnership committee, I know the importance of developing partnerships with our community. This is the challenge of being elected to represent a school district that is getting increasingly diverse with more students of color and more students with fewer socio-economic resources. In addition, the entire school district has fewer financial resources due to state imposed revenue caps. For these reasons, different approaches need to be utilized to further resources and strengthen partnerships with organizations that have similar goals.
I am pleased to announce that the Madison Metropolitan School District and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have entered into a partnership that will strengthen recruitment efforts and solidify one years worth of funding for the Minority Services Coordinator (MSC) position. This position has been very vital to the School Board’s goal of closing the achievement gap by working with racial and ethnic minority students since 1973. The position was created and developed by the late Joe Thomas of West High School. Without this partnership, the MSC position would have fallen victim to budget cuts.
Superintendent Rainwater shared these remarks with the entire school board:
“We have entered into a partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to share the services and funding of the Minority Services Coordinators in each of our high schools. This partnership will enable us to keep the Minority Services Coordinators in the schools and further enhance their ability to assist both us and the University with our minority students as they prepare to enter college.”
This partnership is made possible because of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s efforts to encourage post-secondary education for Wisconsin disadvantaged and minority students. The funding will come from the PEOPLE (Pre-college Enrichment Opportunity Program for Learning Excellence) Program currently serving approximately 800 high school and middle school students from public schools in Madison, Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha, the Ho-Chunk Nation and the Menominee Nation.
The program emphasizes enrichment in math, science and writing, and incorporates technology as an integral part of the curriculum. Students build study skills and receive information on college preparation and testing, academic and career options, and other subjects to foster graduation from high school and success in college.
Those who complete the pre-college portion of the program and are accepted for admission to UW-Madison receive a tuition scholarship for up to five years. This program is designed for African-American, American Indian, Southeast Asian-American, Hispanic/Latino and disadvantaged students. The program was launched in 1999 as part of the UW-Madison’s Plan 2008 to enhance campus diversity.
This partnership between the district and University would not have happened without the leadership and foresight of Assistant Dean in the School of Education, Walter Lane; Special Assistant to the Chancellor, LaMarr Billups; Vice Chancellor for Administration, Darrell Bazzell; Chancellor John Wiley, Superintendent Rainwater and the Madison School Board.
While I’m very happy to announce this partnership, I am saddened about the $8.6 million dollars worth of budget cuts. Although I know there will be no partnerships to solve $8.6 million dollars worth of services, perhaps this is the beginning to having serious discussions to create more partnerships that will be mutually beneficial to the school district and other organizations dedicated to the same goal of educating our students.

Budget Process – Cuts and What Else is Next

Superintendent Art Rainwater’s proposed budget cuts to balance his estimated Same Service budget forecast to expected revenues are being released to the public today. Prior to this release, the only information the school board has received relative to the budget is a macro-forecast of revenue/expenditures – assumptions about salary and wage increases, percent increase assumption for all other services, and 4% increase for MSCR expenses, for example.


School Board Candidates Respond to Questions About TAG Programming

The following was passed along by Kristin Meyer who attended the Northside candidates forum. Kristin asked the candidates about their position on supporting TAG services/support during ongoing budgetary shortfalls, and summarizes below the responses from each candidate. She reports that there was also a statement related to how the TAG program has already taken cuts and that, therefore, it seemed unable to adequately meet the needs of TAG students


School Board Candidates’ Forum – March 1, 2005

On March 1, 2005, the Northside Planning Council held an excellent, well run and informative school board candidates’ forum at Warner Park in Madison, WI. Candidates for Seat 6 (Bill Clingan – incumbant and Lawrie Kobza) and Seat 7 (Carol Carstensen – incumbant and Larry Winkler) answered a wide variety of questions on many topics.
Following are videoclips from that forum. The format for the forum following opening statements by the candidates was in three parts: 1) 3 questions developed by the Northside Planning Council, 2) each candidate asked their opponent a question, and 3) written questions submitted from the floor.
I. Opening Statements Candidates’ Opening Statements
II. Part 1: Questions developed by Northside Planning Council
A. Question 1 – City-School District Relationship: What is already being done to promote collaboration between the city and the school district and what creative suggestions do you have to further it? Candidates’ Answers to Question 1: City-School Relationship

B. Question 2 – Parental Involvement: What would you do, as a School Board member, to insure that the District is getting direct feedback from parents of color and low-income parents? How would you overcome the barriers that keep them from participating?
Candidates’ Answers to Question 2: Parental Involvement
C. Question 3 – Changing & Developing District Policy: The District almost succeeded in eliminating or changing its current Equity Policy without substantial public dialogue. What measures would you implement to insure accountability, transparency, and meaningful public input into future District decision-making? Candidates’ Answers to Question 3: Changing & Developing District Policy
III. Candidates Ask Their Opponents A Question
A. Bill Clingan asks Lawrie Kobza about her position on building a second school to total 1100 K-5 students at Leopold Elementary School. Lawrie Kobza asks Bill Clingan why, as Chair of the Human Resources Committee, Superintendent Rainwater has not developed meassurable goals approved by the School Board since 2002. She noted that the Human Resources Committee has met only once since Mr. Clingan became chair. Clingan and Kobza Ask Each Other a Question – Leopold and Superintendent Goals
B. Carol Carstensen and Larry Winkler ask each other questions. Ms. Carstensen asked Mr. Winkler about a previous statement he made regarding revenue caps and Mr. Winkler asked Ms. Carstensen what she was most proud of during her 15 years as a school board members. Carol Carstensen and Larry Winkler Question Each Other

IV. Candidates Asked to Say How they Differ from Their Opponent
Candidates statements about how they differ from each other in qualifications for the job.

Madison Schools Budget Reductions

The Madison School District’s Administration will release their proposed budget reductions (reductions in the increase – see these posts) Thursday afternoon (unless it leaks earlier). There will be an afternoon press conference (apparently 2:30p.m.). We’ll link to the district’s site once the information is posted. Roger Price previewed the 2005/2006 budget recently (video/audio along with slides).

The Leopold Expansion

The 3/2/05 CapTimes includes an excellent op ed piece by Ruth Robarts detailing her concerns about creating a large K-5 elementary school. http://www.madison.com/tct/mad/opinion//index.php?ntid=30501


Eugene Parks

The last few days have been rather sad ones for me due to the recent death of Eugene Parks. I have always viewed Mr. Parks as a role model. I admire people who tell you how they feel without being “politically correct.” He was that type of person. He commanded your attention, not because of his “gruff tone” or “edginess” but because of his sincere knowledge of the topic on which he was speaking. Mr. Parks knew what he was talking about.
When I decided to run for Madison School Board, I made a list of people from whom I wanted to get endorsements. Eugene Parks was one of those people. As a made my way through the campaign, our paths finally crossed in a local restaurant. I was very excited to tell him about my candidacy. I exclaimed to him, “Mr. Parks, I’m running for Madison School Board!” He replied, “Why would you go and do a fool thing like that for?” Honestly, I was kind of stunned. Sensing this, he told me of his feelings about the Madison schools. He felt that schools were being set up. They were being asked to do everything but not adequately funded. He also told me that the school board was the only elected position that for every ONE friend you made; you made TEN enemies. Again, Mr. Parks knew what he was talking about.
After winning my election several months later, I was asked to do a radio interview on WORT. After my segment, Mr. Parks was the next guest. Once pleasantries were exchanged, I wished him luck in his interview; he wished me luck on the school board. While I was listening to interview, he told the interviewer how proud he was of me and that I represented young leadership that our community needed. I was very proud of that. He also questioned the priorities in the City of Madison where the community would build swimming pools but not support additional funding of public education (remember last year the School Board cut 10 million dollars from the budget). His comments were very profound.
I know I’ll never be like Eugene Parks. There will never be another Eugene Parks no matter how hard someone tries. Unfortunately, my personality is not like his. I am not as brave as he was to say exactly what was on my mind and tell everyone how I feel. However, every once in a while, the “Eugene Parks” in me comes out but I save it for special occasions and the settings in which media will not be around. The truest way to honor his memory is giving the Madison School Board the type of passion, effort and commitment that he gave to our Madison community. I will miss Eugene Parks.

Budget Time: Madison School District’s Credibility

The credibility of the Madison Metropolitan School District comes into serious question with the public when Board of Education members and district staff present erroneous information through the media to the public.
Recent examples include:

  • May, 2005 Special Election Costs:
    1. Bill Keys, President of the Board of Education, on the TV Channel 27 early morning news show, February 3, 2005, in referring to proposed referenda for a May 2005 vote stated that “it’s only $15,000 more ($90,000) to wait until May rather than go for the April election, which will only cost $75,000.” A vote on school referenda at the time of a regular countywide election incurs only a minor cost (less that $2000) to the District for graphics and ball space. Special balloting, such as that proposed for school referenda in May will incur more that $87,000 in expenses billed to the District by Dane County, the City of Madison and eight other involved municipalities with voters in the school district. A detailed report of these costs billed to the District for the June 2003 referendum ballot will be presented to the Board at its regular March 7, 2005 meeting.
  • Community Input:
    2. Carol Carstensen, Board of Education member, complains that critics of the Board aren’t really interested in seeking solutions to complex questions and is quoted in the “Talking Out of School” column in Isthmus, February 11, page 8, “I get a little concerned when people say, ‘You should be doing this,’ but then are unable to give me a better plan for how to achieve what they want.” As a representative of Active Citizens for Education we have presented the Board of Education and administration with more than 29 documents including recommendations, plans, proposals, reports and analyses on a variety of issues with which the Board is faced. A list of the documents, along with duplicate copies, will be presented to the Board at its next meeting to refresh memories.
  • Taxpayer Costs:
    3. Joe Quick, MMSD administration staff member, in discussing the proposed $26.2 million referendum for maintenance projects aired on the 10:00 p.m. TV Channel 27 newscast, February 28, stated that the request for revenue to support this referendum “would have no impact on taxes.” The fact of the matter is that if there is no referendum or if the referendum fails, property taxes will decrease due to the retirement of revenue bonds for previous capital indebtedness.

In order for the general public to understand the implications and consequences of financial decisions for which the public is requested to support, the Board of Education members and the administration must present accurate and complete information within the context of the total framework of the district’s budgeting, taxing authority and actions.
Don Severson
donleader at aol dot com

U.S. Education Eroding World Technology Leadership

e-prairie discusses a number of recent comments from the technology community on our education problems:

The New York Times Editorial Page agrees with Bill Gates and takes the States to task for “embracing the lowest common denominator”.

State Aims to Remake High Schools

Brian Tumulty on the achievement gap:

Wisconsin needs to boost graduation rates among blacks and other minorities, the state superintendent of instruction said Sunday as a two-day national summit on the future of high schools ended here.
�We have an achievement gap and we need to ensure every child is graduating from high school,� Elizabeth Burmaster said. �That�s the issue.�
Although Wisconsin boasts one of the highest high school graduation rates in the nation � 92 percent overall in 2002-2003 � only 63 percent of blacks, 76 percent of Hispanics and 78 percent of American Indians complete high school in four years.