Ruth Robarts: Let’s take school closings off the table, start the planning needed for another referendum

Ruth Robarts, who supports Maya Cole and Rick Thomas for School Board, wrote the following letter to the editor:
I voted no on Carol Carstensen’s proposed three-year referendum for several reasons.
First, a referendum requires careful planning. Two weeks’ notice did not allow the School Board to do the necessary analysis or planning.
Second, the referendum is not part of a strategic long-range plan. The district needs a 10-year strategic plan, and such a plan must address the structural deficit created by state revenue limits. It must also bring businesses, community organizations and the city of Madison into the solution. While referendums for operating dollars will be necessary, without planning they are of limited use.
Third, relief from the state revenue limits is not on the horizon. Gov. Jim Doyle has no proposal for eliminating the revenue limits. Madison’s state representatives recommend that we focus our lobbying efforts on small -cale, stopgap funding issues.
There are some steps that the School Board can take to increase public confidence and pass operating budget referendums in the future.
1. Direct the administration to find the best ways to use the Doyle Building to generate revenue for the district. In 2006, the board defeated this proposal (Kobza and Robarts were the only yes votes.) Using the building as a revenue-generating asset could also move administrators to school buildings and help keep the schools open.
2. Negotiate changes in health insurance coverage for teachers to minimize future costs. Administrators and other unions have recently made such changes without losing quality of health care.
3. Take the closing/consolidation options presented by the Long Range Planning Committee off the table. Look for more focused approaches to saving money, such as moving the Park Street Work and Learn Center into an under-enrolled elementary school as we did in the past when we housed WLC at Allis School.
4. Invite the community to join in a strategic planning process as soon as possible. As long as the state and federal governments shirk their responsibilities and the state over-relies on residential property taxes to pay for essential local services, there will be a gap between the tax funds available and the cost of the high-quality, comprehensive K-12 school system that we want. We need a plan as badly as we need the elimination of the revenue limits and a progressive tax to adequately fund our schools.
Ruth Robarts
member, Madison School Board
Published: April 2, 2007

One thought on “Ruth Robarts: Let’s take school closings off the table, start the planning needed for another referendum”

  1. Practice SAT question of the day:
    Maya Cole is to Ruth Robarts as
    Marj Passman is to:
    a) Bill Keys
    b )Juan Lopez
    c) Art Rainwater
    d) all of the above

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