Superintendent Art Rainwater- Public Doesn’t Care

I watched the school board last Monday talk about the process for the “budget” up until the referendum. The original timeline had public hearings being completed prior to release of the 2005-2006 budget. Why? As Superintendent Rainwater says people don’t care about the budget; they only care about the programs, courses and services they want to save. I care about the budget process and so do other parents and community members.

Lawrie Kobza, who sat at the table, said it does matter and people do care and want to know what the money will be spent on – it’s not just the business community who wants this. Parents and other community members want to see a transparent budget process and decisionmaking.
But wait, the public will have a chance for comment – one public hearing before the release of the budget and one public hearing a few days after the public release of a document with more than 100 pages. It’s what’s behind the scenes that needs to be in the public discussion – that’s not same service at all.
I and others in the community want to know why there have been very few committee Finance and Operations Committee meetings since last year, few topics taken up, no community advisory committee as many other WI communities are forming in response to budget cuts. In the past two months, we’ve had no discussions about the cut list – NOTHING. There was never a public discussion about how the “new” money last year was allocated. We’re told by our School Board that we can’t do anything else – so that means no ongoing dialogue with the public? Passing a referendum reqires good information and building voter confi
Committees waste the year listening to presentations – that’s not committee work. For example, a presentation on reading curriculum that tells you the administration uses research information to make its decisions without looking at results with different curriculum is incomplete. Checking this off a list of to dos without being complete leaves out the opportunity for important public discussion.
Neither the School Board nor the administration has updated the public in any informative way since last year. I’m the treasurer of my daughter’s schools PTO and we’ve heard nothing from either our district administration or our school board.
We need a transparent budget process and decisionmaking, that makes clear what is in the budget and can explicitly tie this to goals and educational benefits and is developed with meaningful public input. We need to see options – we get one. I want to see board members who will not accept proposed cuts from the administration in curriculum and support for curriculum until the administration, teachers and the community have done everything possible. They have not done that and the kids will suffer.
I believe we can and must do better for our kids – certain groups of children should not be at risk 100%, especially in curriculum and support for curriculum. Those kinds of cuts are not necessary or warranted at this time. The numbers from the administration need to be examined in a public forum – clearly and openly. It’s one month before the referendum, and there are too many unanswered questions.
We need public discussions like those held by the long range planning committee advisory board. I’m not alone in thinking this is necessary. Members of our blog will be putting together a type of academic summit to begin the dialogue about what the academic, educational economic issues are facing our community and what we can do about it. We are hoping to host a forum in the near future. We desperately need to talk about the “costs” of the current way of doing business and what alternative options can be considered.
The administrators, who are around the boardroom table, are able to defend their positions and workload at every meeting. And they do. Result, no 100% reductions in their workforce and chuckles implying “how foolish” the public is to think that by reducing administration we will save much money. Implications: the public just does not get it. Lawrie Kobza asked how many open positions exist at the Doyle and Pflaum Road offices – good questions, needed questions.
The Superintendent says that his team knows what is best for kids – period. If the professionals hired in businesses operated that way and did not pay attention to outside sources of information and the consumers – they would fail.
When you want to save services to students (who are the customers of public education), we as a community need to do everything we can – be as creative and participate in collaborative problem solving. We haven’t done that yet. Our kids deserve better from all of us. We need to continue to demand this of our school board.