Madison Schools’ 2014-2015 $402,464,374 Budget Document (April, 2014 version)

The Madison School District (3MB PDF):

Five Priority Areas (just like the “Big 10”) but who is counting! – page 6:
– Common Core
– Behavior Education Plan
– Recruitment and hiring
– New educator induction
– Educator Effectiveness
– Student, parent and staff surveys
– Technology plan

2014-2015 “budget package” 3MB PDF features some interesting changes, beginning on page 92, including:

1. + $986,314 to other Wisconsin public school districts due to Outbound open enrollment growth and $160,000 for Youth Options (page 108)

2. + 5.3% Teacher & Staff Health insurance spending is $44,067,547, or 11% of total spending! (Page 92). Total teacher & staff benefits are $73,248,235 or 18% of total spending. Let’s compare (as best we can):

Madison: 18% budget web page. Note, Madison’s is likely higher than 18% as I did not count all “funds” beyond teachers and certain staff. I’ve sent an email to the District for a complete number.

Middleton: 15.7% 2013-2014 Budget (PDF) Middleton – Cross Plains School District Budget web page. Middleton’s document summarizes spending across all funds (Page 8), something that I did not find in the Madison document (Pages 110-123 summarize aspects of Madison’s spending).

Boston: 14.1% Boston Schools 2013-2014-2015 budget xls file) Boston schools’ budget information.

Long Beach: 15.9% (Long Beach Budget Document (PDF)) Long Beach budget information.

Madison Superintendent Cheatham cited the Boston and Long Beach Schools for “narrowing their achievement gap” during a July, 2013 “What Will be Different This Time” presentation to the Madison Rotary Club.

3. “Educational Services” (Page 96) benefits are $21,581,653 up 4.5%.

4. “Food Services” (Page 98) benefits are $2,446,305, up 4.2%.

5. 10.3%: MSCR’s health insurance cost increase (page 99). MSCR spending and property tax growth (“Fund 80”) has been controversial in the past.

The Madison School District’s per student spending has been roughly constant for several years at about $15,000. Yet, certain budget elements are growing at a rather high rate, indicating an ability to manage effectively by reallocating and raising tax dollars or the presence of a rather fluid budget.

“focused instead on adult employment”

Retired Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary speech is always worth revisiting:

Zimman’s talk ranged far and wide. He discussed Wisconsin’s K-12 funding formula (it is important to remember that school spending increases annually (from 1987 to 2005, spending grew by 5.10% annually in Wisconsin and 5.25% in the Madison School District), though perhaps not in areas some would prefer.

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

Zimman noted that the most recent State of Wisconsin Budget removed the requirement that arbitrators take into consideration revenue limits (a district’s financial condition @17:30) when considering a District’s ability to afford union negotiated compensation packages. The budget also added the amount of teacher preparation time to the list of items that must be negotiated….. “we need to breakthrough the concept that public schools are an expense, not an investment” and at the same time, we must stop looking at schools as a place for adults to work and start treating schools as a place for children to learn.”

The price of budget spaghetti manifests itself via little to no oversight – see legitimate questions on the District’s most recent $26,200,000 maintenance referendum (another tax increase looms). These documents, while reasonably detailed, are impossible to compare to recent budgets.

The demise of Lawrie Kobza’s 2 page “citizen’s budget” will lead to growing cost of living and achievement gaps, including nearby Districts such as Middleton where a comparable homeowner spends 16% less on property taxes.