Critics were also concerned about Madison Prep’s operating costs — totaling $11,000 per student — and its reliance on non-union staff in the wake of Wisconsin’s Act 10, a state law that severely limited collective bargaining rights of teachers and other state employees which passed early in 2011.
Caire said despite the challenges, building Madison Prep would have been an opportunity for the district to respond to the longstanding concerns of African-American parents for better educational outcomes for their children.
“How could (the Madison School Board) question us like that? (They) hadn’t gotten this thing right in two to three decades,” Caire said.
“Black kids were not getting what they needed. Black community members felt that and it’s real,” he said. “White community members said we were trying to tell them that their system doesn’t support black kids… a whole lot of it was about that.”
In December 2011, hundreds of people on both sides of the Madison Prep debate crowded the auditorium at Madison Memorial High School to appeal to the Madison School Board. Ultimately, the Board voted 5-2 against the charter proposal.
“It actually made me feel like Madison was no longer my home, going through that,” Caire said. “A lot of friends I had, to this day, after that experience don’t hang out with me like they used to. I miss that… unfortunately, there were some casualties with that whole episode.”
Ed Hughes, former Madison School Board president who was one of the two members who voted in favor of Madison Prep [Incorrect], agreed.
“It was an eye-opening experience for me. I had been on the board for a few years, but there was not previously an issue like that, one that highlighted the school district’s failure to educate children of color,” Hughes said.
“It took someone like (Caire) to come in, request the data, put it out, and say, ‘The school district is failing in some really significant ways and no one is doing anything about it.’ It is a real credit to him that he got people talking about the issue and starting to focus on it.”
Current Madison School Board member T.J. Mertz is an instructor at Edgewood College who blogs extensively about K-12 education issues in the city. Before joining the board, Mertz voiced his concerns about Madison Prep’s funding structure and pedagogical approach in his blog.
In an interview with the Cap Times, Mertz acknowledged the Madison Prep debate illuminated MMSD’s shortcomings in serving low income, African-American students, but it bolstered the rift between black families and the district.
“I think the campaign around Madison Prep shed more heat than light on the issues. It certainly called attention to it, but also created difficulties in district and community members working together,” Mertz said.
“I implored him, ‘Don’t make it harder for African-American families to work with the school district,’” Mertz said regarding a conversation he had with Caire early on in the Madison Prep charter process.
Correction: Mr. Hughes voted against Madison Prep, along with Beth Moss, Mary Passman, Arlene Silveira and Maya Cole.
Much more on the 2011 Madison School Board’s rejection of Madison prep, here.
Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham: “without; being held accountable to district standards”. Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results.
Finally, Madison spends far more than $11k per student….