Kaleem Caire is feeling pretty confident that the Madison school board will approve Madison Preparatory Academy in late November. After all, he’s made substantial concessions to appease his most influential critics, and support for the charter school, which would target at-risk minority students, appears to be gaining momentum.
Still, Caire, who is CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, the nonprofit agency that would run the school, faces a dedicated opposition that remains unflinching in its wide-ranging criticism, some of it highly personal. Some opponents have called Caire an “enemy of public education.”
“The fact that people scrutinize us isn’t the issue, but it gets to the point where some of this borders on ridiculous,” he says.
Caire proposed the school last year, calling it an important first step in closing the minority achievement gap, a problem first documented by the Urban League in 1968. Supporters say that after four decades of doing little, the time has come for a more radical approach.
“Can you imagine this city if 48% of the white kids were dropping out?” asks Gloria Ladson-Billings, an education professor at UW-Madison and Madison Prep board member. “I don’t get why that kind of failure is tolerable.”