Commentary On Running And Serving On The Madison School Board…

Chris Rickert:

Because members are elected during low-turnout spring elections, special interest groups have a proportionally bigger voice in who wins. In Madison, it’s nearly impossible to win without union support unless you have tons of money.

But under a system of geographically assigned seats, there might be enough grassroots support in, say, a south Madison School Board district to mitigate the union’s influence.

Madison voters have the state Legislature to thank for the school district’s current, inane way of electing board members.

Until 1985, there were no numbered seats, and the top vote-getters for however many seats were up for election were declared the winners.

But in the late 1970s, there was a movement to force board members into one-on-one contests as a way to target specific members amid a broader debate on the board over plans to close some central-city schools.

A binding referendum to move to the current election system failed in 1978, but a bill to do the same was passed a few years later.

Today, School Board president James Howard tells me: “The board’s election process is not on our radar at this time.”

And I suppose it is easier just to hike pay.

Board members definitely work for their money — if not for a more democratic School Board.

Ideally, District academic achievement challengesand its $15k plus per student spending (double the national average) would always be transparent and easy to understand from year to year…