Commentary on 2020 K-12 Governance and opening this fall

Wisconsin State Journal:

Unfortunately, the Madison School District announced Friday it will offer online classes only this fall — despite six or seven weeks to go before the fall semester begins. By then, a lot could change with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Dane County recently and wisely implemented a mask requirementfor inside buildings that aren’t people’s homes. That should help ease the spread of COVID-19, making it safer for in-person classes.

The AAP recently stressed that “the preponderance of evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting” from COVID-19. They also appear less likely to contract and spread the infection.

The Madison teachers union last week demanded online classes only until Dane County goes at least 14 straight days without new COVID-19 cases. That might be best for older teachers with underlying health conditions making them more susceptible to the pandemic. But it’s definitely not best for our children. The district should reject such a rigid standard that fails to consider the needs of our broader community.

Lower-income students, who are disproportionately of color, are less likely to succeed with online schooling if they have fewer resources at home — and if their parents can’t work remotely because of front-line jobs.

The Madison School Board should have waited to see how COVID-19 plays out this summer. That’s what other school districts, such as Chicago, are doing. It’s possible the plan that Madison schools outlined to parents recently could have worked in September. That called for half of students to attend two days of in-person classes each week, with the other half of students attending two different days.

Let’s compare: Middleton and Madison Property taxes:

Madison property taxes are 22% more than Middleton’s for a comparable home, based on this comparison of 2017 sales.

Fall 2020 Administration Referendum slides. (

(Note: “Madison spends just 1% of its budget on maintenance while Milwaukee, with far more students, spends 2%” – Madison’s CFO at a fall 2019 referendum presentation.)

MMSD Budget Facts: from 2014-15 to 2020-21 [July, 2020]

Property taxes up 37% from 2012 – 2021.

MMSD Budget Facts: from 2014-15 to 2020-21
1. 4K-12 enrollment: -1.6% (decrease) from 2014-15 to projected 2020-21
2. Total district staffing FTE: -2.9% (decrease) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
3. Total expenditures (excluding construction fund): +15.9% +17.0% (increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
4. Total expenditures per pupil: +17.8% +19.0%(increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
5. CPI change: +10.0% (increase) from January 2014 to January 2020
6. Bond rating (Moody’s): two downgrades (from Aaa to Aa2) from 2014 to 2020
1. DPI WISEdash for 2014-15 enrollment; district budget book for projected 2020-21 enrollment
2. & 3.: District budget books
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics (

– via a kind reader (July 9, 2020 update).

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration