Madison Schools’ 2014-2015 Budget a No No for Governor Candidate Burke

Chris Rickert:

It’s no surprise Democratic nominee for governor and Madison School Board member Mary Burke isn’t saying how she plans to vote Monday on a proposed school district budget that includes a $100 tax increase for the average homeowner.
For purely political reasons, dropping that particular dime would be a pretty dumb thing to do.

Budgets are way more than just their impact on taxpayers/voters, though. They also reflect a school district’s priorities and approach to educating children and compensating teachers.

Burke hasn’t released an education plan in her campaign for governor, so it might be nice to know how she feels about some of those details before they start counting the votes nine days from now.

Specifically, I asked her about:

$4.1 million in spending on technology upgrades, including a plan to eventually put tablet computers in the hands of most students.

$1.5 million for a new behavior plan that de-emphasizes punishment in favor of teaching positive behavior skills.

$250,000 for a new staff evaluation system.

$150,000 for a “grow your own” system for recruiting employees, including ones that — in a district with an ethnically diverse student body but an almost all-white teaching staff — are “culturally responsive.”

Continuing to provide union staff with automatic raises for seniority and degree attainment.

Burke’s response was brief, emailed, unrevealing and on-message: “They all have merits but need to be considered in light of whether we can fund them while being responsible to the taxpayers.”

A scouring of the video recordings and available minutes of this year’s budget meetings also didn’t shed much light on where she stands.

She rarely offered an opinion during the meetings, but when she did it was usually as a voice of fiscal restraint, questioning the size of the tax levy and highlighting the need to take into account the current year budget’s effect on future years’ budgets.

Of course, it’s pretty safe to assume that Burke will vote against any budget that includes a tax increase. She has reminded reporters that’s what she did back in June when the preliminary budget was before the board. And she was the lone “no” vote on the final 2013-14 budget in November 2013, 27 days after she announced her run for governor.

Props to Rickert for diving into the details…. A no vote is rather easy, but this annual exercise simply perpetuates Madison’s monolithic K-12 governance model, despite its long term, disastrous reading results.