Mary Burke’s past activities are coming under increased scrutiny now that she is an active candidate for governor. Mary has generously supported different educational initiatives for many years. Her primary focus has been the AVID/TOPS partnership between the Madison School District and the Boys and Girls Club. But her pledge of support for the Madison Prep charter school proposal has drawn the most attention. Since I was more involved in the Madison Prep saga than most, I thought it might be helpful if I provided a summary of what I know about Mary’s involvement.
In December, 2010, the Urban League of Greater Madison presented an initial proposal to the Madison School Board to establish a charter school called Madison Prep. The Urban League described the school as “a catalyst for change and opportunity among young men, particularly young men of color.” The school was intended to inculcate a culture of hard-work and achievement among its students through a host of practices, including single-sex classrooms, an International Baccalaureate curriculum, longer school days and school years, intensive mentoring, and obligatory parental involvement.
Madison Prep was controversial from the start and the initial proposal was adjusted in response to various concerns. By the fall of 2011, Madison Prep was planned to be an instrumentality charter school, like our existing charter schools Nuestro Mundo and Badger Rock. As an instrumentality, all teachers and staff would have been union members.
Burke’s candidacy will bring additional statewide attention (and rhetoric) to the Madison schools, particularly its challenges. It will be interesting to see what, if anything Mary Burke says about her time on the local school board.