An open letter to the Superintendent of Madison Metropolitan Schools

Dear Mr. Rainwater:
I just found out from the principal at my school that you cut the allocations for SAGE teachers and Strings teachers, but the budget hasn’t even been approved. Will you please stop playing politics with our children education? It?s time to think about your legacy.
As you step up to the chopping block for your last whack at the budget, please think carefully about how your tenure as our superintendent will be viewed a little more than a year from now when your position is filled by a forward-thinking problem-solver. (Our district will settle for no less.)
Do you want to be remembered as the Superintendent who increased class size as a first step when the budget got tight? Small class size repeatedly rises to the top as the best way to enhance student achievement at the elementary level. Why would you take away one of best protections against federal funding cuts mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act? Rather than increase pupil to teacher ratios, have you checked to see if the pupil to administrative staff ratio has been brought closer to the state-wide average? (In 2002, Madison Metropolitan schools were at 195 children per administrator; the rest of the state averaged 242 children per administrator.) Have the few administrative openings you?ve left unfilled over the past few years actually brought us into line with the rest of the state?

While Oprah Winfrey is handing out free violins, do you really want to be remembered as the guy who saved less than 1/10 of 1% from the budget ($300,000) by cutting Elementary Strings and effectively locking out low and middle-income students from any real chance to master a musical instrument before being relegated to a lifetime of working to pay the bills? (This program served over 1600 children last year, more than 40% of whom were minority or low-income.) Couldn’t your administration come up with even one creative funding idea for this much loved program? How about REACH funds? That union-negotiated teacher allocation can be used for anything. What about procuring foundation grants for Fine Arts and Sports? You nodded in agreement to this idea 4 years ago, but have since blocked every attempt by saying the district can’t “earmark” funds.
Do you really want to be remembered as the Superintendent who closed the minority achievement gap by bringing down the achievement level of our highest performing students? We have a history of providing great opportunities for students at all levels of academic involvement and achievement. Heterogeneous grouping at the freshman and sophomore level doesn’t save any money, but does reduce achievement scores. (In 2003, 70% of West High’s students scored “advanced” on the 10th-grade state reading test; that dropped to 61% in 2005 after homogenizing freshman English.) Do you really want a legacy of lean and mean urban schools with nothing more to offer than a strict expulsion policy?
Do you really want to be remembered as the Superintendent who shook hands with John Matthews enough to cancel out the checks and balances between the Administration and MTI?
Why do our teachers get WPS insurance at less than market rates when every other University employee, firefighter, police officer and City employee in this town has to pay what it really costs to have premium health insurance? It doesn’t have anything to do with John Matthews sitting on the board of WPS, does it? Wouldn’t our city be better served by having real cost-saving options to negotiate with MTI?
And lastly, why don’t you act up a little bit? Since you can’t lose your job for it, why don’t you shake up the system? Public schools will never be able to compete with the private sector because we are legally mandated to provide education to all children, regardless of their special needs. Morally and ethically, our society can do no less. Why don’t you spend the last few months of your tenure lobbying the State and Federal Government to provide funding for these kids? Send them a bill for just one special needs child who needs a full-time aide. Ask them to use school vouchers to cover that cost. Now that would be a legacy.

One thought on “An open letter to the Superintendent of Madison Metropolitan Schools”

  1. Maureen,
    Well said, but unfortunately Art gets another whack at the budget. He’ll be superintendent at this time next year.

Comments are closed.