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On the Proposed Madison Schools’ Tax & Spending Fall, 2016 Referendum

Madison School District PDF:

We also know that MMSD has no extra factors to boost local revenues. Extra revenue factors, such as unused levy authority, General Fund Balance reserves, before considering a referendum to exceed the revenue limit, it is necessary to understand the tax levy forecast before any additional taxing authority. We have identified the major tax levy factors:

Flat to minimal enrollment growth over the next few years

No unused tax levy authority available

The debt service levy already reflects the impact of the 2015 referendum

The debt service levy does not reflect the impact of any future facility referendum, which would be at least 2-3 in the future

It will be important to measure the loss of equalization aid for any specific referendum to exceed the limit.

The 2008 Referendum to Exceed the Revenue Limit
In November 2008, on the presidential ballot, MMSD had a referendum question for recurring authority to exceed the revenue limit. The amounts were phased in, beginning in 2009 ($5.0 million), 2010 ($4.0 million) and finally 2011 ($4.0 million) for a combined $13 million of additional levy authority. The vote occurred three years before the before the Budget Repair Bill and Act 10, and passed with 87,329 ‘yes’ votes and 40,748 ‘no’ votes.

Partial Budget Spending Chart (excludes a number of district expenditures) – PDF and a consultant’s budget forecast.

Real Estate Activity Around Madison Middle Schools

“I want to live in the Hamilton/Van Hise attendance area.” I’ve heard that statement many times over the years. I wondered how that desire might be reflected in real estate activity.

Tap for a larger view. xlsx version.

Happily, it’s easy to keep up with the market using the Bunbury, First Weber, Restaino or Shorewest apps. For the middle schools, I’ll use the First Weber app iOS Android. Next week, I plan to take a look at elementary schools using the Restaino app. I also hope to dive into property tax variation.

Tap the search link on your iPhone, iPad or Android with the First Weber app installed. You can then interact with the data and properties.

Black Hawk Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Cherokee Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Hamilton Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Jefferson Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

O’Keeffe Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Sennett Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Sherman Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Toki Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Whitehorse Middle School Attendance Area Search. Stats.

Madison’s median household income is $53,933 ($31,659 per capita).

Finally, Madison, via a 2015 referendum, is expanding Hamilton, its least diverse middle school.

** As always, much of the property information beneath these statistics is entered by humans. There may be an occasional mistake… 🙂

Responding to Ed Hughes

Dave Baskerville (7 April 2016)

Mr. Ed Hughes, Member, MMSD Board 4/7/16

Ed, I finally got around to reading your “Eight Lessons Learned” article in the 3/9/16 edition of CT. Interesting/thanks. As you know from our previous discussions, we have similar thinking on some of the MMSD challenges, not on others. For the sake of further dialogue and to continue your tutorial style (‘learned’, ‘not learned’) without my trying to be either facetious or presumptious., let me comment as follows:

LESSON ONE. “It’s Complicated”. Certainly agree, but not an excuse for catching up with the rest of the First World. Did you learn that? Challenges which you rightly say are ’multiyear and multipronged’ become far more complicated when there is not a clearcut, long term direction for a company or system. It seems that every responsible board of private/public or NGO institutions has that responsibility to the CEO (read Superintendant).

You talk of improvement (kaizen), but “better” for the status quo alone is not enough when we have been falling behind for several generations. What you apparently did not learn is that with our global rankings and radical changes in technology and the future world of work, serious transformation of our system is needed?

LESSON TWO. “No Silver Bullet”. There can be 1~3 long term goals, but agree, 426 WI school districts need to figure out in their own ways how to get there. (And where things are measured, they are more often done. Dare you provide, as 300 HSs around the country and 14 in WI have done, the PISA tests for all of our MSN 15 years olds. $15,000 per HS, and indeed, does that ever prod Supt’s, and citizens to set their goals long term and higher! And execute!)

LESSON THREE. “Schools Are Systems”. Agree with Gawande that “a system-wide approach with new skills, data-based, and the ability to implement at scale” is needed. Look at Mayo Clinic where my wife and I spend too much of our time! As you say, a significant cultural shift is required. But what you did not learn is what he said later: “Transformation must be led at the top”. That means clearly articulating for the CEO, staff and public the long term destination point for rigorous achievement and the quantitative means to measure. You did not learn that it does not mean getting involved in the vast HOW of ‘defining the efforts of everyone’, innovation, implementation and details. A good CEO and her team will handle all of that.

LESSON FOUR. “Progress Requires Broad Buy-in”. True. Yet, are you not as a Board getting way into the nitty gritty issues, while at the same time not having a clear long term goal with a Scorecard that not only educators can comprehend but all of us citizens? You did not learn that much of strategy and most all of tactics is not a Board’s prerogative to dwell in/muck around in. But the responsibility to articulate a few goals and a scorecard to vigorously monitor for the broader public is a critical constituency responsibility for the MMSD and the broader buy-in.

LESSON FIVE. “Buy-in can’t be bought”. Agree, many business values are not relevant in education.. But to me , what was not learned from the Zukerberg:Newark disaster was rather that you cannot transform a poorly performing system by simply pouring many more resources and monies into it and enabling/enhancing the status quo. (Believe now in San Francisco, Zuckerberg has learned that as well.)

LESSON SIX. “No substitute for Leadership”. Certainly. That’s why I give you folks a rough time! But your reference to a balance of ‘the best system’ and’ teacher /staff commitment’ is valid. Very much mutually needed for global achievement. And you certainly should be discussing those with Jen, as she sees fit.. But it’s not primarily your Board responsibilities. Again to repeat, by mucking around too much in those Supt. Management, and tactical areas and completely missing the long term, measurable goals/ direction, you have not learned the most critical Board role as I outlined in Lesson One above. In addition where management meets political or union road blocks to substantial progress towards those goals, boards must often step in.

And I would add in most institutions, charisma does not transfer. Milt McPike was a great leader that I’m sure considerably improved the achievement levels at East HS. But is not the Purgolders back to mediocre? If the MMSD Board would have had a transformed system with very clear long term goals for East with a PISA Scorecard that involved the public, I’m betting Milt’s accomplishments would be being built on. If we lose Jen in the next few years, I fear likewise. (Or better, you really challenge her with some 20 year global targets, get out of the way, and maybe she’ll stay with us that long.)

LESSON SEVEN. “Improvement Takes Time”. Of course. But you have simply not learned a sense of urgency. Finland, South Korea, Japan, Shanghai-China, etc….are not going to just watch and wait for 20 years our MMSD kids to catch up. They are all forthrightly after further improvement. Those countries unlike you MMSD Board Members really believe/expect their kids can be trained with the best in the world. Very high expectations! You look at where investment in the world is made…where in the USA millions of jobs lack needed skilled people….why over 65% of the UW-MSN doctoral/ post doc students in almost all of the critical science, engineering and math courses are non-Americans. You have not learned, ED, that a long term direction AND urgency must go together!

LESSON EIGHT. “Incremental progress is good progress”. Agree, lurching about in goals/system approach is not good. A “sustainable school…and coherent approach guided by a system-wide vision…” is good. But as said above, you’ve not learned that your ‘incremental progress’ is not enough! The MMSD approach essentially does not recognize the global job market our kids will walk into. Does not recognize that 20 years hence 65% of the careers now do not exist. ( So only major achievement/competency in the basics {MATH, Science, Reading} will provide some assurance of good work/salaries/further trainability during their lifetime.) That with todays transformation of technology, STEM and blue collar jobs as well as universties will definitely require those kinds of skills for social mobility and self-sufficiency.

That’s it for now. See you at the Club, give me a call if you wish to discuss further,
And either way, best regards,

Dave Baskerville (608-259-1233)

Much more on Ed Hughes, here.

Unfortunately, Madison’s monolithic, $17K+ per student system has long resisted improvement. We, as a community have tolerated disastrous reading results for decades, rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school and astonishingly, are paying to expand our least diverse schools (Hamilton middle and Van Hise elementary) via a 2015 referendum….

Further reading, from 2005! When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before.


Two of the most popular — and most insidious — myths about academically gifted kids is that “they’re all rich, white kids” and that, no matter what they experience in school, “they’ll do just fine.” Even in our own district, however, the hard data do not support those assertions.
When the District analyzed dropout data for the five-year period between 1995 and 1999, they identified four student profiles. Of interest for the present purpose is the group identified as high achieving. Here are the data from the MMSD Research and Evaluation Report from May, 2000:

Group 1: High Achiever, Short Tenure, Behaved
This group comprises 27% of all dropouts during this five-year period.
Characteristics of this group:

Finally, a few of these topics arose during a recent school board member/candidate (all three ran unopposed this spring) forum. MP3 audio.

Change is hard and our children are paying a price, as Mr. Baskerville notes.

“Most MMSD schools are not over capacity. Six of the 32 elementary schools and one of the 12 middle schools had Third Friday enrollment numbers above their calculated capacities.”

Somewhat ironically, Madison has unused capacity in a number of schools, yet a successful Spring, 2015 referendum will spend another $41M+ to expand certain schools, including some of the least diverse such as Hamilton Middle School.

Madison School District (PDF):

Key Findings
1. Most MMSD schools are not over capacity. Six of the 32 elementary schools and one of the 12 middle schools had Third Friday enrollment numbers above their calculated capacities.
2. Thirteen of the 32 elementary schools, two of the 12 middle schools, and one of the five high schools had Third Friday enrollment numbers above the ideal 90% of capacity.

Minding the nurture gap, Madison plans to expand least diverse schools


THE most important divide in America today is class, not race, and the place where it matters most is in the home. Conservatives have been banging on about family breakdown for decades. Now one of the nation’s most prominent liberal scholars has joined the chorus.

Robert Putnam is a former dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the author of “Bowling Alone” (2000), an influential work that lamented the decline of social capital in America. In his new book, “Our Kids”, he describes the growing gulf between how the rich and the poor raise their children. Anyone who has read “Coming Apart” by Charles Murray will be familiar with the trend, but Mr Putnam adds striking detail and some excellent graphs (pictured). This is a thoughtful and persuasive book.

Among the educated elite the traditional family is thriving: fewer than 10% of births to female college graduates are outside marriage—a figure that is barely higher than it was in 1970. In 2007 among women with just a high-school education, by contrast, 65% of births were non-marital. Race makes a difference: only 2% of births to white college graduates are out-of-wedlock, compared with 80% among African-Americans with no more than a high-school education, but neither of these figures has changed much since the 1970s. However, the non-marital birth proportion among high-school-educated whites has quadrupled, to 50%, and the same figure for college-educated blacks has fallen by a third, to 25%. Thus the class divide is growing even as the racial gap is shrinking.

Meanwhile, the Madison School Board & District administration plan to expand Van Hise and Hamilton schools via the April, 2015 referendum.

Hamilton and Van Hise are among Madison’s least diverse schools…..

K-16 Governance: An Oxymoron? Wallace Hall Was Right About UT All Along

Jim Schutze:

When Hall was early on the board, the university revealed to regents there were problems with a large private endowment used to provide off-the-books six-figure “forgivable loans” to certain faculty members, out of sight of the university’s formal compensation system.

Hall wanted to know how big the forgivable loans were and who decided who got them. He wanted to know whose money it was. He was concerned there had to be legal issues with payments to public employees that were not visible to the public.

University of Texas President William Powers painted the law school slush fund as a problem only because it had caused “discord” within the faculty. He vowed to have a certain in-house lawyer get it straightened up. Hall, who thought the matter was more serious and called for a more arms-length investigation and analysis, thought Powers’ approach was too defensive. In particular, Hall didn’t want it left to the investigator Powers had assigned.

“I had issues with that,” Hall says. “I felt that was a bad, bad deal. The man’s a lawyer. He lives in Austin. The people in the foundation are his mentors, some of the best lawyers in the state. They’re wealthy. He’s not going to be in the [university] system forever. He’s going to be looking for a job one day.”
But Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and other members of the board of regents did not share Hall’s concerns. “I was overruled,” Hall says. “That’s when I first felt like, one, there’s a problem at UT, and, two, the system has set up a scheme that gives the opportunity for a less than robust investigation.”

Since then, the university’s own in-house investigation, which cleared the law school of any real wrongdoing, has been discredited and deep-sixed. The in-house lawyer who did it is no longer on the payroll. The matter has been turned over to the Texas attorney general for a fresh investigation.

The head of the law school has resigned. The president of the university has resigned. Cigarroa has resigned.

Next, Hall questioned claims the university was making about how much money it raised every year. He thought the university was puffing its numbers by counting gifts of software for much more than the software really was worth, making it look as if Powers was doing a better job of fundraising than he really was.

When Hall traveled to Washington, D.C., to consult with the national body that sets rules for this sort of thing, he was accused of ratting out the university — a charge that became part of the basis for subsequent impeachment proceedings. But Hall was right. The university had to mark down its endowment by $215 million.

The really big trouble began in 2013 when Hall said he discovered a back-door black market trade in law school admissions, by which people in positions to do favors for the university, especially key legislators, were able to get their own notably unqualified kids and the notably unqualified kids of friends into UT Law School.

Local education issues that merit attention include:

A. The Wisconsin DPI’s decades long WKCE adventure: “Schools should not rely on only WKCE data to gauge progress of individual students or to determine effectiveness of programs or curriculum”… It is astonishing that we, after decades of DPI spending, have nothing useful to evaluate academic progress. A comparison with other states, including Minnesota and Massachusetts would be rather useful.

B. Susan Troller’s 2010 article: Madison school board member may seek an audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent. A look at local K-12 spending (and disclosure) practices may be useful in light of the planned April, 2015 referendum.

C. Madison’s long term disastrous reading results, despite spending double the national average per student.

D. Teacher preparation standards.

K – 12 tax and spending climate: ongoing property tax increases and the “lost middle class”

Jim Tankersley:

One day in 1967, Bob Thompson sprayed foam on a hunk of metal in a cavernous factory south of Los Angeles. And then another day, not too long after, he sat at a long wood bar with a black-and-white television hanging over it, and he watched that hunk of metal land a man on the moon.

On July 20, 1969 — the day of the landing — Thompson sipped his Budweiser and thought about all the people who had ever stared at that moon. Kings and queens and Jesus Christ himself. He marveled at how when it came time to reach it, the job started in Downey. The bartender wept.

On a warm day, almost a half-century later, Thompson curled his mouth beneath a white beard and talked about the bar that fell to make way for a freeway, the space-age factory that closed down and the town that is still waiting for its next great economic rocket, its new starship to the middle class.

Meanwhile, Madison schools’ plan to seek additional property tax increases (2015 referendumpdf board document) to find bricks and mortar. This proposal, rather ironically, perpetuates decades long demographic gaps.

Considering Madison’s K-12 Enrollment Projections: 2009 and 2014; Dramatic Demographic Variation Persists

The Madison School District recently published a brief K-12 enrollment history (2010- PDF) along with a look at school capacities (PDF).

Happily, a similar 2009 document is available here (PDF). This document includes 18 years of history, to 1990.

Yet, the District and community have long tolerated wide variation in demographics across the schools.

Tap for a larger version.

I found it interesting that a number of schools are well below capacity. Cherokee middle school is at 74% of capacity while nearby Hamilton is at 106%. Hamilton’s free and reduced lunch population is just 18% while Cherokee’s is 60% (!) Details.

The District is planning to raise property taxes via a spring, 2015 referendum. Said referendum, if passed would expand Hamilton Middle School (“four additional classrooms”), among others. This is quite remarkable with available capacity at nearby Cherokee.