It appears we are headed toward a School Board election that promises something new: a candidate whose voice will do more than add sound and fury to the liberal echo chamber that is Madison politics.
David Blaska has the background, experience and most importantly the courage to expose the abuses and neglect of those in charge of our schools.
Having been shouted down and bullied at several meetings of the Madison School Board over the past several months, Blaska is uniquely qualified to expose the pusillanimous hand-wringing that passes for decision-making by those who shape educational policy in this city. He has seen firsthand how a small cadre of vocal extremists, called Freedom Inc., have cowed the current School Board with their unique brand of cop-hating venom.
When ordinary citizens are afraid to attend meetings for fear of being harassed by a mob of fanatical ideologues, we are witnessing a system that has shamelessly abandoned its mandate.
If elected, Blaska may be a lone voice crying in the wilderness, but at least it will be a voice unafraid of speaking truth to power.
Gary L. Kriewald, Madison
It starts with safety and discipline,” said Blaska, who on his blog has been sharply critical of the district’s deliberations over whether to continue stationing Madison police officers in the high schools.
Despite raucous protests by the activist group Freedom Inc., a committee of the board recommended on Sept. 26 that the police officers, called educational resource officers, or EROs, remain in the schools. Protests against EROs by the same group shut down a School Board meeting on Oct. 29 to approve the budget. It was approved two days later in a special meeting.
Blaska also criticized the district’s Behavior Education Plan as “too bureaucratic” and the “product of too many administrators and too many meetings.” The plan — which was rolled out in 2014 and runs to 77 pages for elementary schools and 82 pages for middle and high schools — is largely an attempt to move away from “zero tolerance” policies and reduce the disproportionately high number of students of color who are expelled or suspended. It is undergoing revisions this year.
He said he would try to get the BEP down to about eight pages while giving teachers and administrators more discretion over how they handle student behavior in their schools.
Incumbent Dean Loumos, who chaired the ERO committee, said he was “not at all” vulnerable to criticism about the way he has handled security issues.
Blaska has frequently criticized members of Freedom Inc., the local social justice advocacy group that has spoken out at recent School Board meetings against the use of educational resource officers in the city’s four comprehensive high schools.
Protests that broke out during the public comment period at the School Board’s October meeting led to a vote to adjourn the meeting early. Blaska has lamented that some do not feel safe attending School Board meetings because of the “far-left mob.”
Blaska in recent blog posts has called on Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne to prosecute the the protesters who shut down the October meeting.
Notes and links:
A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter School (2011).
Madison has long tolerated disastrous reading results, despite spending far more than most taxpayer supported K-12 School Districts.
Compare Madison, WI high school graduation rates and academic achievement data.
The Madison School District’s “Strategic Framework”.
On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.
According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.
Madison Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, 2015:
Shortly after the office was proposed, Cheatham said non-district-authorized charter schools have “no consistent record of improving education for children, but they do drain resources from public schools, without any control in our local community or school board.”
“Rather than invest in what we know works in education, this proposal puts resources in strategies with mixed results at the expense of our public school students,” she said in May 2015
The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, lead by Governor Elect, Tony Evers, has waived Massachusetts’ style elementary teacher content knowledge requirements for thousands of teachers.