Madison K-12 Achievement Data @ LaFollette 2020 Referendum Presentation

The presentation included assertions on redistributed state taxpayer dollars sent to Madison (2010 – 2019 data available here). The presentation did not mention total Madison K-12 spending , nor the implications of spending increase referendums on local property taxes and redistributed state taxpayer funds. In essence, the more a local school district exceeds state revenue … Continue reading Madison K-12 Achievement Data @ LaFollette 2020 Referendum Presentation

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. xlsx file. Related links: Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 tax and spending history. Madison spends around 18.5 to 20K per student, depending on the district documents reviewed (some include all referendum spending). Middleton taxpayers spent $90,989,198 for … Continue reading Let’s Compare: Middleton and Madison Property Taxes

No, voucher schools haven’t raised property taxes by $1B since 2011

Eric Litke: Voucher schools are an ongoing point of contention in Wisconsin’s divided government, with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers even promising to tighten or end the decades-old program. The system, which uses taxpayer money to send low-income students to private schools, has been tweaked and debated but ultimately expanded under Republican control in recent years. … Continue reading No, voucher schools haven’t raised property taxes by $1B since 2011

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Proposed property tax increases

Mark Sommerhauser: The increased tax bills are driven largely by Evers’ plan to boost by 2% the amount counties and municipalities could collect through local property tax levies. But a countervailing effect comes from Evers’ plan to give a $1.4 billion infusion of state aid to school districts in the next two years. That would … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Proposed property tax increases

2019 Madison Mayoral Election: Ongoing Disastrous K-12 Reading Result Indifference?

Dean Mosiman: The candidates are focusing on racial and economic inequities and the need for more low-cost housing despite a Soglin initiative supported by the City Council that’s delivered 1,000 lower-cost units. And they are talking about education, health care, transportation, public safety and climate change, especially in the wake of severe flooding that punished … Continue reading 2019 Madison Mayoral Election: Ongoing Disastrous K-12 Reading Result Indifference?

Commentary On Madison’s Ongoing Tax And Spending Growth; $494,652,025 Budget Spends Nearly $20k Per Student (Voucher schools operate on 60% less….)

Amber Walker: On Monday night, in a 7-0 decision, the Madison School Board approved the district’s $494,652,025 preliminary all-funds budget for the 2017-2018 school year. The Madison Metropolitan School District highlighted it’s balanced operating budget — representing $390,045,697 of the total funds — will result in a $15 per hour minimum wage for the district’s … Continue reading Commentary On Madison’s Ongoing Tax And Spending Growth; $494,652,025 Budget Spends Nearly $20k Per Student (Voucher schools operate on 60% less….)

Commentary (seems to lack data…) on Madison’s K-12 Tax & Spending Increase Referendum

It is unfortunate two recent articles on the upcoming Madison School District tax & spending increase referendum lack data, such as: Total Spending for the current budget ($449,482,373.22 more) – about $18,000/student. Chicago spends about $14,336/student, Boston $20,707 and Long Beach $12,671/student. Historic Spending Changes (spending increases every year) Academic Outcomes vs. Spending Comparison with … Continue reading Commentary (seems to lack data…) on Madison’s K-12 Tax & Spending Increase Referendum

Madison Schools 2016 Property Tax Increase Referendum – Let’s Compare: Madison and Middleton Property Taxes

The Madison School District is considering another property tax increase referendum for the upcoming November election. We’ve long spent more than most districts (“plenty of resources”), despite challenging academic outcomes. I thought it might be useful to revisit the choices homeowners and parents make. I’ve compared two properties, one in Middleton (2015 assessment: $257,500.00) and … Continue reading Madison Schools 2016 Property Tax Increase Referendum – Let’s Compare: Madison and Middleton Property Taxes

Public schools oppose loss of funding for students they don’t educate

Chris Rickert: It’s as if taxpayers face paying for a voucher student twice — once through state taxes for vouchers, and again through district property tax levies for, well, I’m not sure what, given that the voucher students are no longer in the districts. Dan Rossmiller, government relations director at the Wisconsin Association of School … Continue reading Public schools oppose loss of funding for students they don’t educate

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Ongoing Spending And Property Tax Growth….. Madison Plans Another 4.5% increase

Molly Beck: In April, 76 percent of the referendums to exceed revenue limits passed. That compares to a typical rate of about 50 percent in years prior. This represents a changing perception of the state’s support of public schools, said Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. “This reflects a shift in public opinion … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Ongoing Spending And Property Tax Growth….. Madison Plans Another 4.5% increase

Madison Government Schools Plan a 4.71% Property Tax Increase

Doug Erickson: Based on the more favorable general aid numbers, the district on Thursday reduced its 2015 tax levy to a 4.71 percent increase instead of 4.93 percent, a savings of about $6.25 for the owner of the average-priced home in the district, Barry said. Under the latest figures, the owner of a $245,894 home … Continue reading Madison Government Schools Plan a 4.71% Property Tax Increase

Commentary on Madison’s April 7, 2015 Maintenance Referendum; District spending data remains MIA

Molly Beck: If approved, the referendum would raise property taxes about $62 on the average $237,678 Madison home for 10 years. The district is still paying off $30 million in referendum debt for the construction of Olson and Chavez elementary schools in the late 2000s, according to the district. The final payment, for the Olson … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s April 7, 2015 Maintenance Referendum; District spending data remains MIA

Madison School District’s 2015-2016 Budget Goals & Priorities (Publish Total Spending?)

Madison School District (PDF): A. Alignment to Strategic Framework- In our vision to make every school a thriving school that prepares every student to be ready for college, career and community, these budget resources support the district’s goals and priorities as defined in our Strategic Framework. B. More equitable use of resources- As opposed to … Continue reading Madison School District’s 2015-2016 Budget Goals & Priorities (Publish Total Spending?)

Commentary and Results of the Madison School District’s Maintenance Referendum Survey (3% Response)

Madison School District Administration (PDF): MMSD received a total of 3,081 responses to the online survey. However, only Question #1 received the maximum number of responses; Questions #2-13 averaged around 2,200 respondents. Normally, a response rate is calculated by dividing the number of responses by the number of invitations to complete the survey. However, it … Continue reading Commentary and Results of the Madison School District’s Maintenance Referendum Survey (3% Response)

Madison Plans 4.2% Property Tax Increase

Molly Beck: The Madison School District property tax levy would increase by 4.2 percent under the district’s final budget proposal. That’s up from a 2 percent increase contained in the district’s preliminary budget approved in June. The final 2014-15 district budget, which must be adopted by the School Board by Nov. 1, also includes a … Continue reading Madison Plans 4.2% Property Tax Increase

Property Tax Increase Climate: Madison’s Proposed 2015 Spending Referendum

A variety of notes and links on the planned 2015 Madison School District Property Tax Increase referendum: Madison Schools’ PDF Slides on the proposed projects. Ironically, Madison has long supported a wide variation in low income distribution across its schools. This further expenditure sustains the substantial variation, from Hamilton’s 18% low income population to Black … Continue reading Property Tax Increase Climate: Madison’s Proposed 2015 Spending Referendum

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Madison/Dane County Property Taxes Highest in Wisconsin, 61st in USA

Nick Heynen: Using data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the report’s authors examined residential property taxes in every U.S. county from 2007 to 2011, looking at how much homeowners were paying on average and how that average compared to average home sale prices over the same time period. The data contained some interesting, … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Madison/Dane County Property Taxes Highest in Wisconsin, 61st in USA

Trial Balloon on Raising Madison’s Property Taxes via another School Referendum? Homeowners compare communities…..

Molly Beck There’s been little movement since mid-March when Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposed asking voters in November for $39.5 million in borrowing to upgrade facilities and address crowding. The proposed referendum’s annual impact on property taxes on a $200,000 Madison home could range from $32 to $44, according to the district. After … Continue reading Trial Balloon on Raising Madison’s Property Taxes via another School Referendum? Homeowners compare communities…..

Madison’s Latest Superintendent, one year hence: Deja Vu?

My simple thoughts on Madison’s latest Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham: How is the new Superintendent Doing? Our community faces several historic challenges: Despite spending double the national average per student, Madison’s reading results are a disaster. The Superintendent has been talking about this and there are indications that at least administrative attention to this urgent problem … Continue reading Madison’s Latest Superintendent, one year hence: Deja Vu?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: States Grapple With Unpopular Property Taxes; Madison Seeks Continue Annual Increases; Chicago to Fund Pension Deficits

Elaine S. Povich State Sen. David Argall thinks Pennsylvania’s law to fund schools with property taxes, which dates from the 1830s, has outlived its usefulness. He is pushing a bill that would eliminate property taxes levied by school districts and replace the revenue with higher state income and sales taxes. For the first time, his … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: States Grapple With Unpopular Property Taxes; Madison Seeks Continue Annual Increases; Chicago to Fund Pension Deficits

Madison Schools’ 2014-2015 $402,464,374 Budget Document (April, 2014 version)

The Madison School District (3MB PDF): Five Priority Areas (just like the “Big 10”) but who is counting! – page 6: – Common Core – Behavior Education Plan – Recruitment and hiring – New educator induction – Educator Effectiveness – Student, parent and staff surveys – Technology plan 2014-2015 “budget package” 3MB PDF features some … Continue reading Madison Schools’ 2014-2015 $402,464,374 Budget Document (April, 2014 version)

Elementary Data: Madison’s Proposed $39,500,000 Maintenance & Expansion Referendum

Madison Schools’ March, 2014 Facility Plan (PDF):: Shorewood Elementary: In conjunction with building an elevator tower, add a four-classroom addition. The additional classrooms are a relatively easy gain based on the building design. Shorewood’s 2013-2014 Low Income Population: 33.8%; All Madison Elementary Schools: 52.1% 2012-2013 Basic & Minimal Reading Proficiency: 34.3% Madison School District: 62.5% … Continue reading Elementary Data: Madison’s Proposed $39,500,000 Maintenance & Expansion Referendum

Latest Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 $391,834,829 Budget

Michael Barry (PDF):

The Board of Education must adopt a tax levy by November 6, 2013. We recommend a total tax levy for all Funds of $257,727,292. This is a 3.38% increase over the prior year, and a 1.09% decrease over the levy estimate included in the August 2013 preliminary budget. The Board’s ‘unused’ levy authority, which can be preserved and carried forward, is $8.9 million.
We also recommend that the Board adopt a Fall Budget for 2013-14 which will replace the preliminary budget approved in August. The Fall Budget has been updated to reflect the latest information regarding funding, grants, and actual staffing levels. A review of all budget line items was included in the update process, with adjustments made wherever necessary to improve the accuracy of the budget.
The materials included in this packet provide multiple layers of detail concerning the budget and tax levy, from the concise ‘DP! recommended budget format’ to more detailed views of the budget and levy.

The current 2013-2014 budget spends $391,834,829 for 27,186 pk-12 students or $14,413/student. Note that per student spending is not linear for pre-k plus full time students.
Related: Madison’s Planned $pending & Property Tax Increase: Does it Include $75/Student “Unrestricted” State Budget Increase (Outside of Revenue Caps)?, 45% (!) Increase in Madison Schools’ Fund 80 Property Taxes from the 2011-2012 to 2012-2013 School Year; No Mention of Total Spending, Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers and Madison’s disastrous reading results.

Minneapolis Property Taxes are over 50% less than Madison’s on a Similar Home; Mayoral Election Education Commentary

Beth Hawkins:

A cynic would be forgiven for wondering whether the press conference Minneapolis mayoral candidate Mark Andrew held Monday afternoon, flanked by five members of the school board, was at least partly an exercise in damage control.
At the session, held in the library at Windom Dual Immersion School in southwest Minneapolis, Andrew announced a three-pronged education agenda. At its center: a promise to convene a collaborative headed by education advocates with divergent philosophies, Mike Ciresi and Louise Sundin.
“The conversation about improving educational outcomes for kids of color has gotten extremely polarized and increasingly heated in the past several years,” Andrew explained in the plan. “The reformers vs. unions dichotomy is unproductive, and doesn’t serve the best interests of our children or find Minneapolis solutions to the problems in Minneapolis’ schools.”

Minneapolis plans to spend $524,944,868 (PDF budget book) during the 2013-2014 school year for 34,148 students or 15,364 per student, about the same as Madison.
Yet, property taxes are substantially lower in Minneapolis where a home currently on the market for $279,900 has a 2013 property tax bill of $3,433. A $230,000 Madison home pays $5,408.38 while a comparable Middleton home pays $4,648.18 in property taxes. Madison plans to increase property taxes 4.5% this year, after a 9% increase two years ago, despite a substantial increase in redistributed state tax dollar receipts. Yet, such history is often ignored during local tax & spending discussions. Madison Superintendent Cheatham offers a single data point response to local tax & spending policy, failing to mention the substantial increase in state tax receipts the year before:

When we started our budget process, we received the largest possible cut in state aid, over $8 million,” Cheatham said. “I’m pleased that this funding will make up a portion of that cut and help us accomplish what has been one of our goals all along: to reduce the impact of a large cut in state aid on our taxpayers.”

A bit more background.

Free dual enrollment is a big deal for many Roanoke students; Madison continues one size fits all approach

David Kaplan:

It’s now even easier and cheaper for local high school students to get a college education.
At a joint meeting between City Council, The Roanoke City School Board and Virginia Western the community college talked about it’s newest program.
Back in March, Virginia Western announced it’s waiving tuition for students taking dual enrollment classes.
Those are classes students can take in high school and earn college credit, but many students weren’t.
They can now.

Related: Obtaining credit for non Madison School District Courses has been an ongoing challenge. Perhaps this issue has faded away as past practices die? Madison’s non-diverse or homogeneous governance model inflicts numerous costs, from one size fits all curricula to growth in the ‘burbs accompanied by ever increasing property taxes on top of stagnant or declining income.

The Dichotomy of Madison School Board Governance: “Same Service” vs. “having the courage and determination to stay focused on this work and do it well is in itself a revolutionary shift for our district”.

The dichotomy that is Madison School Board Governance was on display this past week.
1. Board Member TJ Mertz, in light of the District’s plan to continue growing spending and property taxes for current programs, suggests that “fiscal indulgences“:

Tax expenditures are not tax cuts. Tax expenditures are socialism and corporate welfare. Tax expenditures are increases on anyone who does not receive the benefit or can’t hire a lobbyist…to manipulate the code to their favor.

be applied to certain school volunteers.
This proposal represents a continuation of the Districts’ decades long “same service” approach to governance, with declining academic results that spawned the rejected Madison Preparatory IB Charter School.
2. Madison’s new Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham introduced her “Strategic Framework” at Wednesday’s Downtown Rotary Club meeting.
The Superintendent’s letter (jpg version) (within the “framework” document) to the Madison Community included this statement (word cloud):

Rather than present our educators with an ever-changing array of strategies, we will focus on what we know works and implement these strategies extremely well. While some of the work may seem familiar, having the courage and determination to stay focused on this work and do it well is in itself a revolutionary shift for our district. This is what it takes to narrow and eliminate gaps in student achievement.

The Madison School Board’s letter (jpg version) to the community includes this statement:

Public education is under sustained attack, both in our state and across the nation. Initiatives like voucher expansion are premised on the notion that public schools are not up to the challenge of effectively educating diverse groups of students in urban settings.
We are out to prove that wrong. With Superintendent Cheatham, we agree that here in Madison all the ingredients are in place. Now it is up to us to show that we can serve as a model of a thriving urban school district, one that seeks out strong community partnerships and values genuine collaboration with teachers and staff in service of student success.
Our Strategic Framework lays out a roadmap for our work. While some of the goals will seem familiar, what’s new is a clear and streamlined focus and a tangible and energizing sense of shared commitment to our common goals.
The bedrock of the plan is the recognition that learning takes place in the classroom in the interactions between teachers and students. The efforts of all of us – from school board members to everyone in the organization – should be directed toward enhancing the quality and effectiveness of those interactions.
There is much work ahead of us, and the results we are expecting will not arrive overnight. But with focus, shared effort and tenacity, we can transform each of our schools into thriving schools. As we do so, Madison will be the school district of choice in Dane County.

Madison School Board word cloud:

Related: North Carolina Ends Pay Boosts for Teacher Master’s Degrees; Tenure for elementary and high-school teachers also eliminated

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed a budget bill Friday that eliminates teacher tenure and–in a rare move–gets rid of the automatic pay increase teachers receive for earning a master’s degree.
The legislation targets a compensation mechanism that is common in the U.S., where teachers receive automatic pay increases for years of service and advanced degrees. Some research has suggested those advanced degrees don’t lead to improved teaching.
Although a few other states have talked about doing away with the automatic pay increase for advanced degrees, experts say North Carolina is believed to be the first state to do so.
The budget bill–which drew hundreds of teachers to the Capitol in protest earlier this week–also eliminates tenure for elementary and high-school teachers and freezes teacher salaries for the fifth time in six years.
It comes as states and districts across the country are revamping teacher evaluations, salaries and job security, and linking them more closely to student performance. These changes have been propelled, in part, by the Obama administration and GOP governors.

The challenge for Madison is moving away from long time governance structures and practices, including a heavy (157 page pdf & revised summary of changes) teacher union contract. Chris Rickert’s recent column on Madison’s healthcare practices provides a glimpse at the teacher – student expenditure tension as well.
Then Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison Rotary speech offers important background on Madison’s dichotomy:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

“Budget Cuts: We Won’t Be as Bold and Innovative as Oconomowoc, and That’s Okay”.

Madison’s Proposed Property Tax Increase: Additional links, notes and emails

I received a kind email from Madison School Board President Ed Hughes earlier today regarding the proposed property tax increase associated with the 2013-2014 District budget.
Ed’s email:

Jim —
Your comparison to the tax rates in Middleton is a bit misleading. The Middleton-Cross Plains school district that has a mill rate that is among the lowest in Dane County. I am attaching a table (.xls file) that shows the mill rates for the Dane County school districts. As you will see, Madison’s mill rate is lower than the county average, though higher than Middleton’s. (Middleton has property value/student that is about 10% higher than Madison, which helps explain the difference.)
The table also includes the expenses/student figures relied upon by DPI for purposes of calculating general state aid for the 2012-13 school year. You may be surprised to see that Madison’s per-student expenditures as measured for these purposes is among the lowest in Dane County. Madison’s cost/student expenditures went up in the recently-completed school year, for reasons I explain here:

My followup email:
Hi Ed:
Thanks so much for taking the time to write and sending this along – including your helpful post.
I appreciate and will post this information.
That said, and as you surely know, “mill rate” is just one part of the tax & spending equation:
1. District spending growth driven by new programs, compensation & step increases, infinite campus, student population changes, open enrollment out/in,
2. ongoing “same service” governance, including Fund 80,
3. property tax base changes (see the great recession),
4. exempt properties (an issue in Madison) and
5. growth in other property taxes such as city, county and tech schools.
Homeowners see their “total” property taxes increasing annually, despite declining to flat income. Middleton’s 16% positive delta is material and not simply related to the “mill rate”.
Further, I continue to be surprised that the budget documents fail to include total spending. How are you evaluating this on a piecemeal basis without the topline number? – a number that seems to change every time a new document is discussed.
Finally, I would not be quite as concerned with the ongoing budget spaghetti if Madison’s spending were more typical for many districts along with improved reading results. We seem to be continuing the “same service” approach of spending more than most and delivering sub-par academic results for many students. (Note the recent expert review of the Madison schools Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap.)
That is the issue for our community.
Best wishes,
Related: Middleton-Cross Plains’ $91,025,771 2012-2013 approved budget (1.1mb PDF) for 6,577 students, or $13,840.01 per student, roughly 4.7% less than Madison’s 2012-2013 spending.

45% (!) Increase in Madison Schools’ Fund 80 Property Taxes from the 2011-2012 to 2012-2013 School Year; No Mention of Total Spending

July, 2013 Madison Schools 2013-2014 Budget Presentation (PDF). Notes:

  • No mention of total spending…. How might the Board exercise its oversight obligation without the entire picture?
  • The substantial increase in redistributed state tax dollars (due to 4K) last year is not mentioned. Rather, a bit of rhetoric: “The 2013-14 budget development process has focused on actions which begin to align MMSD resources with the Strategic Framework Priorities and strategies to manage the tax levy in light of a significant loss of state aid.” In fact, according to page 6, the District expects to receive $46,392,012 in redistributed state tax dollars, which is a six (6%) increase over the funds received two years ago.
  • The District’s fund equity (financial cushion, or reserves) has more than doubled in the past eight years, from $22,368,031 in 2005 to $46,943,263 in 2012.
  • Outbound open enrollment continues to grow, up 14% to 1,041 leavers in 2013 (281 inbound from other Districts).
  • There is no mention of the local tax or economic base:

  • The growth in Fund 80 (MSCR) property taxes and spending has been controversial over the years. Fund 80, up until recently was NOT subject to state imposed property tax growth limitations.
  • Matthew DeFour briefly summarizes the partial budget information here. DeFour mentions (no source referenced or linked – in 2013?) that the total 2013-2014 budget will be $391,000,000. I don’t believe it:

    The January, 2012 budget document mentioned “District spending remains largely flat at $369,394,753” (2012-2013), yet the “baseline” for 2013-2014 mentions planned spending of $392,807,993 “a decrease of $70,235 or (0.02%) less than the 2012-13 Revised Budget” (around $15k/student). The District’s budget generally increases throughout the school year, growing 6.3% from January, 2012 to April, 2013. Follow the District’s budget changes for the past year, here.

Finally, the document includes this brief paragraph:

Work will begin on the 2014-15 early this fall. The process will be zero-based, and every line item and FTE will be carefully reviewed to ensure that resources are being used efficiently. The budget development process will also include a review of benefit programs and procurement practices, among other areas.

One hopes that programs will indeed be reviewed and efforts focused on the most urgent issues, particularly the District’s disastrous reading scores.
Ironically, the recent “expert review” found that Analysis: Madison School District has resources to close achievement gap. If this is the case (and I agree with their conclusion – making changes will be extraordinarily difficult), what are students, taxpayers and citizens getting for the annual tax & spending growth?
I took a quick look at property taxes in Middleton and Madison on a $230,000 home. A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38.

Redux: Up, Down & Transparency: Madison Schools Received $11.8M more in State Tax Dollars last year, Local District Forecasts a Possible Reduction of $8.7M this Year; taxes up 9% a few years ago

Matthew DeFour:

Madison’s aid amount is about the same as it was in 2010-11. The district received a $15 million boost in aid last year mostly because 4-year-old kindergarten enrollment added about 2,000 students.
The Madison School Board taxed the maximum amount allowed last year, resulting in a 1.75 percent property tax increase. That amount was low compared to previous years because of the state aid increase. The additional funds allowed the district to spend more on building maintenance and a plan to raise low-income and minority student achievement.
Property tax increase coming
Cheatham said she hopes to propose a lower property tax increase than 6.8 percent when she introduces her budget on July 15. A group of local and national experts recently advised the district that it should reallocate more funding from the administration into classrooms. Cheatham expects to do a deeper review of district finances for the 2014-15 budget.
“I would not be reluctant to ask the taxpayers of Madison to support us with additional funding moving forward if I knew that we were spending every dollar in the best possible way to support the students in our school district,” Cheatham said. “I’ll know that next budget cycle.”
To reduce the budget, Cheatham said she doesn’t expect any major changes that will affect classroom learning.
Instead she could cut a 1.5 percent proposed increase in the employee salary schedule, reduce maintenance spending or make some previously recommended reductions in administrative positions.

Much more in the 2013-2014 budget, here.
Related: Up, Down & Transparency: Madison Schools Received $11.8M more in State Tax Dollars last year, Local District Forecasts a Possible Reduction of $8.7M this Year.
Madison spends significantly more per student than most districts. Property taxes were increased 9% just a few years ago.
Finally the ongoing tax increases may play a role in Madison School Board member Mary Burke’s rumored race for Governor

Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers


The charts reveal several larger stories:
First, the State of Wisconsin “committed” to 2/3 K-12 funding in the mid-1990’s. The increase in redistributed state tax dollars is apparent. [Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau: State Aid to School Districts (PDF)]
Second, Madison’s substantial real estate growth during the 2000’s supported growing K-12 spending while reducing the property tax rate (the overall pie grew so the “rate” could fall somewhat). The real estate music stopped in the late 2000’s (“Great Recession) and the tax rate began to grow again as the District consistently raised property taxes. *Note that there has been justifiable controversy over Madison’s large number of tax exempt properties. Fewer exemptions expands the tax base and (potentially) reduces individual homeowner’s taxes.
Third, Madison has long spent more per student than most public schools.
Fourth, the District’s June 10, 2013 budget document fails to address two core aspects of its mission: total spending and program effectiveness. The most recent 2012-2013 District budget number (via a Matthew DeFour email) is $392,789,303. This is up 4.4% from the July, 2012 District budget number: $376,200,000. The District’s budget has always – in my nine years of observation – increased throughout the school year. The late, lamented “citizen’s budget” was a short lived effort to create a standard method to track changes over time.
Fifth, the June 10, 2013 document does not include the District’s “Fund balance” or equity. The balance declined during the 2000’s, somewhat controversially, but it has since grown. A current number would be useful, particularly in light of Madison’s high property taxes.
Sixth, I took a quick look at property taxes in Middleton and Madison on a $230,000 home. A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38. Local efforts to significantly increase property taxes may grow the gap with Middleton.
Finally, years of spending and tax growth have not addressed the District’s long term-disastrous reading results. Are we doing the same thing over and over?

Commentary on Madison and Surrounding School Districts; Middleton’s lower Property Taxes

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

Here in Madison, our attention is primarily focused on our troubling achievement gaps, and those gaps are achingly apparent in the new WKCE scores. Under new superintendent Jen Cheatham’s leadership, we’ll continue to pursue the most promising steps to accelerate the learning of our African-American, Latino and Hmong students who have fallen behind.
At the same time, we also need to continue to meet the needs of our students who are doing well. I am going to focus on the latter groups of students in this post.
In particular, I want to take a look at how our Madison students stack up against those attending schools in other Dane County school districts under the new WKCE scoring scale. The demographics of our Madison schools are quite a bit different from those of our surrounding school districts. This can skew comparisons. To control for this a bit, I am going to compare the performance of Dane County students who do not fall into the “economically disadvantaged” category. I’ll refer to these students as “non-low income.”

I took a quick look at property taxes in Middleton and Madison on a $230,000 home. A Middleton home paid $4,648.16 in 2012 while a Madison home paid 16% more, or $5,408.38. Local efforts to significantly increase property taxes may grow the gap with Middleton.

Commentary on the Madison School District’s Floated 7.36% Property Tax Increase

Matthew DeFour

Madison School District property taxes for 2013 could increase 7.4 percent under budget recommendations being presented Monday to the Madison School Board.
That would be the biggest percent increase in the district’s property tax levy in a decade. Taxes on an average Madison home valued at $230,831 would total $2,855, a $182 increase from last year.
However, district officials cautioned the numbers likely will change once the state budget is finalized and new superintendent Jennifer Cheatham conducts a review of the district.
“Before I can feel comfortable recommending a tax increase I would want to make sure that every dollar is spent effectively and I can feel confident that the funds that we’re investing are going to pay off for students,” Cheatham said.

David Blaska

Did you get a 7.4% pay raise this year? State employees have forgone a pay raise the last couple years. They had to reach in their pockets to pay new health insurance and pension co-pays. Annuitants covered by the Wisconsin Retirement System have been treading water since 2009. Those who retired nine or more years ago are facing a 9.6% reduction in their pensions. Many of those, ironically, are retired teachers.
Yet the Madison School Board proposes a 1.5% across-the-board pay increase. Actually, reporter DeFour underreported the proposed pay increase. Add another 1% for the “step” increases to account for longevity to equal a 2.5% increase. Almost uniquely among taxpayer-supported employees these days, the district’s teachers still would pay nothing toward their generous health insurance benefits. Job security is nearly guaranteed. Meanwhile, the district acts as bagman for union boss John Matthews, deducting dues from teacher paychecks.
Can we expect the district to end that statutorily forbidden practice when the current contract expires after this June? Let’s hope so, unless the district hides behind Dane County Judge Juan Colas’ Act 10 ruling.
What would get the axe? Parent-teacher conferences. So much for addressing the achievement gap.

Related: Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.

Madison’s New Superintendent on Madison, Politics & Distractions

Pat Schneider:

You’ll find Jennifer Cheatham, new superintendent of the Madison School District, at the Capitol Wednesday when local education officials talk about how Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget would hurt Dane County schools.
But don’t expect her to be spending much time making political statements, Cheatham told me and other staff members of the Cap Times Tuesday. Too much focus on politics would distract her from her work in the Madison schools, she said.
“I think my major role is to work on improving schools in Madison. That’s why I was hired and I need to remain focused on that,” Cheatham said. “But I do think there are times it is important for me to voice my opinion on behalf of the school district on state issues.”
That includes the Walker education budget.
Cheatham is scheduled to be on hand at noon Wednesday when School Board members, superintendents, parents and other advocates from around Dane County talk about the impact of Walker’s education proposals in Room 411, the large Senate meeting room.
The Madison School Board has already actively lobbied against the Walker budget, urging local legislators not to support a plan that is “bad for our students, our taxpayers and the future of public education.”
Board members say expanding vouchers into Madison, as Walker has proposed, is a particularly bad idea. They note there’s no consistent evidence that kids using publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools do better academically, and they say that funding vouchers is likely to raise local property taxes.
It’s not just school officials who are weighing in on the highly politicized issue of school vouchers. The Madison City Council passed a resolution last month, sponsored by all 20 members, opposing expansion of vouchers to Madison. The Dane County Board is considering a similar resolution.

Reading has been job one for quite some time, unfortunately.
Right to read lawsuit filed in Michigan.

Notes on a Recent Madison School Board Candidate Forum


“For the past 24 years as a criminal justice practitioner, what I’ve seen is the kids not succeeding in the schools are ending up in juvenile and ultimately our criminal justice system.” Howard said he would continue to work for students at all achievement levels, and said his time on the board has taught him to be selective in approving programs to implement. “We have to figure out a way to raise all (test) scores up, and we’re doing that by implementing a brand new literacy program in all our schools,” he said. Howard, answering a question from Mertz, said he was concerned that raising property taxes by the maximum amount allowed puts too much of a burden on taxpayers. Mertz disagreed, saying schools need all the money they can get. For video on this story, visit the video section He cited trust as the district’s biggest obstacle. “As a community, trust has been broken,” he said. “We can’t get at the achievement gap unless the parents trust the teachers, the teachers trust the administration, and the board trusts the administration.”
Howard, answering a question from Mertz, said he was concerned that raising property taxes by the maximum amount allowed puts too much of a burden on taxpayers.
Mertz disagreed, saying schools need all the money they can get.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election and Madison’s 14.5k per student spending, here.

Wisconsin State Journal Madison School Board Endorsements

Wisconsin State Journal:

The Wisconsin State Journal editorial board interviewed — in person — 20 candidates for the City Council and four for Madison School Board. Every candidate deserves praise for giving voters a choice.
Yet the candidates pictured below are best prepared to tackle local challenges, including a dismal graduation rate for minority students and the need for a stronger economy and more jobs.
Seat 3
Wayne Strong will bring urgency to narrowing the achievement gap for minority students in Madison schools, while insisting on high standards for all. A father of two Madison graduates and an active community volunteer, Strong served on the strategic committee that prioritized the gap for action. Strong promises more accountability for results, starting with the new superintendent. He also wants to improve the school climate for minority families to encourage more involvement. A retired police officer, he’s well versed on effective strategies for reducing conflicts in schools that often lead to suspensions — “the genesis of the problem.” Strong’s opponent, Dean Loumos, is impressive, too. But Strong seems more willing to try new strategies for success.
Seat 4
James Howard likes to focus on school data to inform board decisions, rather than relying on assumptions or bowing to political pressure. The longtime economist and father of Madison students doesn’t go along to get along. Yet his peers elected him board president, and he played a big role in hiring incoming Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham. Howard expects action toward better results for struggling students. He wants to hire more minority educators and let key staff work flexible hours to better engage parents. Unlike his opponent, Greg Packnett, Howard cites concern for the burden property taxes place on older homeowners. A legislative aide at the Capitol, Packnett shows promise. But Howard’s experience makes him the clear choice.

Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board election, here.

Up, Down & Transparency: Madison Schools Received $11.8M more in State Tax Dollars last year, Local District Forecasts a Possible Reduction of $8.7M this Year

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School District stands to lose millions of dollars in state aid under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal, district officials said Wednesday.
The district is projecting an $8.7 million, 15 percent reduction in state aid, Superintendent Jane Belmore said in an interview.
She cautioned that the amount is a preliminary estimate based on the governor’s 2013-15 budget proposal, which could undergo changes by the Legislature.
The district is preparing its 2013-14 budget, and it’s unclear when a proposal will be finalized. School districts typically develop spending plans for the following year before knowing exactly how much money they’ll get in state aid.
Walker’s budget calls for a 1 percent increase in state aid, but Belmore said when district staff put the amount through the state’s complicated funding formula it resulted in the reduction. State Department of Public Instruction officials couldn’t verify the district’s estimate.
This year’s $394 million school budget included $249.3 million in property taxes, a 1.75 percent increase over the previous year.

One would hope that any budget article should include changes over time, which DeFour unfortunately neglects. Madison received an increase of $11.8M in redistributed state tax dollars last year.
In addition, DeFour mentions that the current budget is 394,000,000. The most recent number I have seen is $385,886,990. where has the additional $8,113,010 come from? where is it being spent? was there a public discussion? Per student spending is now $14,541.42.
Related: Ed Hughes on School District numbers in 2005: in 2005::

This points up one of the frustrating aspects of trying to follow school issues in Madison: the recurring feeling that a quoted speaker – and it can be someone from the administration, or MTI, or the occasional school board member – believes that the audience for an assertion is composed entirely of idiots.

Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Tony Evers (running for re-election in 2013) Proposes New State Tax $ Redistribution Scheme

Jennifer Zahn and Erin Richards:

State Superintendent Tony Evers on Monday reintroduced a proposal from two years ago to increase state funding for public education and change the way the state finances its public schools as part of his 2013-’15 budget request.
The proposal calls for a 2.4% increase in state aid in the first year of the budget and a 5.5% increase in 2014-’15, which Evers said would put the state back on track to return to two-thirds’ state support for public school costs by 2017.
The Department of Public Instruction’s 2013-’15 budget proposal guarantees state funding of $3,000 per pupil and would result in every school district either getting more state money or the same money as before, but Republican legislators on Monday did not express confidence in the total package.
Luther Olsen, chair of the Senate Education Committee and a Republican from Ripon, said Evers’ “Fair Funding for our Future” plan just shifts money around between districts and doesn’t really award more money to schools.
Olsen did say he would like to increase districts’ revenue limit authority per student – or the combined amount they can raise in state general aid and local property taxes – by at least $200 per pupil starting in the first year of the next biennial budget.
Evers announced his 2013-’15 state public education budget request Monday at Irving Elementary School in West Allis.


Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the proposal will be reviewed in the context of the overall budget, but said education is one of Walker’s top budget priorities.
“The governor will work to build off of the work done with Superintendent Evers on school district accountability and Read to Lead as he creates the first version of the state budget, which will be introduced early next year,” Werwie said.
Evers also said he’ll run for re-election next year, adding that despite the funding cuts, he’s excited to continue pushing reform and accountability.
“In order for us to create a new middle class and to move our state forward in a positive way, our public schools need to be strong, and the reforms we’re implementing now are going a long way toward accomplishing that,” Evers said. “We’re in a great place as a state and we’ll keep plugging away.”
Various conservative education sources said no candidate has come forward to challenge Evers yet, but talks were ongoing with potential challengers. Nomination papers can be circulated Dec. 1 and are due back to the GAB Jan. 2.

Matthew DeFour has more.

Is Teacher Union “Collective Bargaining” Good for Students?

The Madison School Board has scheduled [PDF] a 2:00p.m. meeting tomorrow, Sunday 30 September for an “Initial exchange of proposals and supporting rationale for such proposals in regard to collective bargaining negotiations regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) for MMSD Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) Teachers, Substitute Teachers, Educational Assistants, Supportive Educational Employees (SEE), and School Security Assistants (SSA), held as a public meeting pursuant to Wis. Stat. §111.70(4)(cm)”.
The School Board along with other Madison area governments have moved quickly to negotiate or extend agreements with several public sector unions after a judicial decision overturning parts of Wisconsin’s Act 10. The controversial passage of Act 10 changed the dynamic between public sector organizations and organized labor.
I’ve contemplated these events and thought back to a couple of first hand experiences:
In the first example, two Madison School District teacher positions were being reduced to one. Evidently, under the CBA, both had identical tenure so the choice was a coin toss. The far less qualified teacher “won”, while the other was laid off.
In the second example, a Madison School District teacher and parent lamented to me the poor teacher one of their children experienced (in the same District) and that “there is nothing that can be done about it”.
In the third example, a parent, after several years of their child’s “mediocre” reading and writing experiences asked that they be given the “best teacher”. The response was that they are “all good”. Maybe so.
Conversely, I’ve seen a number of teachers go far out of their way to help students learn, including extra time after school and rogue curricula such as phonics and Singapore Math.
I am unaware of the School Board meeting on a Sunday, on short notice, to address the District’s long time reading problems.
A bit of background:
Exhibit 1, written in 2005 illustrating the tyranny of low expectations” “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”.
Exhibit 2, 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison speech to the Madison Rotary Club is worth reading:

“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).

William Rowe has commented here frequently on the challenges of teacher evaluation schemes.
This being said, I do find it informative to observe the Board’s priorities in light of the District’s very serious reading problems.
This article is worth reading in light of local property taxes and spending priorities: The American Dream of upward mobility has been losing ground as the economy shifts. Without a college diploma, working hard is no longer enough.

Unlike his parents, John Sherry enrolled in college after graduating from high school in Grand Junction, a boom-bust, agriculture-and-energy outpost of 100,000 inhabitants on Colorado’s western edge. John lasted two years at Metropolitan State University in Denver before he dropped out, first to bag groceries at Safeway, later to teach preschool children, a job he still holds. He knew it was time to quit college when he failed statistics two semesters in a row. Years passed before John realized just how much the economic statistics were stacked against him, in a way they never were against his father.
Greg Sherry, who works for a railroad, is 58 and is chugging toward retirement with an $80,000-a-year salary, a full pension, and a promise of health coverage for life. John scrapes by on $11 an hour, with few health benefits. “I feel like I’m working really hard,” he says, “but I’m not getting ahead.”
This isn’t the lifestyle that John’s parents wished upon their younger child. But it reflects the state of upward–or downward–mobility in the American economy today.

Related: Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding.
TJ Mertz comments on collective bargaining, here and here.
Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes: Didn’t See That One Coming: How the Madison School Board Ended Up Back in Collective Bargaining.
The Capital Times: Should local governments negotiate with employees while the constitutionality of the collective bargaining law is being appealed?

Madison Looks To Arlington, VA Schools for Achievement Gap Solutions; Arlington’s Tax Base & Demographics Quite Difference

Madison School District PDF Summary Document:

The 2005 to 2011 Strategic Plan was adopted by the School Board in June 2005. It outlines major objectives for the Arlington Public Schools for the six years covered by the plan. The Strategic Plan process was designed to result in clear direction for the school system that focuses on improved student learning for all students. For each goal of the plan, the School Board has defined specific objectives, indicators, and targets or benchmarks to measure progress over each of the 6 years. This summary provides selected findings from the results presented for 2009-10.


I hope the Madison School Board reviews additional Districts. Arlington’s demographics and tax base are substantially different than Madison.

Raising Taxes & Cutting the School Budget in Dekalb, GA

Ty Tagami:

DeKalb County property owners will pay more in school taxes next year while class sizes rise under an austerity budget approved by the school board Thursday.
The board voted to raise taxes. It also increased class sizes, even for special education students, while adding two furlough days for teachers and cutting the number of their aides.
The Fernbank Science Center suffered, too, but not as badly as previously proposed. The board cut $1.9 million — about 40 percent — from the center’s $4.7 million budget; Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson had recommended a $3.2 million cut.

Dekalb County schools will spend $774,600,000 to support approximately 95,958 students ($8,072/student). Madison plans to spend about $15,132 / student during the 2012-2013 budget cycle, about 46% greater than DeKalb schools.

State Income Tax Collections Per Capita, Madison’s 4.95% Property Tax Increase

via Taxprof.
Meanwhile, the Madison School Board approved a 4.95% property tax increase Monday evening.

The Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education passed a budget on Monday night for the 2012-2013 school year.
The $376.2 million budget passed late Monday increases overall spending by 0.8 percent, and the levy by 4.95 percent.
Taxes on the average Madison home are expected to increase by approximately $85 a year. The board also decided to dip into its “rainy day” fund to cover additional expenses.

The $376,200,000 2012-2013 Madison School District budget spends $15,132 for each of its 24,861 students. Madison’s per student spending is about 45% higher than the Austin, TX school district.
Related: Madison’s property taxes flat in 2011 after a 9% increase in 2010.

Next Steps for Madison Schools’ 2012-2013 $374,700,000 Budget

Todd Finkelmeyer:

But as the School Board prepares to sign off on a final, scaled back version of the district’s achievement gap plan on Monday night, it appears a little wind has been taken out of the sails of an initiative that had many in the community talking this past winter.
“This whole discussion has been a bit hard to follow in recent weeks,” says Kaleem Caire, the president of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “The plan started out as one thing and then became something else and then became something else. To be honest, though, I’m not sure this issue ever got the momentum in the community that I thought it would.”
The School Board is meeting Monday at 6 p.m. at the district’s Doyle Administration Building (545 W. Dayton St.) to give preliminary approval for a 2012-13 budget. Superintendent Dan Nerad’s $374.7 million budget proposal released late last month includes $4.4 million next year to fund the achievement gap plan, which is down significantly from the $12.4 million price tag that was originally attached to the project.
“When the original plan was presented it was based on a view that there isn’t just one thing that any school district can do, and there isn’t any one thing that the community can do, to solve this problem,” says Nerad. “Instead, we needed to look at the many things that need to be in place if we’re going to have the elimination of this disparate achievement. But in the end, we also had to make sure we took into account other budget needs and to present a sustainable plan, so reductions were made.”
Nerad’s budget proposal also includes a $3.5 million increase in funding for maintenance. The entire budget, as proposed by the superintendent, would increase the amount the district levies for taxes by 4.1 percent — to $11.78 per $1,000 of assessed value. For the average-priced home in Madison, it’s estimated that school property taxes would increase $68.12.

Related: notes and links on the 2011-2012 Madison school district budget, which spent roughly $369,394,753 for 24,861 students ($14,858.40 / student).
And, more from Birmingham, Michigan on their Superintendent search. Birmingham spends about 10% less per student than Madison.

Preparing the Way for a Madison School District Maintenance Referendum

Gayle Worland::

The analysis comes on the heels of a 2012-13 budget for the district proposed by Nerad that would increase Madison School District property taxes by 4.1 percent. Nerad’s $379.3 million budget did not specify a funding source for his high-profile plan to raise the achievement levels of low-income and minority students, originally estimated to cost $105.6 million over the next five years.
The report outlines several options for doubling the district’s maintenance funds, such as using money already within the district’s budget, increasing the property tax levy, using current and future equity reserves, long-term borrowing, or asking voters to approve a referendum that would allow for annual increases for maintenance.
The district spends $4.5 million, or 2.77 percent of its budget, on facility maintenance, which the committee recommended increasing by $4.2 million.
That would amount to $566 per pupil, according to the report. By contrast, the Monona Grove school district spends $1,825 per pupil on facility costs; Sun Prairie schools spend $1,787; and Waunakee spends $1,443, the report said.

Related regarding the most recent Madison School District maintenance referendum: Madison School Board member may seek audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent.

Madison School Board reviews Proposed $373,000,000 Budget

The Madison Metropolitan School District Board reviewed the almost $373 million budget proposed by Superintendent Dan Nerad Monday night.
If the superintendent’s budget is approved, Madison property taxes could increase more than four percent, about a $100 tax increase on the average home in Madison.
The estimate does not include a proposed $12.4 million put aside to help the achievement gap in Madison schools.
The budget already poses an estimated $12.4 million deficit.

Related: Singapore vs. Madison/US Schools: Do We (Americans) Put Money into Our Children?

Positioning The Madison School District’s 2012-2013 Budget

Matthew DeFour

Madison School District officials hope to avoid layoffs and spare employees from contributing to their health insurance premiums next school year, though to do so they might have to raise property taxes.
Superintendent Dan Nerad won’t make his preliminary budget recommendations until April 1, but in its first look at the 2012-13 school budget, the district is projecting a $12.4 million deficit based on current budget trends.
Factoring in rising insurance and fuel costs, the district projects general fund spending of $319.7 million, up from $310.9 million this year. Revenues are projected to be $307.3 million.
The district is looking at several options to close the gap, such as eliminating its most expensive health insurance option, renegotiating nonunion employee contracts, energy efficiency projects, refinancing debt and raising property taxes, said Erik Kass, assistant superintendent for business services.
“The hope is we won’t have to take more out of employee pockets or do any layoffs,” Kass said.

Unfortunately, DeFour’s article does not include the District’s total proposed spending, rather it mentions just one portion. It would be better to not mention such incomplete numbers, rather than further muddying the often challenging budget “transparency”. The District will spend roughly $370,000,000 +/- a few million in 2011-2012:

2011-2012 Revised Budget 1.3MB PDF (Budget amendments document). District spending remains largely flat at $369,394,753, yet “Fund Equity”, or the District’s reserves, has increased to $48,324,862 from $22,769,831 in 2007 (page 24). The District’s property tax “underlevy” (increases allowed under Wisconsin school revenue limits which are based on student population changes, successful referendums along with carve-outs such as Fund 80, among others) will be $13,084,310. It also appears that property taxes will be flat (page 19) after a significant 9% increase last year. Interestingly, MSCR spending is up 7.97% (page 28).
2011-2012 enrollment is 24,861. $369,394,753 planned expenditures results in per student spending of $14,858.40.

Related: Wisconsin Property Tax Growth: 1984-2012 (!).

Communities Rebel Against Cuomo’s Cap on Local Property Taxes; Madison’s Property Taxes Flat this year after a 9% increase in 2010

The Madison School Board unanimously adopted the 2011-12 district budget and tax levy on Monday, saving the average Madison homeowner $2.74 over their 2010-11 property tax bill.
The $372 million budget requires the district to levy slightly more than $245 million in taxes, down 0.03 percent, or about $62,000, from last year’s levy.
The district gets more than $40 million in state funding and more than $10 million in federal funding. The rest of the budget gap is filled by student fees, special education funding and small-class-size funding, said Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Erik Kass.
Superintendent Dan Nerad’s $3.5 million spending recommendations were amended into the adopted budget, but Kass said $2.5 million of that amount was reallocated money that already was built into June’s preliminary budget.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2011-2012 $372,000,000 budget, here.

2011-2012 $369,394,753 Madison Schools Budget update

2011-2012 Revised Budget 1.3MB PDF (Budget amendments document). District spending remains largely flat at $369,394,753, yet “Fund Equity“, or the District’s reserves, has increased to $48,324,862 from $22,769,831 in 2007 (page 24). The District’s property tax “underlevy” (increases allowed under Wisconsin school revenue limits which are based on student population changes, successful referendums along with carve-outs such as Fund 80, among others) will be $13,084,310. It also appears that property taxes will be flat (page 19) after a significant 9% increase last year. Interestingly, MSCR spending is up 7.97% (page 28).
2011-2012 enrollment is 24,861. $369,394,753 planned expenditures results in per student spending of $14,858.40.
I welcome clarifications and updates to these numbers, which are interesting. We’ve seen a doubling of District reserves over the past few years while spending has remained relatively flat as has enrollment.
Finally, this is worth reading in light of the District’s 2011-2012 numbers: Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad Advocates Additional Federal Tax Dollar Spending & Borrowing via President Obama’s Proposed Jobs Bill.

Madison Preparatory IB Charter School School Board Discussion Notes

Matthew DeFour:

Madison Preparatory Academy will receive the first half of a $225,000 state planning grant after the Madison School Board determined Thursday that the revised proposal for the charter school addresses legal concerns about gender equality.
Madison Schools Superintendent Dan Nerad announced the decision following a closed School Board meeting.
Questions still remain about the cost of the proposal by the Urban League of Greater Madison, which calls for a school for 60 male and 60 female sixth-graders geared toward low-income minorities that would open next year.
“I understand the heartfelt needs for this program,” Nerad said, but “there are other needs we need to address.”

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

The school district does not have a lot of spare money lying around that it can devote to Madison Prep. Speaking for myself, I am not willing to cut educational opportunities for other students in order to fund Madison Prep. If it turns out that entering into a five-year contract with Madison Prep would impose a net cost of millions of dollars on the school district, then, for me, we’d have to be willing to raise property taxes by that same millions of dollars in order to cover the cost.
It is not at all clear that we’d be able to do this even if we wanted to. Like all school districts in the state, MMSD labors under the restrictions of the state-imposed revenue caps. The law places a limit on how much school districts can spend. The legislature determines how that limit changes from year to year. In the best of times, the increase in revenues that Wisconsin school districts have been allowed have tended to be less than their annual increases in costs. This has led to the budget-slashing exercises that the school districts endure annually.
In this environment, it is extremely difficult to see how we could justify taking on the kind of multi-million dollar obligation that entering into a five-year contract with Madison Prep would entail. Indeed, given the projected budget numbers and revenue limits, it seems inevitable that signing on to the Madison Prep proposal would obligate the school district to millions of dollars in cuts to the services we provide to our students who would not attend Madison Prep.
A sense of the magnitude of these cuts can be gleaned by taking one year as an example. Since Madison Prep would be adding classes for seven years, let’s look at year four, the 2015-16 school year, which falls smack dab in the middle.

TJ Mertz:

Last night I (TJ) was asked to leave the meeting on African American issues in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) advertised as being facilitated by the Department of Justice Community Relations Service (DOJ CRS) and hosted or convened by the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) with the consent and participation of MMSD. I was told that if I did not leave, the meeting would be canceled. The reason given was that I write a blog (see here for some background on the exclusion of the media and bloggers and here for Matt DeFour’s report from outside the meeting).
I gave my word that I would not write about the meeting, but that did not alter the request. I argued that as a parent and as someone who has labored for years to address inequities in public education, I had both a legitimate interest in being there and the potential to contribute to the proceedings. This was acknowledged and I was still asked to leave and told again that the meeting would not proceed if I did not leave. I asked to speak to the DOJ CRS representatives in order to confirm that this was the case and this request was repeatedly refused by Kaleem Caire of the ULGM.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

An idea hatched in Madison aims to give parents with boys in Wisconsin’s second-largest city another positive option for their children. It’s an idea that ought to be channeled to Milwaukee.
Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men would feature the rigorous International Baccalaureate program, longer days, a longer school year and lofty expectations for dress and behavior for boys in sixth grade through high school. And while it would accept all comers, clearly it is designed to focus on low-income boys of color. Backers hope to open a year from now.
One of the primary movers behind Madison Prep is Kaleem Caire, the head of the Urban League of Madison, who grew up in the city and attended Madison West High School in 1980s, Alan J. Borsuk explained in a column last Sunday. Caire later worked in Washington, D.C., as an education advocate before returning to Madison.
Caire saw too many young black men wash out and end up either dead or in jail, reported Borsuk, a senior fellow in law and public policy at Marquette University Law School. And Caire now is worried, as are we, about the atrocious statistics that place young black boys so far behind their white peers.

Rebecca Kemble:

The Department of Justice official explained the shadowy, confidential nature of the Community Relations Service to the audience by describing the kinds of situations it intervenes in, mostly having to do with hate crimes and rioting. He said in no uncertain terms, “We are not here to do an investigation,” and even asked for the audience members to repeat the sentence with him. He then went on to ask for people to respect the confidentiality of those raising issues, and laid out the structure of the meeting: 30 minutes for listing problems relating to the achievement gap and 45 minutes generating solutions.
I will respect the confidentiality of the content of the meeting by not repeating it. However, I will say that what was said in that room was no different that what has been said at countless other open, public meetings with the School District and in community groups on the same topic, the only difference being that there were far fewer parents in the room and few if any teachers.
It turned out that the Department of Justice secretive meeting was a convenient way to pack the house with a captive audience for yet another infomercial about Madison Prep. Kaleem Caire adjourned the one meeting and immediately convened an Urban League meeting where he gave his Madison Prep sales pitch yet again. About 1/3 of the audience left at that point.

Superintendent Comments on Wisconsin School Budgets

Susan Troller:

In his rural district, which serves 249 students, the 2011-13 state budget has been nothing to celebrate. In fact, it has accelerated a difficult process of belt-tightening that’s been going on for almost 20 years due to revenue controls that have limited the amount districts can increase taxes to keep up with rising costs. The revenue controls hit some schools especially hard, especially those with declining enrollment, high-needs students or high property values. The new state budget’s huge reduction in overall aid for schools — $793 million over the biennium — accompanied by new limits on how much money districts can raise in property taxes to offset those losses — has, for many school districts, made a bad situation worse.
According to Quinton, Pepin parents are supportive of education, and he credits his School Board and staff for helping run “a tight financial ship.” Nonetheless, many of the district’s programs and services have been trimmed once again, from transportation to teaching staff, athletics to academic assistance for at-risk students. Paring back has been a way of life in Pepin for many years, Quinton says, but the newest round of losses caused by this budget cut to the bone.


Wisconsin State Tax Based K-12 Spending Growth Far Exceeds University Funding and K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Wisconsin State and Local Debt Rose Faster Than Federal Debt During 1990-2009 Average Annual Increase in State Debt, 7.8%; Local Debt, 7.3%
Wisconsin’s essential challenge is to grow the economy. We’ve been falling behind Minnesota for decades.
Siobhan Hughes:

The U.S. economy will have another big budget deficit in fiscal 2011 and faces at least a couple more years of sluggish growth, as the effects of the recent recession persist, government forecasters said Wednesday.
The Congressional Budget Office projected a deficit of almost $1.3 trillion for fiscal 2011. Though that will mark the third straight year of deficits above $1 trillion, the deficit forecast was a slight improvement from the almost $1.4 trillion estimated in an April analysis and reflected higher-than-anticipated revenue from individual income taxes.
The outlook for the U.S. economy also remains challenging, with growth expected to remain too slow this year and next year to make a big dent in the unemployment rate. The jobless rate will fall to 8.9% by the end of calendar 2011 and 8.5% by the end of 2012, the forecast said, as the economy grows by 2.3% this year and 2.7% next year, measured from fourth quarter to fourth quarter.

Student mental health: ‘Need far outweighs resources’

Matthew DeFour:

With nearly one in six students exhibiting mental health problems and fewer specialists to monitor their behavior, Madison school and community leaders are launching new efforts to better treat student mental health.
The Madison school district is expanding services this fall, and Superintendent Dan Nerad is calling for a task force from the broader community, including health care providers, to review the issue and devise solutions.
“The need far outweighs the resources that are currently available,” Nerad said.
Local experts say untreated children’s mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress can result in lower academic performance, higher dropout rates, and more classroom disruptions, truancy and crime.
The problems are often exacerbated by childhood trauma related to poverty, domestic violence and substance abuse. Madison’s growing number of low-income students, who account for two-thirds of those exhibiting mental health problems, also face barriers to accessing mental health services, local experts and advocates say.

TJ Mertz advocates property tax increases to support additional Madison School District expenditures.

Madison School District Literacy Program; 2011-12 Proposed Budget Hearing Remarks

We urge the Board of Education to approve and implement the initiatives and budget proposed for the school-wide literacy program [Public Appearance Remarks]. It is deplorable that heretofore there has been no systematic plan to address the reading and writing shortcomings of the District. These shortcomings are the most fundamental causative factor contributing to the poor achievement performance of our students. The proposed design of systemic changes to the curriculum, instructional strategies, engagement of teachers, support staff, students and parents/other adults and the realignment of financial and other resources will result in measurable student growth. Board adoption of the $650,000.00 2011-12 budget considerations is an absolute necessity of the very highest priority.
Our thanks and compliments to the Board and the administration for undertaking the assessment of literacy in the District. However, the Board must take a greatly increased leadership role in demanding the vigorous evaluation and assessment all programs, services and personnel throughout the District. There must be demonstrable commitment and evidence of the systematic implementation of the strategic objective of the five-year District Strategic Plan to address the woefully inadequate and insufficient data upon which to make decisions about curriculum, instruction and performance of students and staff.
The Board must not give any support for an increase in property taxes in finalizing the 2011-12 budget. Nor, is there any justification for using any amount of “under-levy carry-over” if such authorization should be re-instated by the state. There is no evidence to support an increase in taxes. We must be able to prioritize the expenditure of revenues available within the limits established. The Board has already demonstrated it cannot effectively manage its allocations to areas of highest need to strengthen the impact on curriculum, instruction and performance affecting student learning. Until and unless the Board can demonstrate a higher and more effective level of leadership with its decisions and priorities it cannot be trusted with more money that will only get the same results.
We support an increase in allocations for maintenance and electrical infrastructure up-grades conditional upon 1) re-allocation of existing funds to these areas; 2) clear and enumerated priorities, established in advance, for maintenance projects that are specifically related to safety issues; and 3) electrical infrastructure up-grades specifically related to priorities established for improvements and expansion of technology as identified in the Technology Plan for use in student learning, instruction, business services and communications with the public.
The Board must not give approval to the proposed amendment for providing staff with year-end bonuses. This is absolutely the wrong message, for the wrong reasons at the wrong time. It cannot be justified in ‘rewarding’ those staff who wrongfully abdicated their responsibilities in the classroom to the students; by insulting those staff who did attempt to fulfill their responsibilities; as well as insulting the parents and students harmed by those detrimental actions. It would be far better to allocate the ‘savings funds’ to resources actively and directly impacting student learning. The Board must make a commitment to providing leadership toward academic improvements and to creating a working culture of mutual trust and collaboration with employees and taxpayers.
For further information contact: Don Severson, 577-0851

PLEASE JOIN US MONDAY! Madison Board of Education to Vote on Madison Prep; costs clarified

March 25, 2011
Dear Friends & Colleagues,
On Monday evening, March 28, 2011 at 6pm, the Madison Metropolitan School District’s (MMSD) Board of Education will meet to vote on whether or not to support the Urban League’s submission of a $225,000 charter school planning grant to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. This grant is essential to the development of Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men, an all-male 6th – 12th grade public charter school.
Given the promise of our proposal, the magnitude of longstanding achievement gaps in MMSD, and the need for adequate time to prepare our final proposal for Madison Prep, we have requested full support from the school board.
Monday’s Board meeting will take place at the Doyle Administration Building (545 West Dayton Street) next to the Kohl Center. We hope you will come out to support Madison Prep as this will be a critical vote to keep the Madison Prep proposal moving forward. Please let us know if you’ll be attending by clicking here. If you wish to speak, please arrive at 5:45pm to register.
Prior to you attending, we want to clarify misconceptions about the costs of Madison Prep.
The REAL Costs versus the Perceived Costs of Madison Prep
Recent headlines in the Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ) reported that Madison Prep is “less likely” to be approved because of the size of the school’s projected budget. The article implied that Madison Prep will somehow cost the district more than it currently spends to educate children. This, in fact, is not accurate. We are requesting $14,476 per student for Madison Prep’s first year of operation, 2012-2013, which is less than the $14,802 per pupil that MMSD informed us it spends now. During its fifth year of operation, Madison Prep’s requested payment from MMSD drops to $13,395, which is $1,500 less per student than what the district says it spends now. Madison Prep will likely be even more of a savings to the school district by the fifth year of operation given that the district’s spending increases every year.
A March 14, 2011 memo prepared by MMSD Superintendent Daniel Nerad and submitted to the Board reflects the Urban League’s funding requests noted above. This memo also shows that the administration would transfer just $5,541 per student – $664,925 in total for all 120 students – to Madison Prep in 2012-2013, despite the fact that the district is currently spending $14,802 per pupil. Even though it will not be educating the 120 young men Madison Prep will serve, MMSD is proposing that it needs to keep $8,935 per Madison Prep student.

Therefore, the Urban League stands by its request for equitable and fair funding of $14,476 per student, which is less than the $14,802 MMSD’s administration have told us they spend on each student now. As Madison Prep achieves economies of scale, reaches its full enrollment of 420 sixth through twelfth graders, and graduates its first class of seniors in 2017-18, it will cost MMSD much less than what it spends now. A cost comparison between Madison Prep, which will enroll both middle and high school students at full enrollment, and MMSD’s Toki Middle School illustrates this point.

We have also attached four one-page documents that we prepared for the Board of Education. These documents summarize key points on several issues about which they have expressed questions.
We look forward to seeing you!
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Main: 608-729-1200
Assistant: 608-729-1249
Fax: 608-729-1205

Kaleem Caire, via email.
Madison Preparatory Academy Brochure (PDF): English & Spanish.
DPI Planning Grant Application: Key Points and Modifications.
Update: Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes: What To Do About Madison Prep:

In order to maintain Madison Prep, the school district would have to find these amounts somewhere in our budget or else raise property taxes to cover the expenditures. I am not willing to take money away from our other schools in order to fund Madison Prep. I have been willing to consider raising property taxes to come up with the requested amounts, if that seemed to be the will of the community. However, the draconian spending limits the governor seeks to impose on school districts through the budget bill may render that approach impossible. Even if we wanted to, we likely would be barred from increasing property taxes in order to raise an amount equal to the net cost to the school district of the Madison Prep proposal.
This certainly wouldn’t be the first time that budgetary considerations prevent us from investing in promising approaches to increasing student achievement. For example, one component of the Madison Prep proposal is a longer school year. I’m in favor. One way the school district has pursued this concept has been by looking at our summer school model and considering improvements. A good, promising plan has been developed. Sadly, we likely will not be in a position to implement its recommendations because they cost money we don’t have and can’t raise under the Governor’s budget proposal.
Similarly, Madison Prep proposes matching students with mentors from the community who will help the students dream bigger dreams. Effective use of mentors is also a key component of the AVID program, which is now in all our high schools. We would very much like to expand the program to our middle schools, but again we do not have the funds to do so.

Mr. Hughes largely references redistributed state tax dollars for charter/virtual schools – a portion of total District per student spending – the total (including property taxes) that Madison Prep’s request mentions. I find Madison Prep’s fully loaded school based cost comparisons useful. Ideally, all public schools would publish their individual budgets along with total District spending.

Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School Budget

Urban Leage of Greater Madison:

The Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM) is submitting this budget narrative to the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education as a companion to its line‐item budget for Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men (Madison Prep). The budget was prepared in partnership with MMSD’s Business Services office. The narrative provides context for the line items presented in the budget.
Madison Prep’s budget was prepared by a team that included Kaleem Caire, President & CEO of ULGM; Tami Holmquist, Business Manager at Edgewood High School; Laura DeRoche‐Perez, ULGM Charter School Development Consultant; and Jim Horn, ULGM Director of Finance. Representative of ULGM and MMSD met weekly during the development of the Madison Prep budget. These meetings included including Erik Kass, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services and Donna Williams, Director of Budget & Planning. The budget was also informed by ULGM’s charter school design teams and was structured in the same manner as start‐up, non‐instrumentality public charter school budgets submitted to the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board in Washington, DC. DCPCSB is widely regarded as one of the most effective authorizers of charter schools in the nation.
In addition, Madison Prep’s Facilities Design Team is led by Dennis Haefer, Vice President of Commercial Banking with Johnson Bank and Darren Noak, President of Commercial Building with Tri‐North Builders. Mr. Noak is also the Treasurer of ULGM’s Board of Directors. This team is responsible for identifying Madison Prep’s school site and planning for related construction, renovation and financing needs.
Budget Highlights
A. Cost of Education
In 2008‐09, the Madison Metropolitan School District received $14,432 in revenue per student from a combination of local, federal and state government and local property taxes. The largest portion of revenue came from property taxes, $9,049 (62.7%), followed by $3,364 in state aid (23.3%), $1,260 in federal aid (8.7%) and $759 in other local revenue (5.3%). That same year, MMSD spent $13,881 per student on educational, transportation, facility and food service costs for 25,011 students for a total of $347,177,691 in spending.
In 2010‐11, MMSD’s Board of Education is operating with an amended budget of $360,131,948, a decrease of $10,155,522 (‐2.74%) from 2009‐10. MMSD projects spending $323,536,051 in its general education fund, $10,069,701 on food service and $8,598,118 on debt service for a total of $342,203,870. Considering the total of only these three spending categories, and dividing the total by the official 2010‐11 enrollment count of 24,471 students, MMSD projects to spend $13,984 per student.3 This is the amount per pupil that ULGM used as a baseline for considering what Madison Prep’s baseline per pupil revenue should be in its budget for SY2011‐12. ULGM then determined the possibility of additional cutbacks in MMSD revenue for SY2011‐12 and reduced its base per pupil revenue projection to $13,600 per student. It then added a 1% increase to it’s per pupil base spending amount for each academic year through SY2016‐17.
ULGM recognizes that per pupil funding is an average of total costs to educate 24,471 children enrolled in MMSD schools, and that distinctions are not made between the costs of running elementary, middle and high schools. ULGM also understands that the operating costs between all three levels of schooling are different. Middle schools costs more to operate than elementary schools and high schools costs more than middle schools.
Reviewing expense projections for middle and high schools in MMSD’s SY2010‐11 Amended Preliminary Budget, ULGM decided to weight per pupil spending in middle school at 1.03% and 1.16% in high school. Thus, in SY2012‐13 when Madison Prep opens, ULGM projects a need to spend $14,148 per student, not including additional costs for serving English language learners and students with special needs, or the costs of Madison Prep’s third semester (summer).
B. Cost Comparisons between Madison Prep and MMSD
Staffing Costs
In 2010‐11, MMSD projected it would spend $67,133,692 on salaries (and benefits) on 825.63 staff in its secondary (middle and high) schools for an average salary of $81,312. This includes teachers, principals and in‐school support staff. In its first year of operation (SY2012‐13), ULGM projects Madison Prep it will spend $1,559,454 in salaries and benefits on 23 staff for an average of $67,802 in salary, including salaries for teachers, the Head of School (principal) and support staff. In its fifth year of operation, Madison Prep is projected to spend $3,560,746 in salaries and benefits on 52 staff for an average of $68,476 per staff person. In both years, Madison Prep will spend significantly less on salaries and benefits per staff member than MMSD.
Additionally, MMSD spends an average of $78,277 on salaries and benefits for staff in its middle schools and $79,827 on its staff in its high schools.

Additional documents: budget details and Madison Prep’s Wisconsin DPI application.
Matthew DeFour:

The high cost results from the likelihood that Madison Prep will serve more low-income, non-English speaking and special education students, said Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, which is developing the charter school. The school also plans to have a longer school year, school day and require students to participate in volunteer and extracurricular activities.
“What we’re asking for is based on the fact that we’re going to serve a high-needs population of kids,” Caire said. “We don’t know yet if what we’re projecting is out of line.”
Caire said the proposal will likely change as potential state and federal revenues are assessed.
A Republican charter school bill circulated in the Legislature this week could also alter the landscape. The bill would allow charter schools to receive approval from a state board, rather than a local school board, and those that don’t use district employees, like Madison Prep, would be able to access the state retirement and health care systems.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter school, here.

New Madison middle school (Badger Rock) will provide innovative outdoor education

Kirsten Joiner:

Just before the holiday break, the Madison School District approved the Badger Rock Middle School. This is big and exciting news for Madison, and I hope it sounds a new tone for education in the city.
It is not new news that Madison’s school district has been struggling to maintain its national reputation for innovation and excellence. During the past two budget cycles, the district has suffered deep funding cuts and the loss of millions of dollars. And over the past five years, families have been migrating to surrounding school districts — and to private schools.
But visionary leadership and innovative charter schools such as Badger Rock may just be the answer.
The philosophy for Badger Rock is cutting edge and simultaneously a throwback to classical education. Students learn from their environment. It is a setting and style that would make Aldo Leopold proud, and that ties local curriculum to Wisconsin’s deep-seated environmental roots.

As far as I can tell, local school budgets have grown annually for decades. Ms. Joiner is referring to reductions in the increase. Spending growth slowed this year and will likely do so in the future. The Madison School District’s “Budget Amendments and Tax Levy Adoption for 2010-11” mentions 2010-2011 revenues (property taxes, redistributed state and federal taxes and grants) of $423,005,653, up from $412,219,577 in 2008-2009. The document’s 2009-2010 revenues are $489,487,261, which seems unusual. Enrollment has remained flat during the past few years (details here).

Wisconsin State Senator Seeks to Stop 4K Funding Growth, Including Madison’s Planned Program

Matthew DeFour:

A Republican lawmaker wants to kill Madison’s fledgling 4-year-old kindergarten program before it even begins.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said Wednesday the state shouldn’t encourage new 4K programs — now in 85 percent of the state’s school districts and with three times as many students as a decade ago — because taxpayers can’t afford them.
“We have a very difficult budget here,” Grothman said in an interview. “Some of it is going to have to be solved by saying some of these massive expansions of government in the last 10 years cannot stand.”
Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad called Grothman’s proposal “very troubling.”
“I don’t know what the 4-year-olds in Madison did to offend the senator,” Nerad said. “There are plenty of studies that have indicated that it’s a good idea to invest as early as possible.”
Last month the Madison School Board approved a $12.2 million 4K program for next fall with registration beginning Feb. 7. Madison’s program is projected to draw $10 million in extra state aid in 2014 when the state’s funding formula accounts for the additional students. Overall this year, school districts are projected to collect $223 million in state aid and property taxes for 4K programs, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Much more on Madison’s planned 4K program, here.
It appears that redistributed state tax dollars for K-12 are destined to change due to a significant budget deficit, not to mention the significant growth in spending over the past two decades.

The recent 9% increase in Madison property taxes is due in part to changes in redistributed state tax funds.
I spoke with a person active in State politics recently about 4K funding. Evidently, some lawmakers view this program as a method to push more tax dollars to the Districts.

Madison 4K Funding Options

Superintendent Daniel A. Nerad

It has been requested of Administration to put together possible scenarios for funding four year old kindergarten (4-k) through the use of Education Jobs Bill funding, Equity Reserves, Property Taxes, and any other sources of funding.
What you will find below are three distinct scenarios looking at how we may fund 4-k over the first 4 years. The focus is on the first 4 years, because the original projections put together by administration and subsequently by PMA through the forecasting model looked at the program beginning in the 2010-11 school year as year one, so we consequently only have projections going through the 2014-15 school year.
These projections will be updated as part of our work with the 5 year budget model ad hoc committee of the Board in the coming months.
All of the following scenarios we believe to be very conservative in terms of the number of students to be enrolled, and especially on projections for funding from the State of Wisconsin. These original projections from earlier this year, assumed MMSD would be losing 15% funding from the State of Wisconsin for the 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13 budget years. As we have seen recently, we have lost less than the maximum state law allows (2010-11 reduction of approximately 8.4%). The funding scenarios are as follows:

Much more on Madison’s planned 4K program here.

As the Madison school year starts, a pair of predicaments

Paul Fanlund, via a kind reader:

In fact, the changing face of Madison’s school population comes up consistently in other interviews with public officials.
Police Chief Noble Wray commented recently that gang influences touch even some elementary schools, and Mayor Dave Cieslewicz expressed serious concern last week that the young families essential to the health and vitality of Madison are too often choosing to live outside the city based on perceptions of the city’s schools.
Nerad says he saw the mayor’s remarks, and agrees the challenge is real. While numbers for this fall will not be available for weeks, the number of students who live in Madison but leave the district for some alternative through “open enrollment” will likely continue to grow.
“For every one child that comes in there are two or three going out,” Nerad says, a pattern he says he sees in other urban districts. “That is the challenge of quality urban districts touched geographically by quality suburban districts.”
The number of “leavers” grew from 90 students as recently as 2000-01 to 613 last year, though the increase might be at least partly attributed to a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that greatly curtailed the ability of school districts to use race when deciding where students will go to school. In February 2008, the Madison School Board ended its long-standing practice of denying open enrollment requests if they would create a racial imbalance.
Two key reasons parents cited in a survey last year for moving children were the desire for better opportunities for gifted students and concerns about bullying and school safety. School Board member Lucy Mathiak told me last week that board members continue to hear those two concerns most often.
Nerad hears them too, and he says that while some Madison schools serve gifted students effectively, there needs to be more consistency across the district. On safety, he points to a recent district policy on bullying as evidence of focus on the problem, including emphasis on what he calls the “bystander” issue, in which witnesses need to report bullying in a way that has not happened often enough.
For all the vexing issues, though, Nerad says much is good about city schools and that perceptions are important. “Let’s be careful not to stereotype the urban school district,” he says. “There is a lot at stake here.”

Related: the growth in outbound open enrollment from the Madison School District and ongoing budget issues, including a 10% hike in property taxes this year and questions over 2005 maintenance referendum spending.
The significant property tax hike and ongoing budget issues may be fodder for the upcoming April, 2011 school board election, where seats currently occupied by Ed Hughes and Marj Passman will be on the ballot.
Superintendent Nerad’s statement on “ensuring that we have a stable middle class” is an important factor when considering K-12 tax and spending initiatives, particularly in the current “Great Recession” where housing values are flat or declining and the property tax appetite is increasing (The Tax Foundation, via TaxProf:

The Case-Shiller index, a popular measure of residential home values, shows a drop of almost 16% in home values across the country between 2007 and 2008. As property values fell, one might expect property tax collections to have fallen commensurately, but in most cases they did not.
Data on state and local taxes from the U.S. Census Bureau show that most states’ property owners paid more in FY 2008 (July 1, 2007, through June 30, 2008) than they had the year before (see Table 1). Nationwide, property tax collections increased by more than 4%. In only four states were FY 2008’s collections lower than in FY 2007: Michigan, South Carolina, Texas and Vermont. And in three states–Florida, Indiana and New Mexico–property tax collections rose more than 10%.

It will be interesting to see what the Madison school District’s final 2010-2011 budget looks like. Spending and receipts generally increase throughout the year. This year, in particular, with additional borrowed federal tax dollars on the way, the District will have funds to grow spending, address the property tax increase or perhaps as is now increasingly common, spend more on adult to adult professional development.
Madison’s K-12 environment is ripe for change. Perhaps the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy charter school will ignite the community.

Madison School District Board of Education Progress Report–March through June 2010

Maya Cole, Board President & Beth Moss Board Vice-President, Via email:

The 2009-10 school year is over, and the Board is wrapping up a very busy spring 2010. After several months of hard work, the Board finalized the preliminary 2010-11 budget on June 1. For the second year in a row, the state legislature decreased the amount of per pupil state aid by 15%. This decrease in revenue, coupled with a decrease in property values in the Madison Metropolitan School District, created a much larger than usual budget shortfall. This year is different because unlike previous years when the Board of Education was not allowed to raise property taxes to cover the shortfall, this year the state gave the Board the authority to raise taxes by an extreme amount. The Board and administration have worked hard to mitigate the tax impact while preserving programs in our schools.
2010-11 Budget Details:
The Board approved a preliminary budget of $360,131,948 after creating savings of over $13 million across all departments in the district. This budget represents a decrease of over $10 million from 2009-10. The final tax impact on a home of average value ($250k) is $225. The Board made reductions that did not directly affect instruction in the classroom, avoiding mass teacher lay-offs as experienced by many districts around the country and state.
Other State action:
The School Age Guarantee for Education (SAGE) Act was changed from funding K-3 class sizes of 15:1 to 18:1. The Board is considering how to handle this change in state funding.
Race to the Top is a competitive grant program run through the federal government. The state of Wisconsin applied for Race to the Top funding in round 1 and was denied. The Board approved the application for the second round of funding. Federal money will be awarded to states that qualify and the MMSD could receive $8,239,396.
Board of Education Election:
Thank you for 6 years of service and good luck to Johnny Winston, Jr. Taking his seat is James Howard, an economist with the Forest Service and MMSD parent. New Board officers are Maya Cole, president, Beth Moss, vice president, Ed Hughes, clerk, and James Howard, treasurer.
Sarah Maslin, our student representative from West High School, will be off to Yale University in the fall. Thank you for your service and good luck, Sarah! Congratulations to Wyeth Jackson, also from West, who won the election for student representative to the Board of Education. Jessica Brooke from La Follette will return as Student Senate president and alternate to the BOE Student Representative.
Other news:
In April the board received the following reports:
The Facility Assessment Report, a compilation of district maintenance needs over the next 5 years.
The Board of Education/Superintendent Communication Plan, providing a template for reports to the Board.
The District Reorganization Plan, a plan to restructure the administration and professional development department of the district.
The Board held a public hearing on the proposed budget at UW Space Place. In addition, the School Food Initiative Committee and the 4-K Advisory Committee met.
In May the Strategic Planning Steering Committee met. Stakeholders reviewed accomplishments achieved thus far and discussed and reprioritized action steps for the next year. A second public hearing on the budget was also held in May.
In June the Board finalized the Preliminary Budget after a statutory public hearing. During committee meetings on June 7, the ReAL grant team presented action plans for each of the large high schools and gave the Board an update on the ReAL grant and the Wallace grant. The four high schools have collaborated for the past two years to improve engagement and achievement at our high schools. The Student Services and Code of Conduct/Expulsions Committee presented a proposal for a new code of conduct and abeyance, with an emphasis on restorative justice.
Congratulations and good luck to all graduates! Have a safe and restful summer break.

Madison School District’s 2009-2010 Citizen’s Budget Released ($421,333,692 Gross Expenditures, $370,287,471 Net); an Increase of $2,917,912 from the preliminary $418,415,780 2009-2010 Budget

Superintendent Dan Nerad 75K PDF:

Attached to this memorandum you will find the final version of the 2009-10 Citizen’s Budget. The Citizen’s Budget is intended to present financial information to the community in a format that is more easily understood. The first report groups expenditures into categories outlined as follows:

  • In-School Operations
  • Curriculum & Teacher Development & Support
  • Facilities, Other Than Debt Service
  • Transportation
  • Food Service
  • Business Services
  • Human Resources
  • General Administration
  • Debt Service
  • District-Wide
  • MSCR

The second report associates revenue sources with the specific expenditure area they are meant to support. In those areas where revenues are dedicated for a specific purpose(ie. Food Services) the actual amount is represented. In many areas of the budget, revenues had to be prorated to expenditures based on the percentage that each specific expenditure bears of the total expenditure budget. It is also important to explain that property tax funds made up the difference between expenditures and all other sources of revenues. The revenues were broken out into categories as follows:

  • Local Non-Tax Revenue
  • Equalized & Categorical State Aid
  • Direct Federal Aid
  • Direct State Aid
  • Property Taxes

Both reports combined represent the 2009-10 Citizen’s Budget.


I’m glad to see this useful document finally available for the 2009-2010 school year. Thanks to the Madison School Board members who pushed for its release.

Thinking about the Cost of Educating Students via the Madison School District, Virtual Schools and a Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes email to State Senator Fred Risser

Susan Troller:

Madison School Board member Ed Hughes sent me an e-mail pointing out another vexing problem with Wisconsin’s school funding system and how it penalizes the Madison district, which I’ve written about in the past. Hughes notes in his e-mail “This particular wrinkle of the state school financing system is truly nuts.”
Hughes is incensed that the IQ Academy, a virtual school operated by the Waukesha district, gets over $6000 in state aid for poaching students from the Madison district while total state aid for educating a student in a real school here at home is $3400. Waukesha makes a profit of about $500 per student at the expense of taxpayers here, Hughes says. And that’s including profits going to the national corporate IQ Academy that supplies the school’s programming.

The complete text of Ed Hughes letter to Senator Risser:

Sen. Risser:
As if we needed one, here is another reason to be outraged by our state school financing system:
This week’s issue of Isthmus carries a full page ad on page 2. It is sponsored by “IQ Academy Wisconsin,” which is described as a “tuition-free, online middle and high school program of the School District of Waukesha, WI.” The ad invites our Madison students to open-enroll in their “thriving learning community.”
What’s in it for Waukesha? A report on virtual charter schools by the State Fiscal Bureau, released this week, sheds some light on this. The Madison school district gets a little more than $2,000 in general state aid for each of our students. If you include categorical aids and everything else from the state, the amount goes up to about $3,400/student.
However, if Waukesha (or any other school district) is successful in poaching one of our students, it will qualify for an additional $6,007 in state aid. (That was actually the amount for the 2007-08 school year, that last year for which data was available for the Fiscal Bureau report.) As it was explained to me by the author of the Fiscal Bureau report, this $6,007 figure is made up of some combination of additional state aid and a transfer of property taxes paid by our district residents to Waukesha.
So the state financing system will provide nearly double the amount of aid to a virtual charter school associated with another school district to educate a Madison student than it will provide to the Madison school district to educate the same student in an actual school, with you know, bricks and mortar and a gym and cafeteria and the rest.
The report also states that the Waukesha virtual school spends about $5,500 per student. So for each additional student it enrolls, the Waukesha district makes at least a $500 profit. (It’s actually more than that, since the incremental cost of educating one additional student is less than the average cost for the district.) This does not count the profit earned by the private corporation that sells the on-line programming to Waukesha.
The legislature has created a system that sets up very strong incentives for a school district to contract with some corporate on-line operation, open up a virtual charter school, and set about trying to poach other districts’ students. Grantsburg, for example, has a virtual charter school that serves not a single resident of the Grantsburg school district. What a great policy.
By the way, Waukesha claims in its Isthmus ad that “Since 2004, IQ Academy Wisconsin students have consistently out-performed state-wide and district averages on the WKCE and ACT tests.” I didn’t check the WKCE scores, but last year 29.3% of the IQ Academy 12th graders took the ACT test and had an average composite score of 22.9. In the Madison school district, 56.6% of 12th graders took the test and the district average composite score was 24.0.
I understand that you are probably tired of hearing from local school board members complaining about the state’s school funding system. But the enormous disparity between what the state will provide to a virtual charter school for enrolling a student living in Madison, as compared to what it will provide the Madison school district to educate the same student, is so utterly wrong-headed as to be almost beyond belief.
Ed Hughes
Madison School Board

Amy Hetzner noted this post on her blog:

An interesting side note: the Madison Metropolitan School District’s current business manager, Erik Kass, was instrumental to helping to keep Waukesha’s virtual high school open and collecting a surplus when he was the business manager for that district.

I found the following comments interesting:

An interesting note is that the complainers never talked about which system more effectively taught students.
Then again, it has never really been about the students.

Madison is spending $418,415,780 to educate 24,295 students ($17,222 each).
Related: Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget: Comments in a Vacuum? and a few comments on the recent “State of the Madison School District” presentation.
The “Great Recession” has pushed many organizations to seek more effective methods of accomplishing their goals. It would seem that virtual learning and cooperation with nearby higher education institutions would be ideal methods to provide more adult to student services at reduced cost, rather than emphasizing growing adult to adult spending.
Finally Richard Zimman’s recent Madison Rotary talk is well worth revisiting with respect to the K-12 focus on adult employment.

Madison School Board Updates

via an Arlene Silveira email:

Board of Education Progress Report, November, 2009
BOE updates:
Dual Language Immersion (DLI): The Board approved the expansion of our DLI program into our 4 attendance areas at specified schools at the elementary/middle school levels. We are still studying high school models. DLI is a program where children are taught in both Spanish and English. DLI programs are currently at Nuestro Mundo and Leopold Elementary Schools. Next year our first middle school program will be at Sennett.
Cultural Relevance: The Board received an update on our Cultural Relevance initiatives. This is included in the strategic plan as a Strategic Objective in Curriculum. The District has a number of new/expanding projects in this area. Of note is a pilot created at Mendota and Falk Elementary Schools. Staff are collaborating with UW-Madison faculty for professional development in: African American language development; family involvement; black communications; classroom management; teaching from principles; culturally relevant literacy principles.
School Food Committee: This committee was formed to look at possible options for our food service operations. The district is bringing in an expert (Ann Cooper) in transitioning food service programs. Early next year she will come to Madison to look at our operations and provide a cost estimate for a feasibility study of the MMSD.
Budget: The Board approved our final budget and set the tax levy in October. Summary:

  • Total levy: $234,240,964 (3.49% increase)
  • Tax rate: $10.18 (3.77% increase)
  • Impact on $250,000 home: $92.83

Going into the meeting, the proposed tax rate was $10.40 with the impact on a $250,000 home of $147.50. Aware of the difficult economic times facing our community, the Board approved 6 budget amendments designed to decrease these numbers to the approved numbers. As part of our effort to decrease property taxes, the Board voted to freeze “non-essential” maintenance spending by deferring or foregoing $3,080,000 in maintenance referendum tax levy spending in 2009-10. By doing so, we were able to decrease the tax impact on the average home by $33.16. What does this mean for the schools? We will continue to make essential repairs using existing maintenance funds or other existing district resources. We have already spent 91% of the maintenance referendum that passed 5 years ago. We will evaluate and prioritize the remaining “non-essential” maintenance projects on the list, and will make funding decisions on an as needed basis using a different source of funding.
Lighthouse Project: The Board and Superintendent are participating in the Lighthouse Project. A study focused on behavior of school boards/superintendents in high-achieving school districts. Our participation in this project over the next 6 months will focus on the 7 conditions of school renewal: 1) Shared leadership; 2) Continuous improvement and shared decision-making; 3) Ability to create/sustain initiatives; 4) Supportive workplace for staff; 5) Staff development; 6) Support for school sites through data/information; 7) Community involvement.
H1N1 Activities: We received a presentation on the district’s H1N1 Pandemic Response Plan. The plan focused on 1) Education on H1N1; 2) Vaccination clinics; 3) Student/staff absences; 4) Supporting school operations; 5) Supporting students. An incredible amount of planning and communication went into the development of this plan and the district is now ready to deal with anything that comes our way as a result of H1N1.
If you have any questions/comments, please let us know.
Arlene Silveira (516-8981)

Madison Area School Districts Raising Taxes


School districts are trying to find a balance between cuts in state funding and paying the bills, but the state budget crunch is ultimately leading to school districts raising taxes for homeowners.
When the state cut aid to schools, districts got the option of raising property taxes to make up the difference. But while they can raise taxes to make up whatever they’re losing in state aid, not all districts are.
The Sun Prairie School District said it has plenty going for it — a number of new schools in a few years and a new high school coming soon, but that it’s not immune to budget woes.
“We’ve got a reduction in state aid. We’ve got increasing numbers of students and we have the debt the voters approved three years ago to build the new high school,” said Tim Culver, Sun Prairie School District administrator.
Sun Prairie was in a similar situation as many Dane County districts. It could have raised the tax levy there to 14.4 percent, but instead it’s raising it to 7.7 percent, which is a $142 increase for the average $200,000 home.
“What we’re trying to do is balance out that we want the best education possible for kids, but people have to be willing to pay for the education too,” said Culver.

Dan Nerad gets creative on Madison schools budget

Lynn Welch:

It’s easy to feel a bit sorry for Madison school officials as they grapple with ways to close a $12 million gap in state funding.
“It sounds like this came out of left field, so I don’t think anyone can be faulted for not imagining that something like this could happen,” says Chan Stroman, a Madison parent with one child attending elementary school and two at a virtual school.
But feelings may change in December, school watchers say, when tax bills land in mailboxes and everyone starts to feel the pain.
The district proposes hiking property taxes — $82.50 for owners of $250,000 homes. This and other solutions stress a school-community partnership, a balance between educational responsibility and fiscal fitness that has become the hallmark of superintendent Dan Nerad’s administration.
Indeed, it’s hard to talk about the current financial situation facing Madison’s schools without hearing an opinion on how Nerad, who began his tenure in July 2008, is managing the situation.

Madison spends about 10% more per student than Dan Nerad’s former District – Green Bay. Madison’s student / staff ratio is about 7, while Green Bay’s is 8. It will be interesting to see what, if any substantive program reviews occur locally, something that the New Superintendent and Board have promised to do. Details here.

Revised Madison school budget boosts tax increase

Gayle Worland:

The owner of a $250,000 Madison home would pay $82.50 more in school property taxes this year under a proposal by city schools superintendent Dan Nerad that seeks to partially cover a projected $9.2 million cut in general state aids to the district.
That’s $80 more than estimated under a preliminary 2009-10 district budget approved by the school board in May, when the board expected state cuts to be less severe.
The tax increase would cover only a portion of the state cut. School officials said the remaining gap would be bridged through cost-saving measures that do not directly affect students.
“Am I comfortable or happy?” with the district’s proposal, said Arlene Silveira, school board president. “No. But the whole (budget) situation doesn’t make me comfortable or happy. I appreciate that there are ways that we can deal with this gap without really cutting programs and without putting too much of a burden back on our community.”
The Madison district’s $350 million budget for the current school year won’t be final until the school board votes on it in late October. Officials are awaiting final student counts in late September, which figure into the amount of aid each district receives from the state.
“In terms of where we are in this economy and where we are in public education, you need to be realistic,” said [Erik] Kass. “You need to be conservative, and you need to realize there are things that are going to pop up during the year. But I think you also need to be cognizant of the fact that you’re being a steward of public resources, and you need to utilize those resources to provide a service that the public is giving you the money to provide.”

Wisconsin Governor Doyle going after student performance, federal money

Mark Pitsch:

Gov. Jim Doyle is planning a series of education reforms designed to boost student achievement and help the state compete for billions of dollars in federal school improvement grants.
The changes include better tracking of student performance, using test data to help evaluate teachers and raising high school graduation requirements.
“We’re going to be working very hard in my administration with the Legislature, with educators in the state, to put together really, I think, a transformational application that will help Wisconsin education for years to come,” Doyle said in a recent interview.
But it’s unclear whether the state would even qualify for the federal money — part of a $4.35 billion program dubbed “Race to the Top” — because of a state law that bars using student test scores to evaluate teachers.
Draft rules for the program prohibit states that have such laws in place from receiving the money. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan last week called Wisconsin’s law “ridiculous.”

Wisconsin Representative Mike Huebsch:

Cut education funding by 3 percent. Check.
Make sure teachers’ raises aren’t jeopardized by the cuts. Check.
Pretend property taxes won’t go up. Check.
Begin dismantling Wisconsin’s School Choice Program. Check.
Jeopardize Wisconsin’s eligibility for new federal education funding. Check.
This is the state of public education in Wisconsin under the leadership of self-proclaimed education governor Jim Doyle and Democrat majorities in the state Senate and Assembly.
Governor Doyle and Democrat lawmakers wrote a state budget that cuts school funding $294 million, raises property taxes $1.5 billion, repeals the Qualified Economic Offer, says local school boards can’t consider the recession, job loss rates, and property values when negotiating teacher compensation and makes politically-motivated changes to the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (School Choice).
Now the governor shrugs off reports that Wisconsin won’t be eligible to participate in the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top grant program, while Democrat lawmakers remain predictably silent. Approximately $4.35 billion will be doled out to states with plans for reforming public education. Under the proposed application guidelines released by the United States Department of Education last week, only Wisconsin, New York and California would be barred from receiving federal funds.

2008 Madison Schools’ Referendum – Key Issues

1. Mortgage on future property with permanent increase: Asking taxpayers to refinance/mortgage their futures and that of the school district with a permanent increase of $13 million yearly for the operations budget. It has been stated the district needs the money to help keep current programs in place. It is expected that even after 3 years of this referendum totaling $27 million, the Board is projecting a continued revenue gap and will be back asking for even more.
2. No evaluation nor analysis of programs and services: The Board will make budget cuts affecting program and services, whether or not this referendum passes. The cuts will be made with no assessment/evaluation process or strategy for objective analyses of educational or business programs and services to determine the most effective and efficient use of money they already have as well as for the additional money they are asking with this referendum.
3. Inflated criteria for property value growth: The dollar impact on property to be taxed is projected on an inflated criteria of 4% growth in property valuation assessment; therefore, reducing the cost projection for the property tax levy. The growth for property valuation in 2007 was 3.2% and for 2008 it was 1.0%. Given the state of the economy and the housing market, the growth rate is expected to further decline in 2009. [10/13 Update: The above references to property valuation assessment growth are cited from City of Madison Assessor data. See ACE document “Watch List Report Card” [2008 Referendum Watch List 755K PDF] for State Department of Revenue citations for property valuation base and growth rate used for determination of MMSD property tax levy.]
4. No direct impact on student learning and classroom instruction: There is District acknowledgement of a serious achievement gap between low-income and minority student groups compared with others. There are no plans evident for changing how new or existing money will be spent differently in order to have an impact on improving student learning/achievement and instructional effectiveness.
5. Lack of verification of reduction in negative aid impact on taxes: District scenarios illustrating a drastic reduction in the negative impact on state aids from our property-rich district is unsubstantiated and unverified, as well as raising questions about unknown possible future unintended consequences. The illustrated reduction is from approximately 60% to 1% results by switching maintenance funds from the operations budget and 2005 referendum proceeds to a newly created “Capital Expansion Fund–Fund 41” account. [Update: 10/13: The reduction in the negative aid impact will take affect regardless of the outcome of the referendum vote. See the ACE document “Watch List Report Card” [2008 Referendum Watch List 755K PDF] for details.]

Madison CAST November, 2008 Referendum Neighborhood & PTO Newsletter

We are asking if you would put this in your school newsletters and share it with your members as we need your help to spread the word about the referendum to your friends and neighbors. Please feel free to share the attached with your neighborhood newsletters as well.
Jackie Woodruff
Communites and Schools Together Treasurer
On November 4, 2008 voters in the Madison school district will decide on a funding referendum that is crucial to the future of our children and our community.
Good schools are the backbone of a healthy community. Our public schools are essential for expanding prosperity, creating opportunity, overcoming inequality, and assuring an informed, involved citizenry. Madison’s public schools have been highly successful and highly regarded for many years. We’ve learned that quality public education comes from well-trained teachers, the hard work of our students and teachers, and also from a steady commitment from the community at large.
After several public forums, study, and deliberation, the Board of Education has unanimously recommended that our community go to referendum, to allow the board to budget responsibly and exceed the revenue caps for the 2009-2012 school years. The referendum is a compromise proposal in that it seeks to offset only about 60% of the estimated budget shortfall in order to keep tax increases low.
The projection is that school property taxes would increase by less than 2%. Even with increased property values and a successful referendum, most property owners will still pay less school property taxes than they did in 2001.
Most importantly, this November 4th, the voters in Madison can recommit to public education and its ideals by passing a referendum for the Madison Metropolitan School District.
Thank you so much for your work and support for Madison’s Public Schools, Communities and Schools Together (CAST) – a grassroots organization devoted to educating and advocating on behalf of quality schools — needs your help in support of the November referendum. We need volunteers to help distribute literature, put up yard signs, host house parties for neighbors, write letters to the editor–but most of all we need your support by voting YES on the referendum question.
Keep our schools and communities strong by supporting the referendum. To learn more, donate to the campaign or get involved–visit Community and Schools Together (CAST) at

Trickledown Ballot Should Help Madison Schools

Holding school referendums in liberal Madison during major national elections has shown to have strategic advantages.
For one thing, young people vote in much higher numbers. And young adults will overwhelmingly support school referendums no matter the details or cost. That’s because they don’t pay property taxes, at least directly. They also have a high appreciation for schools because they are, or not long ago were, students.
Another advantage is that huge majorities of middle-aged and older voters in Madison are fed up with President Bush. Madison and the rest of the nation produced a Democratic landslide on Nov. 7, 2006, with the Iraq war overshadowing a largely-ignored Madison school building referendum that easily passed.

(Madison) School Referendum News

I have appreciated having the opportunity to talk about our schools with you and value your insights, so I wanted to let you know where matters stand on the possibility of a school spending referendum on the November ballot
As you probably know, Superintendent Dan Nerad submitted his recommendations to the Board at a School Board meeting Monday night (1MB PDF, 3 year financial forecast PDF). In summary, the structural deficit the school funding law imposes on districts as well as increased fixed costs result in a projected budget deficit of $8.1 million for the 2009-2010 school year, $4.4 million for the 2010-2011 school year, and $4.3 million for the 2011-2012 school year, calculated on a same-service basis.
To meet these gaps, the superintendent recommends that the Board approve a referendum asking the voters to authorize the district to exceed our spending limits by $5 million next year, and $4 million in each of the following two years. This would be a recurring referendum, meaning that the authorization for the increased spending in the specified amounts would continue indefinitely.
The amount of extra spending authority we would seek is less than the projected budget gaps. The idea is that this a shared-sacrifice sort of proposal – we would be asking the community to permit us to erase some of the gap through additional taxes while we pledge to address the remainder through seeking out savings and efficiencies that will not have a detrimental impact on classroom learning. As is probably apparent, the referendum is not designed to allow us to restore in a significant way any of the painful cuts we have made in previous years.
Budget information for the district has historically been confusing. We’re working on greater clarity and transparency in our budget information. I have some questions about our numbers that I’m in the process of trying to get clarified. Part of the confusion derives from the fact that the budget is arranged in a number of separate funds that are defined by DPI. The principal category of spending for our purposes is Fund 10. For the upcoming school year, we are projecting Fund 10 expenditures of about $306 million. For the following year, the one that shows the $8.1 million shortfall, we foresee expenditures of about $318 million, or a 3.78% increase.
With the Qualified Economic Offer, salaries and benefits for teachers are, as a practical matter, required to go up at least 3.8% per year. Our total projected increase for next year for salary and benefits is 3.88%. The rest of the Fund 10 budget, a little under $100 million, increases 3.55% from this year. (By comparison, the consumer price index has increased 5.6% since July of 2007.) This budget does not include any significant new initiatives.
Turning to the revenues side of the ledger, the category of interest here is the tax levy. This is what our community has to cough up to pay for our schools, and it represents the difference between our expenditures and our other sources of revenue, including state and federal aid and grant money. The portion of the tax levy that is attributable to Fund 10 expense is governed by the spending cap that state law imposes.
The total tax levy for the current year is about $226 million. Under the superintendent’s plan, if the referendum passes, the total levy for next year would be $237 million, an increase of 5.07%.
If total expenditures are increasing less than 4%, why is the tax levy projected to increase 5.07%? There are a couple of reasons. First, we are unable to project that increases in other sources of funding will keep pace with our increasing level of expenditures. Indeed, we do not project any increase in state or federal aid. Second, the tax levy increase was moderated this year by the one-time injection of about $4.1 million in TIF funds. Had these funds not been received, then the tax levy would have had to increase this year (presumably through a referendum) in order to support this year’s level of spending. The 5.07% increase in the tax levy for next year is thus partially the result of starting from an artificially low base.
A final consideration is the mill rate. This is the amount applied against the assessed value of a taxpayer’s property to arrive at the amount in taxes that is levied. As the total value of property in our community increases, the mill rate goes down, all things equal. Under the superintendent’s plan, the mill rate increases from this year’s $9.92 to next year’s $10.03 (an increase of about 1%) and then is projected to decrease the next two years, to $9.59 and $9.29. So if one owns a house with an assessed value of $300,000, and the assessment remains the same next year, the amount that taxpayer would pay for schools would rise from $2,976 this year to $3,009 next year, and would decrease in the following two years if one is willing to entertain the unlikely assumption that the assessed value of the house would remain the same over the relevant years.
This analysis assumes that the referendum passes. If the referendum fails, then we will be obligated once more to hack away at the budget and attempt to find cuts that do the least amount of damage to classroom learning.
There are many reasons to want to avoid this. As past experience has shown, it is a divisive and painful exercise for the community. It requires that the Board devote much time and attention to the budget-cutting process – time that could be better used by the Board to work on strategies for improving student learning. Some of the decisions that have resulted from this typically-rushed process have later appeared to be short-sighted or misguided. And, most importantly, the cuts diminish the quality of the education we are able to provide to our students. There are no easy cuts left. If we are compelled to continue to slash away year after year, we will soon be at a point where we will be unable to provide the quality of education that our community wants and expects.
If the referendum passes, we will have breathing room. We should have three years when the specter of budget cuts is not hanging over our heads. This will enable the Board and the new administration to put into place the process we currently contemplate for reviewing our strategic priorities, establishing strategies and benchmarks, and aligning our resources.
Superintendent Nerad has described a proposal that contemplates a broad-based strategic planning process that will kick off during the second semester of the upcoming school year. This process will be designed to identify the community’s priorities for our schools, priorities that I expect will reflect a concentrated focus on enhancing student achievement. Once we have identified our priorities and promising strategies for achieving them, we’ll likely turn to examining how well our organization is aligned toward pursuing our goals. This will likely be the point at which we take a long, hard look at our administrative structure and see if we can arrange our resources more efficiently.
It will take a while – certainly more than a year – for us to undertake this sweeping kind of review of our programs and spending in a careful, collaborative and deliberative way. If we do go to referendum, and the voters authorize the increased spending authority we seek, then the obligation will pass to the Board and administration to demonstrate that the community’s vote of confidence was well placed. There will be much for us to do and it will be fair to judge our performance on how well we take advantage of the opportunity the community will have given us.
These are my initial thoughts. As you can probably tell, I am sympathetic to the approach the superintendent proposes and I am inclined to support his recommendation. However, we did just receive the recommendations Monday night, and I may well be confused about a few of these points. But since we will vote on a referendum next Monday, I wanted to get this summary to you as soon as possible. If you have thoughts or questions, I’d appreciate it if you could share them with me.
Ed Hughes
2226 Lakeland Avenue
Madison WI 53704
(608) 241-4854

Madison Superintendent Recommends Three Year Recurring Spending Increase via a November, 2008 Referendum


Nerad told school board members on Monday night that he’s recommending a three-year recurring referendum.
It’s part of what he called a partnership plan to address the budget shortfall.
The plan would put a referendum on the November ballot for $5 million and would ask voters for $4 million in the two following years.
Nerad said to make up the remaining $3 million gap the district would move $2 million from the district’s fund balance, eliminate $600,000 in unallocated staff, which are positions set aside in case of additional enrollment, and make up the remaining $400,000 through other reductions, which he has not yet named.
“We’re working both sides of this and in the end our kids need things from us, our taxpayers need us to be sensitive and all I can say is we tried every step of putting these recommendations together to be responsive on both fronts,” said Nerad.

Andy Hall:

The measure, a “recurring referendum,” would give the district permission to build on the previous year’s spending limit increase by additional amounts of $4 million in 2010-11 and another $4 million in 2011-12. The measure would permit a total increase of $13 million — a change that would be permanent, unlike the impact of some other referendums that end after a specified period.
Approval of the referendum would cost the owner of a home with an assessed value of $250,000 an estimated $27.50 in additional taxes in the 2009-10 school year. That represents an increase of 1.1 percent of the School District’s portion of the tax bill.
But for at least the next two years, the schools’ portion of that homeowner’s tax bill would decline even if the referendum is approved, under the plan developed by Nerad and Erik Kass, assistant superintendent for business services.
They estimate the tax bill for 2010-11 would be $27.50 lower than it is now, and the bill the following year would be about $100 below its current level if voters back the referendum and the School Board implements proposed changes in accounting measures.

Tamira Madsen:

In the first year, the referendum would add an additional $27.50 onto the tax bill of a $250,000 home. Another initiative in Nerad’s recommendation, drawn up along with Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Erik Kass, is to enact changes to help mitigate the tax impact of the referendum. Nerad and Kass said these changes would decrease taxes for homeowners in the second and third year of the referendum.
One aspect of the proposal would return $2 million of an equity to the taxpayers in the form of a reduced levy in the Community Services Fund (Fund 80) for the 2009-10 school year. The second part of the tax impact referendum would be implementation of a Capital Expansion Fund, called Fund 41, in an effort to levy a property tax under revenue limits to spread the costs of facility maintenance projects over a longer period.
Nerad said the referendum process has been a deliberative process, and he’s been cognizant of weighing board members and community questions.



Referendum Climate: Madison Mayor Orders 5% Cut in 2009 City Budget

A possible Fall 2008 Madison School District Referendum may occur amid changes in City spending (and property taxes). Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s Memo to City Managers includes this [PDF]:

This is the most challenging budget year I have seen in six years and it appears to be among the most challenging in two decades or more. High fuel prices combined with lagging revenues associated with the economic downturn and increases in debt service and other costs will force us to work hard just to maintain current services. Other typical cost increases in areas such as health insurance and wages will create additional pressure on our budget situation.
Based on current estimates, our “cost to continue” budget would result in an unacceptably high increase of about 10% for taxes on the average home and a levy increase of around 15%.

Via Isthmus.

One would hope that a referendum initiative would address a number of simmering issues, including math, curriculum reduction, expanded charter options, a look at the cost and effectiveness of reading recovery, perhaps a reduction in the local curriculum creation department and the elimination of the controversial report card initiative. Or, will we see the now decades old “same service approach” to MMSD spending growth?

Madison School District Administration’s Proposed 2008-2009 Budget Published

The observation of school district budgeting can be fascinating. Numbers are big (9 or more digits) and the politics often significant. Many factors affect such expenditures including, local property taxes, state and federal redistributed tax dollars, enrollment, grants, referendums, new programs, politics and periodically, local priorities. The Madison School District Administration released it’s proposed 2008-2009 $367,806,712 budget Friday, April 4, 2008.
There will be a number of versions between now and sometime next year. The numbers will change.
Allocations were sent to the schools on March 5, 2008 prior to the budget’s public release. MMSD 2008-2009 Budget timeline.
I’ve summarized budget and enrollment information from1995 through 2008-2009 below:

Report Compares Racine to 9 Other Wisconsin School Districts, Including Madison

Pete Selkowe crunches the findings:

After ten years of exhaustive diagnostics, poking and prodding, the patient — Racine Unified School District — still is quite sick.
The Public Policy Forum’s just released 10th annual comparative analysis of RUSD (paid for by Education Racine, the not-for-profit foundation of RAMAC) — comparing the district to nine peer* districts with similar enrollments — is measured in many places, objectively reporting such things as student achievement, graduation rates, truancy and more.
But the bottom line, stated with ultimate tact — “Our data do not fit with the customer satisfaction objective.” — gives clear warning of what’s to come.
The report’s major findings, released at a Wingspread briefing tonight, conclude:
Diversity: The minority population in RUSD, the state’s fourth largest district with 21,696 students, continues to grow. Racine’s classrooms now are 48.1% minority, up from 36.9% ten years ago, thanks to an influx of Asian and Hispanic students. African-American enrollment has increased “modestly” in recent years and white enrollment has “declined somewhat.”
White students now make up 51.9% of RUSD’s enrollment; African-Americans 26.7% and Hispanics 19.6%. Statewide, 22.1% of students are minority.
Operational Efficiency: State aid to RUSD has increased 40.2% in 10 years, yet we’re now 8th out of 10. (State aid to Kenosha has risen 70.8% in the same period.) Property tax revenue is up 21.4%; Kenosha’s has gone up 41.7%. RUSD falls to 9th in the growth of federal aid: up 87.5% in 10 years, while Kenosha has gone up 146.9% and Appleton 346.9%.
The district ranked 8th out of 10 in property taxes collected per pupil. Racine was third in instructional spending per pupil, sixth in operational spending. RUSD spent $10,169 per pupil, just $119 below the state average, but well below Madison’s $12,163.

Dani McClain:

These findings are part of the Public Policy Forum’s 10th annual report on how Racine Unified stacks up among Wisconsin’s 10 largest districts – excluding Milwaukee – in student achievement, engagement and finances.
“I think you have here the largest, most comprehensive study of any district in the state of Wisconsin, and possibly the country,” Jeff Browne, president of the Milwaukee think tank, said to a gathering of advocates, school officials and business leaders Wednesday.
Racine Unified, the state’s fourth-largest district, faces serious challenges, the report shows.
Its students ranked near the bottom at all grade levels when compared with peer districts on state reading and math tests in the 2006-’07 school year. This is in keeping with recent years’ rankings, though there is some improvement at the elementary level.

Charts comparing the 10 Districts.
Complete Report: 240K PDF
Public Policy Forum Website

Desired Superintendent Characteristics

The Board of Education of the Madison Metropolitan School District, after consulting staff, students, parents and community members, seeks an educational leader who is student-centered and demonstrates the following characteristics:

  • Leadership experience and demonstrated success in a diverse community and school district

  • Leadership experience and demonstrated success in challenging and engaging students at all points along the educational performance continuum

  • Effective communication skills

  • Strong collaborative and visionary leadership skills

  • Unquestioned integrity

  • Excellent organizational and fiscal management skills

Ability to:

  • Deal directly and fairly with faculty, staff, students, parents and community members

  • Be accessible, open-minded and consider all points of view before making decisions

  • Build consensus and support for a shared vision for the future

  • Develop positive working relationships with a wide variety of constituent groups

The individual selected is expected to be highly visible in and engaged with the schools and community. Successful experience as a superintendent or district level administrator in a similar urban environment and school district size is preferred.
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd. Executive Summary 960K PDF File:

This report summarizes the findings of the Leadership Profile Assessment conducted by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd. (HYA) for the Board of Education of Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). The data contained herein were obtained from reviewing approximately 185 completed Leadership Profile Assessment forms, 220 emailed responses and interviews with approximately 240 persons identified b y the Board, in either individual, focus group or community input settings, on September 19 and 20, 2007. The questionnaire, interviews and focus groups were structured to gather data to assist the Board in detennining the primary characteristics it might seek in its next superintendent of schools. Through this process, the consultants attempted to identify the personal and professional characteristics desired in the superintendent, as well as the skill sets necessary to maintain what constituent groups value and to address current and emerging issues which the District might be facing.
Information obtained through interviews, emails and completed questionnaires reflects similar views from all groups with respect to the multiple strengths of MMSD. Respondents were extremely proud of their District’s national recognition for educational excellence. They voiced pride in their students’ excellent test scores, the District’s exceedingly high number of National Merit Semifinalists and its ability to provide top quality academic programs in an environment of rapidly changing demographics. Given the changes in the socio-economic, racial and ethnic make-up of the student body, residents identified as major strengths the District’s commitment to reduce the achievement gap between Caucasian and minority students, its willingness to address issues of diversity and its provision of training in best practices to assist staff in meeting the special needs of a diverse student population.
Respondents also pointed to MMSD’ s commitment to neighborhood schools, retention of small class sizes in most elementary schools, rigorous curriculum, support of music programs and the arts, broad range of sports and other extra-curricular activities, high expectations of a well educated parent constituency and its excellent special education program with the focus on the inclusion of students in regular classrooms. Residents cited the strong support for the District by caring, involved parents and by a community that values high academic standards and achievement. Other strengths cited included the District’s bright, motivated students and its highly competent, dedicated, hard-working teachers and support staff committed to the success of all students. Building administrators were commended for their dedication, accessibility and innovative leadership in providing programs that reflect the needs of their individual school populations. All respondents cited MMSD’s proximity to and partnership with UW-Madison and Edgewood College as invaluable assets.
The over-arching challenge cited by all respondents centered on the MMSD’ s future ability to maintain its excellent academic programs and student performance, given the District’s insufficient financial resources, significant budget cuts and ever-growing low-income and ELL student populations. These concerns are interrelated and if not addressed successfully could eventually become the self-fulfilling cause of what respondents feared the most: the exodus of a considerable number of high-performing upper/middle class students to private or suburban schools as a “bright flight” mentality overrides parental desire to provide children with a “real world” enviromnent of socio-economic, ethnic and racial diversity.
Concern over the funding issue was expressed in several ways: failure to cut the personnel costs of a “top heavy” central office, more equitable funding of the various schools, state level politics that restrict local access to property taxes and fail to increase state funding, the cost of responding to the arbitrary mandates of t he NCLB law, the future need for a referendum to increase property taxes and a strong teachers’ union perceived as placing its salary/benefit issues, restrictions on management prerogatives and undue influence over the Board ahead of the District’s interests. The impact of continued budget cuts strikes at the quality and reputation of the educational program, with fear of an erosion of the comprehensive curriculum and after-school activities, reduction in aides who help classroom teachers with ELL and special education students; curtailment of music, fine arts and gifted programs; increases in class size; lack of classroom supplies; postponed maintenance and renovation of aging facilities; need to update technology and the lack of long-range financial planning as the District confronts one financial crisis after another.
Concern over the impact of the changing demographics was also expressed in various ways: fear that the rising cost of responding to the special needs of an increasingly diverse student population and efforts to close the achievement gap will reduce the dollars available to maintain electives and enrichment programs for regular and gifted students; the changing school culture in which gang activity, fights between students, a pervasive lack of respect by students toward authority are perceived as the norm, which in turn generates fear that the schools are no longer as safe as they used to be; the need to provide more relevant programs for the non-college bound students and the need to address the high minority student dropout rate. Concern that students from minority group populations are disproportionately disciplined, suspended and/or expelled was also expressed.
Almost all constituent groups felt that the Board and Administration need to gain the trust of parents and the community through communication that clearly identifies the fiscal issues and the criteria on which funding and budget decisions are based. Many expressed the view that the Board and Administration’s lack of transparency in district decision-making and show of disrespect toward those who question administrative proposals have eroded constituent support. A concerted effort by the Board and Administration to become more creative in publicizing the successes of MMSD’s outstanding educational opportunities might encourage mor e young upper/middle class families to move into the District and convince others to remain.
Respondents agreed on many of the attributes that would assist a new superintendent in addressing the issues confronting MMSD. They want a student-centered, collaborative educational leader of unquestioned integrity with superior communication, interpersonal and management skills. He/she should have strategic plmming skills and feel comfortable with the involvement of parents, teachers and community members in shaping a vision for the District’s future direction. The successful candidate should be a consensus builder who has had experience in meeting the needs of an ethnically and socio-economically diverse student population. He/she should b e sensitive and proactive in addressing diversity issues and a strong advocate of effective programs for ELL and gifted students and of inclusion programs for special education students. The new superintendent should be open to new ideas and encourage staff to take risks with research-based initiatives that engage students in learning and maintain high academic expectations as they work together toward common goals. When confronted with controversial issues, he/she should be willing to seek the views of those affected, examine all options and then make the tough decisions. The new superintendent should have the courage of his/her convictions and support decisions based on what is best for all students
The successful individual should have a firm understanding of fiscal management and budgets, K-12 curriculum and best practice and the importance of technology in the classroom. He/she should be a strong supporter of music, fine arts and after-school activities. The new superintendent should have successful experience dealing collaboratively with a Board and establishing agreement on their respective govemance roles. He/she should have a proven record of recruiting minority staff and hiring competent people who are empowered to strive for excellence and are held accountable.
He/she should b e visible in the school buildings and at school events, enjoy interacting with students and staff, be actively involved in the community and seek opportunities to develop positive working relationships with state and local officials, business and community groups. The individual should be a personable, accessible, open-minded leader who engages staff, students, parents and the community in dialogue, keeps them well informed and responds respectfully to inquiries in a timely, forthright manner.
While it is unlikely tofind a candidate who possesses all of the characteristics desired by respondents, HYA and the Board intend to meet the challenge of finding an individual who possesses many of the skills and character traits required to address the issues described b y the constituent groups. We expect the new superintendent to provide the leadership that inspires trust and unites the community in its support for MMSD’s efforts to achieve an even higher level of performance for its students and staff.
Respectfully submitted,
Marvin Edwards
Jim Rickabaugh
Joan Levy

960K Executive Summary.

Madison’s Superintendent Search: Public Input

The public has an opportunitiy to provide input regarding qualities sought for the new Superintendent: 9/19/2007; 7:00p.m. at Memorial High School (Auditorium) [Map] 9/20/2007; 7:00p.m. La Follette High School (Auditorium) [Map] I passed along a few general thoughts earlier today: Candor An organization’s forthrightness and philosophy is set from the top. I cited examples including: … Continue reading Madison’s Superintendent Search: Public Input

Madison School District Small Learning Community Grant Application

136 Page 2.6MB PDF:

Madison Metropolitan School District: A Tale of Two Cities-Interrupted
Smaller Learning Communities Program CFDA #84.215L [Clusty Search]
Wisconsin. Home of contented cows, cheese curds, and the highest incarceration rate for African American males in the country. The juxtaposition of one against the other, the bucolic against the inexplicable, causes those of us who live here and work with Wisconsin youth to want desperately to change this embarrassment. Madison, Wisconsin. Capital city. Ranked number one place in America to live by Money (1997) magazine. Home to Presidential scholars, twenty times the average number of National Merit finalists, perfect ACT and SAT scores. Home also to glaring rates of racial and socio-economic disproportionality in special education identification, suspension and expulsion rates, graduation rates, and enrollment in rigorous courses. This disparity holds true across all four of Madison’s large, comprehensive high schools and is increasing over time.
Madison’s Chief of Police has grimly characterized the educational experience for many low income students of color as a “pipeline to prison” in Wisconsin. He alludes to Madison’s dramatically changing demographics as a “tale of two cities.” The purpose of the proposed project is to re-title that unfolding story and change it to a “tale of two cities-interrupted” (TC-I). We are optimistic in altering the plot based upon our success educating a large portion of our students and our ability to solve problems through thoughtful innovation and purposeful action. Our intent is to provide the best possible educational experience for all of our students.

Much more on Small Learning Communities here [RSS SIS SLC Feed]. Bruce King’s evaluation of Madison West’s SLC Implementation. Thanks to Elizabeth Contrucci who forwarded this document (via Pam Nash). MMSD website.
This document is a fascinating look into the “soul” of the current MMSD Administration ($339M+ annual budget) along with their perceptions of our community. It’s important to note that the current “high school redesign” committee (Note Celeste Roberts’ comments in this link) is rather insular from a community participation perspective, not to mention those who actually “pay the bills” via property taxes and redistributed sales, income and user fees at the state and federal level.

“Bitter Medicine for Madison Schools”:
07/08 budget grows 3.6% from 333M (06/07) to $345M with Reductions in the Increase

Doug Erickson on the 2007/2008 $345M budget (up from $333M in 2006/2007) for 24,342 students): As feared by some parents, the recommendations also included a plan to consolidate schools on the city’s East Side. Marquette Elementary students would move to Lapham Elementary and Sherman Middle School students would be split between O’Keeffe and Black Hawk … Continue reading “Bitter Medicine for Madison Schools”:
07/08 budget grows 3.6% from 333M (06/07) to $345M with Reductions in the Increase

Notes and Links on the Madison K-12 Climate and Superintendent Hires Since 1992

Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater’s recent public announcement that he plans to retire in 2008 presents an opportunity to look back at previous searches as well as the K-12 climate during those events. Fortunately, thanks to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web, we can quickly lookup information from the recent past. The Madison School District’s two most … Continue reading Notes and Links on the Madison K-12 Climate and Superintendent Hires Since 1992

Madison Schools 5 Year Budget Forecast

The Madison School District’s Finance and Operations Committee reviewed a 5 year financial forecast, starting with this year’s $320M+ budget, prepared by the Administration Monday evening. Video and mp3 audio. Local media comments: Susan Troller: Roger Price, business services director for the district, cautioned that projections beyond the next two years are simply a forecast, … Continue reading Madison Schools 5 Year Budget Forecast

A Tale of Two Budgets: the Operating Budget for Madison Schools versus its Budget for Community Programs and Services

Everybody knows that the Madison School district has an operating budget for the district’s educational programs. The district also has a second budget for community programs and services. The second budget is sometimes known as “Fund 80”. Things to know about the community programs and services budget: 1. “Fund 80” sounds like a source of … Continue reading A Tale of Two Budgets: the Operating Budget for Madison Schools versus its Budget for Community Programs and Services

Madison Schools: New Fund 80 Based Rec Sports Program

The Madison School Board approved (6-1) additional spending using Fund 80 (property taxes not subject to state revenue caps, in other words, local taxes that can go up as fast as the District approves) to create new rec sports programs: Sandy Cullen: Ruth Robarts, the only board member to vote against the spending increase, expressed … Continue reading Madison Schools: New Fund 80 Based Rec Sports Program

Annual Spring Four Act Play: Madison School’s Budget Process

Spring is definitely coming. On February 17, the Madison School Board performed Act 1 of the four-act play that is our annual school budget process. Act 1 is the unveiling of the Budget Forecast. In this Act, the administration solemnly announces that the district faces-once again-“The Budget Gap”. The Budget Gap is the difference between … Continue reading Annual Spring Four Act Play: Madison School’s Budget Process

After School Child Care in Madison: Why the Madison Schools Should Continue Community Partnerships

On July 12, the Madison Board of Education will review proposals from Superintendent Rainwater that may mean the end of a long and successful collaboration between the district, the City of Madison and private child care providers to ensure quality after-school child care for elementary students. Apparently the superintendent plans to argue that MMSD can … Continue reading After School Child Care in Madison: Why the Madison Schools Should Continue Community Partnerships

Wisconsin Governor Proposes 10% K-12 Tax & Spending increase over the next two years

Bethany Blankely: “Will massive increases in spending actually improve student outcomes?” WILL asks. According to an analysis of education spending and outcomes, WILL says, “probably not.” WILL’s Truth in Spending: An Analysis of K-12 Spending in Wisconsin compares K-12 spending on Wisconsin public schools and student outcomes. Based on the most recent available data, Wisconsin’s … Continue reading Wisconsin Governor Proposes 10% K-12 Tax & Spending increase over the next two years

Commentary on proposed Wisconsin K-12 Tax and spending increases and effectiveness

Bethany Blankley: Slinger and Hartford school districts spend significantly less than the state average on education but their students’ Forward Exam performances are significantly higher than other districts, the report found. By comparison, White Lake and Bayfield districts have “woeful proficiency rates despite spending far more than the average district,” the report states. In Evers’ … Continue reading Commentary on proposed Wisconsin K-12 Tax and spending increases and effectiveness

Wisconsin Governor Evers seeks to freeze voucher school enrollment and suspend charter school expansion

Molly Beck: He said in the Milwaukee program especially, enrollment freezes in private voucher schools would disproportionately affect children of color living in low-income households. “Most of our families don’t have the kind of income where they would have realistic choices,” he said at the time. Under Evers’ proposal, voucher schools also would be banned … Continue reading Wisconsin Governor Evers seeks to freeze voucher school enrollment and suspend charter school expansion

Commentary on Wisconsin taxpayer redistributed K-12 spending practices and promises

Matthew DeFour: Not all districts have the same revenue level. DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy highlighted some differences: The Beloit School District, with higher poverty and lower property values, can receive $9,626 per student, about 83 percent of which comes from state aid. So when revenue limits increase, the district typically uses all of the extra … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin taxpayer redistributed K-12 spending practices and promises

Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% (10%?) more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Jessie Opoien: Evers, a Democrat, is asking for $1.4 billion in additional funds for the state’s K-12 schools in the 2019-21 budget. The $15.4 billion request, submitted by Evers on Monday, comes less than two months before Walker and Evers will meet on the ballot — and Evers’ budget letter includes a swipe at the … Continue reading Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% (10%?) more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

Kelly Meyerhofer: Walker proposed $13.7 billion in total state support for public schools for the 2017-19 biennium. That includes about $2.2 billion in property tax credits that are counted as K-12 funding, but don’t go directly into the classroom. Walker’s campaign spokesman Brian Reisinger touched on the record amount in a Saturday statement: “Scott Walker … Continue reading Gubernatorial Candidate Tony Evers Proposal: Spend 12.3% more taxpayer funds on Wisconsin K-12 school districts; while killing substantive reading improvement efforts.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Harvey, the first domino in Illinois: Data shows 400 other pension funds could trigger garnishment

Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner: You’d be mistaken to think Harvey, Illinois has a unique pension crisis. It may be the first, and its problems may be the most severe, but the reality is the mess is everywhere, from East St. Louis to Rockford and from Quincy to Danville. A review of Illinois Department of … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Harvey, the first domino in Illinois: Data shows 400 other pension funds could trigger garnishment