Madison Mayor Paul Soglin’s Education (Governor campaign) Rhetoric

Matthew DeFour: Soglin offered some of the sharpest zingers aimed at Walker. Asked how he would “undo the damage Walker has done to public education,” Soglin said, “We understand the purpose of education is not a career and a technical job, the purpose of an education is to teach young people how to think, which … Continue reading Madison Mayor Paul Soglin’s Education (Governor campaign) Rhetoric

Civics: Rule of Law Edition – City attorney: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin should have sought approval before removing Confederate monument

Lisa Speckhard Pasque:/a> Two community members weren’t sure Soglin had the authority to order removal of the plaques unilaterally. David Wallner, chair of the Board of Park Commissioners, and Stuart Levitan, chair of the Landmarks Commission, separately contacted the city attorney questioning the legal authority of the move. Because the entire cemetery is designated as … Continue reading Civics: Rule of Law Edition – City attorney: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin should have sought approval before removing Confederate monument

Mayor Paul Soglin Discusses Education Reform with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

City of Madison, via a kind reader’s email:

Mayor Paul Soglin joined U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, other mayors and school superintendents in Washington, DC, today to discuss partnership opportunities between cities and the U.S. Department of Education to foster effective approaches to education reform.
Participating city leaders are part of a new Mayors’ Education Reform Task Force co-chaired by National League of Cities (NLC) First Vice President Chris Coleman, Mayor of Saint Paul, MN, and NLC Second Vice President Ralph Becker, Mayor of Salt Lake City, UT. Mayors Coleman and Becker formed the task force in March 2013 to explore how cities can and should be involved in local education reform efforts.
During today’s meeting, task force members highlighted the growing commitment by municipal officials across the country to promoting educational achievement.
“Mayors and elected officials can bring together all the stakeholders in the education conversation in their cities,” said Mayor Soglin. “The perspectives from mayors of cities large to small are valuable to local and national policymakers. I’m glad we had an opportunity to talk with the Secretary and his staff about the role mayors can play in education transformation.”
Local leaders shared examples of city-school partnerships they have formed in their communities in areas such as school improvement, early learning, afterschool programming, and postsecondary success.
“The trajectory of learning begins at birth and extends over a lifetime,” said Mayor Becker, who was unable to attend the meeting. “Cities now experience an unprecedented level of collaboration and discussion in formulating specific plans for postsecondary access and success and productive out-of-school time learning.”
The meeting with Secretary Duncan provided mayors with an opportunity to discuss how lessons learned at the city level can inform federal education policy. Among the key issues of concern identified by the task force are:

  • Finding a “third way” in education reform that balances a commitment to accountability with a spirit of collaboration among school administrators, teachers, and cities;
  • Transforming schools into centers of community that support parent engagement and provide wraparound services to children and families;
  • Building on successful “cradle-to-career” models to develop a strong educational pipeline;
  • Securing adequate and equitable funding for local education initiatives; and
  • Promoting college access and completion.

“In this global economy, cities and towns depend on an educated workforce and schools are depending on us. We need to work together to ensure that our children graduate high school ready for postsecondary education and career success,” said NLC President Marie Lopez Rogers, Mayor of Avondale, AZ. “As city leaders, we have an important message that must be heard and we must be at the table in guiding federal and local education reform policies.”
In addition to Mayors Soglin, Coleman and Becker participants in today’s meeting included: Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson of Gary, Indiana; Mayor Edna Branch Jackson of Savannah, Georgia; Mayor Dwight Jones of Richmond, Virginia; Mayor Pedro Segarra of Hartford, Connecticut; Riverside (Calif.) Unified School District Superintendent Rick Miller; Gary Community School Corporations Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt; and New York City Deputy Chief Academic Officer Josh Thomases.
The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.


Madison Mayor Soglin Commentary on our Local School Climate; Reading unmentioned

Jack Craver:

The city, he says, needs to help by providing kids with access to out-of-school programs in the evenings and during the summer. It needs to do more to fight hunger and address violence-induced trauma in children. And it needs to help parents get engaged in their kids’ education.
“We as a community, for all of the bragging about being so progressive, are way behind the rest of the nation in these areas,” he says.
The mayor’s stated plans for addressing those issues, however, are in their infancy.
Soglin says he is researching ways to get low-cost Internet access to the many households throughout the city that currently lack computers or broadband connections.
A serious effort to provide low-cost or even free Internet access to city residents is hampered by a 2003 state law that sought to discourage cities from setting up their own broadband networks. The bill, which was pushed by the telecommunications industry, forbids municipalities from funding a broadband system with taxpayer dollars; only subscriber fees can be used.
Ald. Scott Resnick, who runs a software company and plans to be involved in Soglin’s efforts, says the city will likely look to broker a deal with existing Internet providers, such as Charter or AT&T, and perhaps seek funding from private donors.

Related: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools” – Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.
Job one locally is to make sure all students can read.
Madison, 2004 Madison schools distort reading data by UW-Madison Professor Mark Seidenberg:

Rainwater’s explanation also emphasized the fact that 80 percent of Madison children score at or above grade level. But the funds were targeted for students who do not score at these levels. Current practices are clearly not working for these children, and the Reading First funds would have supported activities designed to help them.
Madison’s reading curriculum undoubtedly works well in many settings. For whatever reasons, many chil dren at the five targeted schools had fallen seriously behind. It is not an indictment of the district to acknowledge that these children might have benefited from additional resources and intervention strategies.
In her column, Belmore also emphasized the 80 percent of the children who are doing well, but she provided additional statistics indicating that test scores are improving at the five target schools. Thus she argued that the best thing is to stick with the current program rather than use the Reading First money.
Belmore has provided a lesson in the selective use of statistics. It’s true that third grade reading scores improved at the schools between 1998 and 2004. However, at Hawthorne, scores have been flat (not improving) since 2000; at Glendale, flat since 2001; at Midvale/ Lincoln, flat since 2002; and at Orchard Ridge they have improved since 2002 – bringing them back to slightly higher than where they were in 2001.
In short, these schools are not making steady upward progress, at least as measured by this test.

Madison, 2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before by Ruth Robarts:

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.
In 1998, the Madison School Board adopted an important academic goal: “that all students complete the 3rd grade able to read at or beyond grade level”. We adopted this goal in response to recommendations from a citizen study group that believed that minority students who are not competent as readers by the end of the third grade fall behind in all academic areas after third grade.
“All students” meant all students. We promised to stop thinking in terms of average student achievement in reading. Instead, we would separately analyze the reading ability of students by subgroups. The subgroups included white, African American, Hispanic, Southeast Asian, and other Asian students.
“Able to read at or beyond grade level” meant scoring at the “proficient” or “advanced” level on the Wisconsin Reading Comprehension Test (WRC) administered during the third grade. “Proficient” scores were equated with being able to read at grade level. “Advanced” scores were equated with being able to read beyond grade level. The other possible scores on this statewide test (basic and minimal) were equated with reading below grade level.

Madison, 2009: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
Madison, 2012: Madison’s “Achievement Gap Plan”:

The other useful stat buried in the materials is on the second page 3 (= 6th page), showing that the 3rd grade proficiency rate for black students on WKCE, converted to NAEP-scale proficiency, is 6.8%, with the accountability plan targeting this percentage to increase to 23% over one school year. Not sure how this happens when the proficiency rate (by any measure) has been decreasing year over year for quite some time. Because the new DPI school report cards don’t present data on an aggregated basis district-wide nor disaggregated by income and ethnicity by grade level, the stats in the MMSD report are very useful, if one reads the fine print.

Mayor Soglin: The City Has to Help Students Who Live in Poverty

Jack Craver The Capital Times A number of figures stood out at the Ed Talks panel on the achievement gap that I attended last Wednesday night, part of a UW-Madison series of free conversations and presentations on educational issues. Here are two: • 50: The percentage of children currently defined as low-income in the Madison … Continue reading Mayor Soglin: The City Has to Help Students Who Live in Poverty

Madison Mayor Paul “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools” Soglin Asked Sarah Manski to Run for the School Board; “Referred” her to MTI Executive Director John Matthews

Matthew Defour

Manski declined to name the other people who recruited her and has not returned calls since last Friday.
Soglin said when he spoke to Manski he did not know who the other candidates were or which seat she was going to run for.
“I thought she would be a good candidate committed to public education,” Soglin said. “The only discussion I had with Sarah Manski was her candidacy for the School Board. There was nothing else to discuss.”
Soglin said he was “disappointed for our community and disappointed for her” at the news of her withdrawal.
Matthews said in an email that Soglin referred Manski to him for a discussion about her candidacy, but that the grad school application never came up. He said he learned Manski would be moving to California when she called him at 6 p.m. on Feb. 20, the night before she announced her withdrawal from the race.

Related: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools” by Madison Mayor Paul Soglin.
Madison’s long time disastrous reading results and the school board.
2013 Madison School Election Intrigue (Public!)
Much more on the 2013 Madison School Board elections, here.
I’m glad DeFour continues to dig.

Soglin right not to soft-pedal problems

Carl Silverman:

I agree with Mayor Paul Soglin. Tackling our “urban problems” is preferable to soft-pedaling them and relying instead on improved public relations.
Given the wide achievement gap and the portion of black and Latino kids in our schools, it’s hard to believe Superintendent Jane Belmore’s claim that most of our school kids are doing very well. If, as Soglin believes, much of the gap is related to the many kids who transfer from other districts and are behind grade level upon entry, maybe the district should place them in grades appropriate for their achievement levels rather than basing placement solely on age. Similar reasoning might lead to abandoning present widespread use of social promotion, and promoting only those kids who have achieved grade level skills by the end of the year.

Related: “When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous”: An Update on Madison’s Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin on The Schools, Community, Curriculum & Parenting

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin Interview 8.12.2011 from Jim Zellmer.

I am thankful that Madison Mayor Paul Soglin took the time to chat yesterday.
Mobile (iPhone, iPad, iPod and Android) visitors, please use this link.
19MB mp3 version.

Soglin on Allied Drive, Gangs

Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: he future for Allied Drive and the City of Madison appears bleak. WMTV-15 reported two nights ago: Allied Drive Crowds a Growing Concern for Police Madison police say they have needed to call for backup three times within the last week due to troublesome crowds of people in the Allied … Continue reading Soglin on Allied Drive, Gangs

11 shot Saturday into Sunday, including 11-year-old injured when another child, 8, accidentally shot him (chicago)

Talia Soglin: An 11-year-old boy, wounded when another child accidentally shot him, was among 11 people shot in Chicago between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, according to Chicago police. The 11-year-old had been in the living room of a residence in the 4000 block of South King Drive in Bronzeville with two other children when … Continue reading 11 shot Saturday into Sunday, including 11-year-old injured when another child, 8, accidentally shot him (chicago)

The cruel reality of online ‘school’ in a 12th floor flat Simon has anxiety issues and finds it embarrassing to have to admit on the group chat, in full view of the rest of the class, that he doesn’t understand. After half an hour, the test finishes; Simon has managed to answer four of the 20 questions. The other 16 he’s left blank.  The teacher … Continue reading The cruel reality of online ‘school’ in a 12th floor flat

K-12 Tax, Referendum and Spending Climate: Madison Civics and Governance Exam…

Chris Rickert: “There’s no room for dialogue. There’s no room for compromise,” he said. “It’s happening across the country. It’s not just Madison.” Every single day I am proud that I refused an endorsement interview with this trash ass publication. Omg, they really just are unapologetic piece of shit excuse for journalism. And don’t come … Continue reading K-12 Tax, Referendum and Spending Climate: Madison Civics and Governance Exam…

Madison School Board President seeks Police Chief Job

David Blaska: Reyes was one of 40 applicants. The deadline was today. She is a former police officer and, under past mayor Paul Soglin, was deputy mayor for law enforcement. Once an advocate for police in the city’s four troubled high schools, Reyes caved after BLM invaded her residential street this summer and voted to expel … Continue reading Madison School Board President seeks Police Chief Job

‘We can no longer afford to stay silent’: MMSD superintendent condemns shooting of Jacob Blake

Logan Rude: Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Carlton Jenkins shared a statement Wednesday condemning the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha police. In his statement, Jenkins said the school district stands with the city and the country in the wake of the shooting of … Continue reading ‘We can no longer afford to stay silent’: MMSD superintendent condemns shooting of Jacob Blake

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?

‘Living on borrowed time’ before someone killed by teenage burglaries, car thefts

David Blaska: Congrats to Ald. Paul Skidmore for hosting Monday night’s public safety meeting at Blackhawk Church off Mineral Point Road. Guessing a very engaged crowd of 400 to 500, with a significant representation from black and white. What a line-up! Juvenile court judges Juan Colas and Everett Mitchell, Sheriff Dave Mahoney, D.A. Ismael Ozanne, … Continue reading ‘Living on borrowed time’ before someone killed by teenage burglaries, car thefts

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Madison’s ongoing spending growth

Dean Mosiman: As Madison readies to make final budget decisions, new estimates have decreased the city’s tax base, meaning taxes on the average home will be higher than initially thought. Mayor Paul Soglin proposed an operating budget in early October, and on Oct. 23 the city’s Finance Committee made amendments and approved a $314.3 million … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Madison’s ongoing spending growth

Madison School Board proposes contract with opt-out for school police officers

Jeff Glaze: Seeking flexibility to respond to community dialog over use of school-based police officers, the Madison School Board has proposed a so-called “compromise” to city officials that would keep officers in Madison’s four main high schools, at least for now. The School Board on Tuesday unveiled a proposal intended to meet the city’s demands … Continue reading Madison School Board proposes contract with opt-out for school police officers

Commentary on Madison’s long term Reading “Tax” & Monolithic K-12 System

Possible de-regulation of Wisconsin charter school authorizations has lead to a bit of rhetoric on the state of Madison’s schools, their ability to compete and whether the District’s long term, disastrous reading results are being addressed. We begin with Chris Rickert: Madison school officials not eager to cede control of ‘progress’: Still, Department of Public … Continue reading Commentary on Madison’s long term Reading “Tax” & Monolithic K-12 System

Property Tax Season: Comparing Madison Area Burdens in light of quarterly payments

The arrival of Thanksgiving means local homeowners will soon see their annual property tax bills. The chart below compares Madison area homes sold in 2012, ranging in price from $239,900 to $255,000 Tap to view a larger version. Excel. A Middleton home’s property tax burden is about 13% less than a similar property in Madison … Continue reading Property Tax Season: Comparing Madison Area Burdens in light of quarterly payments

Ongoing Increases in Madison Property Taxes: “Delinquencies 30% More Than We Expect” (!); Schools up 4.2% this year

Bill Novak Madison property owners will soon be able to pay their taxes in four installments, beginning with the 2014 tax bill coming in December. The Mayor’s Office said on Tuesday the four-payment plan could help taxpayers avoid penalties by spreading out the taxes owed over a seven-month period. “At the height of the recession, … Continue reading Ongoing Increases in Madison Property Taxes: “Delinquencies 30% More Than We Expect” (!); Schools up 4.2% this year

Autism costs ‘£32bn per year’ in UK

Helen Briggs: The economic cost of supporting someone with autism over a lifetime is much higher than previously thought, research suggests. It amounts to £1.5m in the UK and $2.4m in the US for individuals with the highest needs, say UK and US experts. Autism cost the UK more than heart disease, stroke and cancer … Continue reading Autism costs ‘£32bn per year’ in UK

MTI, AFSCME and Building Trades Petition for 2015-16 Contracts

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter via a kind Jeannie Kamholtz email (PDF): The value of positive employer-employee relationships being highly valued in Madison and the surrounding area has moved the County of Dane and the City of Madison to continue to negotiate contracts with their employee unions. While the 2011 legislated Act 10 was designed … Continue reading MTI, AFSCME and Building Trades Petition for 2015-16 Contracts

Hey, guilty liberals, how about OK for Madison Prep?

David Blaska:

Nobody does guilt like a Madison liberal! The president of the Madison School Board tells me that I really didn’t make that. All along, I have been swimming in the water of white privilege.
I wish Ed Hughes had told me about white privilege when, growing up on the farm, I was mucking out the old barn with a shovel. I knew I was swimming in something but I didn’t think it was white privilege.
Ed is an honorable public servant, mindful of the dismayingly poor unemployment, incarceration, and graduation rates among people of color here in the Emerald City.
“We white folks pretty much get to set the rules in Madison,” Hughes apologizes. He meant “liberal white folks.” They’ve been running Madison for 40 years, since Paul Soglin first became mayor. It’s 50 years since LBJ’s Great Society. Something besides the Obamacare website ain’t workin’.
Allow this Madison minority — I’m a conservative — to propose a fix: If a crusading young black educator named Kaleem Caire returns to the Madison School Board with a plan for a school focused on tackling minority underachievement, give it a chance! Ed, you voted with the majority to kill Madison Prep.

Much more on the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School, here.

School board races matter, and there’s still time to run

The Capital Times:

Candidates who lose a race for public office face a choice. They can give up on campaigning and step back to the sidelines of the American experiment. Or they can wade back into the competition — better prepared and more determined to prevail.
Gaylord Nelson lost his first race for the state Legislature.
So did Scott Walker.
Robert M. La Follette lost and lost before he won the governorship.
Bill Proxmire lost statewide race after statewide race before he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
Paul Soglin lost his first race for mayor of Madison.
And Madison firefighter and paramedic Michael Flores lost his first race for the Madison School Board in 2012.

Much more on the 2014 Madison School Board election, here.

Madison teachers union ratify contract for 2014-15

Jeff Glaze:

Madison School District teachers and staff will be covered under a collective bargaining agreement through the 2014-15, pending approval by the Madison School Board.
Madison Teachers Inc. members gathered Wednesday evening at Madison Marriott West in Middleton to ratify a one-year contract extension with the district. MTI’s five bargaining units, which include teachers, education assistants, clerical and security staff, and other district employees, all ratified the deal.
The Madison School Board will vote on the agreement Monday.
John Matthews, executive director of the union, said that pending school board approval, MTI would be the only teachers’ union in Wisconsin with a contract through the 2014-15 school year.

Related: Proposed City of Madison budget raises property taxes by 1.5%, while the Madison School District’s 2013-2014 budget increases taxes by 4.5%, after a 9% increase two years ago (and a substantial jump in redistributed state tax dollars last year).

Madison K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: City Budget Slows Spending Growth, K-12 School District Raises Taxes. 4.5%

Madison leaders say trimming city workers’ pay might be necessary:

Scheduled pay raises for union-represented city employees may need to be trimmed to help balance the 2014 city budget, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin and City Council President Chris Schmidt said Friday.
Schmidt said he didn’t relish the step — calling city workers “already underpaid for the jobs they do” — but he argued there could be no other choice.
Revenue limits under state law, rising city costs for fuel and health insurance, and a steadfast goal to protect funding for basic city services increasingly tie the city’s hands, he said.
“It’s understandable why it’s on the table, why we’re discussing it,” he said about the possible action, in which a 3 percent raise scheduled to start in the last pay period in December could be scaled back or eliminated for many employees in March.

Andrea Anderson:

Contract talks for Madison School District employees set to start this month, letter says contract negotiations for Madison School District employees are set to begin later this month, according to a letter sent Friday to district staff by superintendent Jennifer Cheatham and Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews.
Cheatham said in a phone interview that she and employee unions will be negotiating “as soon as we can” in order to create collective bargaining agreements that will take effect after the current contracts end in June 2014.
MTI asked the district to begin collective bargaining in May, but the new superintendent wanted to adjust to her role, become acquainted with the staff and hear their requests before bargaining with the teachers union and other employee unions.
Although the timeline is unclear, Cheatham said she expects to complete the contracts “fairly quickly” while also taking time to ensure the process is done correctly and has an outcome acceptable to all parties.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2013-2014 budget (including a 4.5 property tax increase, after 9% two years ago), here.

“But I do not plan to measure the success of the district’s students by the number of meetings”

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin:

A reporter recently asked me how often I planned to meet with Madisons’ new school Superintendent, Jennifer Cheatham.
I do not know and frankly, I am wondering why it matters.
How often we meet will be driven by a number of yet to be determined factors. And more important than how often we meet, is the matter of improved performance for Madison school children.
It is the difference between outputs and outcomes. The number of miles of street we plow is an output, the measurement of the quality of the job is an outcome. The number of teenagers who attend a class on abstinence or receive condoms is an output, the number of teenage pregnancies is an outcome.
We need to focus on outcomes. We need to measure performance and ensure that educational attainment improves.
How often Superintendent Cheatham and I meet will be determined by the agenda, the role of our respective staffs, and other factors.
It is possible that we may find regular quarterly meetings too frequent, we may find that monthly meetings are not frequent enough. We don’t know yet. But I do not plan to measure the success of the district’s students by the number of meetings.

Much more on Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, here.

Another Proposed Madison School District Charter Policy

Dylan Pauly, Legal Counsel Steve Hartley, Chief of Staff, Madison School District via a kind reader’s email (700K PDF):

– removes the ability of an individual board member to initiate a charter proposal – must be initiated by the board instead (superintendent can also initiate)
– $6,500 per pupil funding formula, with reductions in district funding after the 3rd or 4th year (unclear) of between 10-20% based on private fundraising.

Madison will spend about $15k/student during the 2012-2013 school year.
Related: Many notes and links on the rejected (by a majority of the Madison School Board) Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”. More, here.

Charter school experiment a success; The arrival of charter schools in any city usually starts a fight.

USA Today Editorial:

Critics — whether district superintendents or teachers’ unions or school boards or a traveling band of academic doubters — snipe at the newcomers, arguing that they’re siphoning students and money from traditional public schools.
But as evidence from the 20-year-old charter experiment mounts, the snipers are in need of a new argument. There’s little doubt left that top-performing charters have introduced new educational models that have already achieved startling results in even the most difficult circumstances.
That doesn’t mean all charters are automatically good. They’re not. But it’s indisputable that the good ones — most prominently, KIPP — are onto something. The non-profit company, which now has 125 schools, operates on a model that demands much more of students, parents and teachers than the typical school does. School days are longer, sometimes including Saturday classes. Homework burdens are higher, typically two hours a night. Grading is tougher. Expectations are high, as is the quality of teachers and principals, and so are the results.
KIPP’s eighth-grade graduates go to college at twice the national rate for low-income students, according to its own tracking. After three years, scores on math tests rise as if students had four years of schooling, according to an independent study.

Related: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”
A majority of the Madison School Board rejected the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school.
Minneapolis teacher’s union approved to authorize charter schools

Madison School Board Seat 5 (Sarah Manski, TJ Mertz, Ananda Mirilli); Out of State Fundraising (!), Utility Bill Lawsuit, Candidate’s Spouse Works for the District, Status Quo Comments

Madison School Board Seat 5 Candidate TJ Mertz Sued Twice for Unpaid Utility Bills by WKOW TV.
Missed Campaign Finance Filings: Paging Sarah Manski: You can’t leave for California just yet by David Blaska.
Sarah Manski keeps Nan Brien out of court; reports lots of Green by David Blaska:

She blew through Monday’s campaign finance reporting deadline as blithely as she ran – and then quit – her race for Madison School Board. (“Paging Sarah Manski: You can’t leave for California just yet.”) But Sarah Manski has finally made an honest woman of her treasurer and protector of the union-dominated old guard, Nan Brien.
(The former school board member, nemesis of public schools chartered to address the racial achievement gap, told WKOW TV-27 that her role as treasurer was only as a figurehead. Like Sgt. Schultz, so many in Madison are saying about the Manski campaign: “I knew nothing!”)
The Manski fundraising report filed Friday – four days late – reveals quite the haul in just a few weeks for a local race: $7,733 since Feb. 5 for a race that she ended two days after the Feb. 19 primary election. That makes a total of $11,136 since entering the race in December. That’s a lot of Green! As in very Green green.
Now, if Sarah had been a conservative instead of a professional Walker stalker (see: Wisconsin Wave), The Capital Times would have staged one of its pretend ethics meltdowns about the evils of out-of-state money. An example of their situational ethics is “Pat Roggensack’s out-of-state cash”:

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack makes little secret of her ideological and partisan alliances. And most of [her] money is coming from outside Wisconsin.

You want “outside Wisconsin”? How about St. Louis, Mo.; Lansdale, Pa.; N. Hollywood, Calif.; Edina, Minn.; Mishakawa, Ind.; Vancouver, Wash.; Kensington, Md.; Palo Alto, Calif.; New York, N.Y.; Port Orford, Ore.; Flossmoor, Ill.; Sheffield, Mass.; Orange, Calif.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Chevy Chase, Md.; Charleston, S.C.; Chicago, Ill.; Corvallis, Ore.; Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; Redlands, Calif.; Charlotte, N.C.; Austin, Texas; Los Angeles, Calif.; Tampa, Fla.; Boulder, Colo.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Detroit, Mich.; Santa Fe, N.M.; Seattle, Wash.; Carmel, Calif.; Houston, Texas; Philadelphia, Pa.
That is only a partial list of postmarks for “Manski for Wisconsin,” as her Madison School Board campaign was grandiosely named. Yes, when it comes to “outside cash,” John Nichols’ protégés get a pass. Manski collected 107 contributions in the latest reporting period, of which only 32 bore a Madison address, including: MTI boss John Matthews, $50; Mayor Soglin aide Sarah Miley’s husband, $100; and of course, Marj “Somebody Good” Passman, $50.

T.J. Mertz: How did Act 10 prevent you from paying your electric bill, and what about your conflict of interest? by David Blaska

Blaska’s Bring It! finds that Mertz’s spouse, Karin Schmidt, is employed by the Madison Metropolitan School District as a special education assistant at Madison West High School. That necessitates that Mertz recuse himself on such important votes as teacher and staff salary, benefits, working conditions, length of school day and year.
The odd thing is that nowhere on his campaign website does Mertz refer to his wife. He mentions two sons but no spouse. Why is she The Woman Who Must Not Be Named?
“No particular reason why she is not listed there,” Mertz told me today. Seriously? And what about the obvious conflict of interest?
“If elected, I will recuse myself as advised by district legal staff,” Mertz told this blog. I asked what would trigger a recusal. He responded, “As to recusals, I don’t know. I will take the legal advice of the district counsel. You could ask her; I have not yet, as it is not appropriate for her to be giving advice to a candidate.”
Really? You’re running for school board but you don’t know when and on what you can vote?
I have posed the conflict-of-interest issue to MMSD legal staff as well as to the Wisconsin School Board Assn. This being the Easter weekend holiday, answers may not be forthcoming before the election. However, Mertz supporter Bill Keys, the former school board president who banned the Pledge of Allegiance at Madison schools, a year ago declared that school board candidate Nichelle Nichols “will be unable to work fully with her colleagues,” because she was a Madison Urban League employee:

When I served on the board, our attorney instructed me to avoid Madison Teachers Inc. negotiations and not even be in the room during discussions. As a retired teacher, I benefited only from the life insurance policy provided by the district. Even so, discussions or votes on MTI benefits would violate state law.

Continuing to Advocate Status Quo Governance & Spending (Outcomes?) in Madison

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes:

First, I provide some background on the private school voucher imposition proposal. Next, I list thirteen ways in which the proposal and its advocates are hypocritical, inconsistent, irrational, or just plain wrong. Finally, I briefly explain for the benefit of Wisconsin Federation for Children why the students in Madison are not attending failing schools.

Related: Counterpoint by David Blaska.
Does the School Board Matter? Ed Hughes argues that experience does, but what about “Governance” and “Student Achievement”?
2005: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

2009: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use. This program continues, despite the results.
2004: Madison Schools Distort Reading Data (2004) by Mark Seidenberg.
2012: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”
Scott Bauer

Almost half of Wisconsin residents say they haven’t heard enough about voucher schools to form an opinion, according to the Marquette University law school poll. Some 27 percent of respondents said they have a favorable view of voucher schools while 24 percent have an unfavorable view. But a full 43 percent said they hadn’t heard enough about them to form an opinion.
“There probably is still more room for political leadership on both sides to try to put forward convincing arguments and move opinion in their direction,” pollster Charles Franklin said.
The initial poll question about vouchers only asked for favorability perceptions without addressing what voucher schools are. In a follow-up question, respondents were told that vouchers are payments from the state using taxpayer money to fund parents’ choices of private or religious schools.
With that cue, 51 percent favored it in some form while 42 percent opposed it.
Walker is a staunch voucher supporter.

More on the voucher proposal, here.
A close observer of Madison’s $392,789,303 K-12 public school district ($14,547/student) for more than nine years, I find it difficult to see substantive change succeeding. And, I am an optimist.
It will be far better for us to address the District’s disastrous reading results locally, than to have change imposed from State or Federal litigation or legal changes. Or, perhaps a more diffused approach to redistributed state tax dollar spending.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Too many tax-exempt properties in Madison?

Chris Rickert:

Over the last 10 years, the city of Madison has been subjected to a costly 2009 state law and hit with a string of unfavorable court rulings that together have effectively removed millions of dollars’ worth of property value from city tax rolls.
Meanwhile, it seems Mayor Paul Soglin and the Madison School District can’t go a week without complaining about how Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature won’t give them the state tax dollars they need or let them raise local property taxes enough to cover their bills.
So what do a pair of Democratic state lawmakers from Madison do? Well, propose to make yet another piece of Madison property exempt from property taxes, of course.
It’s not like Sen. Fred Risser and Rep. Chris Taylor’s bill to make the Bartell Theatre tax-exempt is a huge deal. The theater at 113 E. Mifflin St. only paid about $13,000 in taxes in 2012.
But it’s counterproductive at best given the context of tight city budgets and the whittling away of taxable property value in a city already steeped in tax-exempt properties owned by state government, UW-Madison and nonprofit agencies.
“It’s inappropriate,” said Soglin, who said the lawmakers didn’t talk to him about the bill. “If anything, the state should be working with us to close the loopholes.”

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.
Fiscal Indulgences:

Mr Munger observes that America’s blockheaded debt-ceiling debate flows in part from a bipartisan commitment to the medieval theology of our tax code:

The Republicans in Congress are prepared to sacrifice our immortal debt rating to the proposition that not one penny increase is possible, even though almost no one actually pays those rates.
The Democrats in Congress like high rates, so that they can sell indulgences.

Republicans depend on selling indulgences, too, Mr Munger is keen to stress. Bowles-Simpson recommended closing some of the tax code’s most egregious loopholes. But the political incentives led President Obama to refuse the chance to go after tax expenditures; he has mostly pushed for higher rates. This is all incredibly depressing. You know we’re in trouble when Mr Munger, one of our sharpest scholars of political economy, is unable to offer useful advice beyond calling for a reformation, “a Martin Luther to speak out and tell the truth”.

“Everyone talked about collaborating but no one is collaborating”

Allie Johnson, via a kind reader’s email:

Mayor Paul Soglin said it is important for school districts to address parental involvement because it is one of the essential ways to create successful education. He explained it is important to engage parents in school and make them feel they have significant say in the education of their child.
“It is not good enough to send a note home in a backpack,” Soglin said. “That is not engagement.”
Soglin also emphasized the importance of getting parents involved in their children’s education early. He cited efforts in other cities to engage parents started with talking to parents before their children are even born.
The community also needs to focus on specific needs of students, according to Soglin. It is a tremendous challenge to learn in schools today, he said. Many households do not have computers, and if that is not recognized, it can impede ability of students to succeed, he said.

Related: Madison’s achievement gap and disastrous reading scores.
Related: Madison school district in disarray by Marc Eisen:

Because he hasn’t, Caire is shunned. The latest instance is the upcoming ED Talks Wisconsin, a progressive-minded education-reform conference sponsored by the UW School of Education, the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, the mayor’s office and other groups. Discussion of “a community-wide K-12 agenda” to address the achievement gap is a featured event. A fine panel has been assembled, including Mayor Paul Soglin, but Caire is conspicuously absent.
How can progressives not bring the Urban League to the table? Agree or disagree with its failed plan for the single-sex Madison Prep charter school, the Urban League has worked the hardest of any community group to bridge the achievement gap. This includes launching a scholars academy, the South Madison Promise Zone, ACT test-taking classes and periodic events honoring young minority students.
But Caire is branded as an apostate because he worked with conservative school-choice funders in Washington, D.C. So in Madison he’s dismissed as a hapless black tool of powerful white plutocrats. Progressives can’t get their head around the idea that the black-empowerment agenda might coincide with a conservative agenda on education, but then clash on a dozen other issues.

New Front in Charter Schools In Massachusetts, a Pair of Democrats Push to Lift Restrictions in Some Districts

Jennifer Levitz:

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering eliminating a cap on the number of charter schools that can operate in the lowest-performing school districts, including here in the capital city.
While other states also have weighed lifting caps, charter advocates point to left-leaning Massachusetts as a somewhat unlikely model for the movement. “This demonstrates that charter schools are a viable reform,” said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit aimed at advancing the movement. “If it can happen in Massachusetts, it can happen anywhere.”
Charter schools receive public funding but, unlike public schools, employ mostly nonunion teachers and have autonomy in school districts, which allows them to set their own conditions, such as longer school days. They have long been embraced by Republicans for introducing choice in education, but have been assailed by some teacher unions and others as hurting traditional public schools.

Madison appears to be going in the opposite direction.
Related: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”

Madison’s Proposed Charter School (!) Policy (Now Explicit: Union Represented Only)

Dylan Pauly, Legal Counsel; Steve Hartley, Chief of Staff:

During last month’s Committee meeting, we presented a new, rewritten Policy 10000. At that time, we explained that the changes contained therein were intended to reflect the time the Board has spent reviewing and discussing Dr. Julie Mead’s work regarding principle-based policymaking. Over the course of the last meeting, several members suggested changes for and improvements to Draft 1 of the rewritten Policy 10000. Tonight we present Draft 2, which we believe incorporates the Board’s suggestions and input. Attached hereto is a redline draft highlighting the differences between Draft 1 of the rewritten policy and Draft 2.
The changes include:

  • Express language stating only instrumentality schools will be considered (p. 10-1)
  • Refinement of the guiding principles (pp. 10-1and10-2)
  • Revisions to the timeline to include more Board involvement and specificity (p.10-3)
  • Board review and approval of Initial Applications (p. 10-5)
  • Clarification of the timing of the Superintendent’s Administrative Analysis (p. 10-6)
  • Removal of the term “qualified” in Section IV (p. 10-7)
  • Additional detail regarding location requirements (p. 10-8)

The changes in Draft 2 do not reflect any of the proposed statutory amendments contained in Governor Walker’s biennial budget. At this time, the changes are only proposals and may or may not be passed as law. Obviously, if any of the proposed changes, which primarily relate to independent and instrumentality charter schools, do become law, we will need to review Policy 10000 again to insure compliance.

Related: Madison Mayor Paul “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools” Soglin Asked Sarah Manski to Run for the School Board; “Referred” her to MTI Executive Director John Matthews.

Madison Urban League head calls out Manski and Mertz for dishonest school board campaign

David Blaska

Kaleem Caire, president of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is speaking out against the campaign of deception waged against people of color and others who support doing something now about Madison’s yawning achievement gap instead of blaming Gov. Scott Walker.
In a statement issued this week, Caire writes, “As the 2013 Madison school board race continues, we (the Urban League) are deeply concerned about the negative politics, dishonesty and inaccurate discussions that have shaped the campaign. … We are concerned about how Madison Prep has become a red herring ….”
Walker had not even been sworn in as governor when the Urban League proposed establishing a charter school, Madison Preparatory Academy, to address an achievement gap in which barely half of black and Hispanic children graduate from high school in the Madison public schools.
Caire mentioned as the two worst offenders in this campaign of dishonesty T.J. Mertz, candidate for School Board seat #5, and Green Party activist Ben Manski.
Manski’s wife, Sarah, jumped into the seat #5 race hoping to squeeze out an already announced candidate, Latina immigrant Ananda Mirilli. Sarah Manski’s candidacy was apparently encouraged by both Mayor Paul Soglin, who gave her a glowing campaign testimonial, and teachers union boss John Matthews, to whom Soglin referred Sarah Manski. On Dec. 30, Ben Manski blasted an email containing this outright distortion of minority candidate Ananda Mirilli’s position:

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

Is Madison having a truly open dialogue about the schools’ achievement gap?

Pat Schneider:

Can you have a public discussion on closing the achievement gap in Madison without inviting Kaleem Caire, the architect of a would-be charter school plan that pushed the issue of the Madison School District’s persistent race-based gap to the front burner of local civic debate?
Caire, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, is not on the roster for the March 13 installment of Ed Talks Wisconsin, a UW-Madison-sponsored series on current education topics, when a Madison panel will discuss “Closing the Achievement Gap: Toward a Community-Wide K12 Agenda.”
Joel Rogers, director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, the equity advocacy group that organized the achievement gap panel discussion, said Monday that the presentation was conceived as a response to Caire’s education forum featuring such lights of the “school reform” movement as Geoffrey Canada, John Legend and Howard Fuller. At that two-day event last December, people heard a lot of talk promoting charter schools and greater teacher accountability as the answer to lagging performance by students of color.
“We wanted voices of people who think that, whatever its defects, public education is important in the 21st century,” Rogers said, adding that Madison Mayor Paul Soglin urged him to organize a program.
For his part, Soglin said that Caire has organized a number of discussions, like December’s “Educate to Elevate,” and “he did not invite anyone with different opinions on charter schools to participate.”
The achievement gap presentation in Ed Talks was in response to the Urban League’s education summit, but other programs in the eight-day series were suggested by a variety of other groups as early as last fall, organizer Sara Goldrick-Rab [SIS], an associate professor in the School of Education, told me.
The final event on March 21 is part of a two-day educational policy conference that the university has hosted for years, she said.
Ed Talks is funded by some $5,000 in donations from a variety of university entities, but some $8,000 in funding for the educational policy conference includes $300 from the local branch of the American Federation of Teachers and $500 from WEAC, Goldrick-Rab said.

Related Does the School Board Matter? Ed Hughes argues that experience does, but what about “Governance” and “Student Achievement”?

Urban League leader blasts hand-wringing about city’s image

Paul Fanlund:

During 2011, Kaleem Caire became a household name in local public affairs by leading a passionate but ultimately unsuccessful fight to create the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school.
When I mentioned it in an interview at his Park Street office last week, Caire, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, instantly recited the date of the Madison School Board’s 5-2 rejection (Dec. 19, 2011).
Madison Prep was to be an academically rigorous school of mostly minority students who would dress in uniforms and be divided by gender. The school day would be longer and parental involvement required. Teachers would also serve as mentors, role models and coaches. The goal was to lessen the city’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
But the board voted no, citing unanswered questions and worries about costs. Also in play were teacher union trepidations and widespread skepticism about the charter school concept, a favorite of conservatives, in liberal Madison.

Related: Achievement gap exists for both longtime, new Madison students.
Madison School district must solve problems no matter where they originate.
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 (November, 2005).
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.

Madison School district must solve problems no matter where they originate

Chris Rickert:

Madison learned last week that it might not be able to blame its long-standing achievement gap on outsiders, as a school district analysis of testing data throws cold some water on a theory making the rounds of some of Madison’s opinion brokers.
Suggested by a previous district report and championed by Mayor Paul Soglin, the theory is that minority students are doing worse academically than their white peers because many of them have transferred in from other (presumably worse) districts.
Had they spent their whole careers in the (presumably better) Madison schools, goes the theory, they would be doing better.
Unfortunately for theory proponents, when controlling for demographic factors such as race and income, district number crunchers didn’t find much difference between the test scores of students who grew up in the district and the scores of those who didn’t.
The analysis suggests the achievement gap is a much more frightening, wholly owned subsidiary of the district; in other words, not something Madisonians can mentally file under “out of our control.”
The question now is: Are we ready to believe it?

Related: 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 (November, 2005).
Achievement gap exists for both longtime, new Madison students.

Achievement gap exists for both longtime, new Madison students

Matthew DeFour:

The data showed the same result overall, but found new students are disproportionately low-income or minorities. Comparing students in similar racial and income groups, the district found time spent in the district did not explain the difference in test results.
The new district analysis challenges Mayor Paul Soglin’s focus in recent months on students moving to Madison from larger cities such as Milwaukee and Chicago. Soglin has called for alternative programs specifically geared toward new students to help improve low-income and minority student achievement.
“The practical fact is that mobility and newness are things we take into consideration, but when we plan how we’re going to address learning needs, they’re not the most important factors,” Superintendent Jane Belmore said.

I’m glad Mr. DeFour continues to look into this important issue.
Related links:
“When controlling for demographic characteristics, the effects of additional years in MMSD on WKCE scores are largely ambiguous”. An Update on Madison’s Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.

Reggio Emilia: From Postwar Italy to NYC’s Toniest Preschools; Remembering the Rejected Madison Studio School (Charter)

Emily Chertoff, via a kind reader’s email:

A teaching approach meant to perk up the children of war is popular at a handful of posh American schools. But wouldn’t it make more sense to use it with underprivileged kids?
It’s relatively rare to hear a preschool described as “luxurious.” But in 2007 the New York Times used just that word in praising one on the Upper East Side. What did the reporter mean, exactly? Artisanal carob cookies? Cashmere blankets at nap time?
Not quite. The article was describing a school run on the principles of Reggio Emilia, an educational method that privileges beauty and art. Reggio, which is named after a town in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, often appears in the U.S. as part of the pedagogy of ultra-elite private schools — but it was developed to help the humblest children.
On April 25, 1945, Allied forces in Italy, and their counterparts in the country’s transitional government, declared an end to the Mussolini regime. Some Italians marked Liberation Day by throwing parties or pouring out into the streets. The residents of one small village near Bologna celebrated by founding a school.
The town of Reggio Emilia and its surrounding villages had been flattened by years of bombings and ground warfare. The Germans, who had retreated through the area, left behind tanks and ammunition in fine condition, but these were of no use to the townspeople.

Recall that the Madison Studio School (Wisconsin State Journal Article), rejected as a charter school by the Madison school board was based on the Reggio Emilia model.
Related: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”

Madison’s Mayor on Transfer Students & The Achievement Gap; District Plans to Release Data “Within 3 Weeks”

Paul Fanlund, via a kind reader’s email

There is an achievement gap. A significant part of the achievement gap is not because of the failure on the part of the Madison public schools, but it is because of the number of students who have transferred here from other districts, districts like Chicago,” he says.
“Those kids come here unprepared. They come from poorly performing schools. There is a reluctance to discuss this factor. The reluctance to discuss it has at least two consequences. The first is that we come to erroneous conclusions about the quality of education in Madison. The second problem is that we don’t develop strategies for these kids so that we can close that achievement gap.”
Soglin says a child who’s far behind in reading “who transferred in from a poorly performing district as opposed to a child who’s been in Madison her entire life, could require very different interventions. There are people who don’t want to talk about this problem and that’s one of the reasons we fail in addressing the achievement gap.
“Now, talking about this alone is not going to solve it, but addressing it and analyzing it properly may in the short term cast some negatives, but it is going to lead to a better job in terms of correcting the problem.”

I (and others) inquired about the data behind the Mayor’s assertion several months ago. I received an email today – after another inquiry – from the District’s Steve Hartley stating that the data will be available in “under 3 weeks”.
Related, also from Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.
Background links:
November, 2005 When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
“They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!
60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use
61 Page Madison Schools Achievement Gap Plan -Accountability Plans and Progress Indicators

WI Association of School Boards: Taxpayer Dollars at Work Against Taxpayers – Fighting Open Records: Resolution 13-16: Costs Associated With Open Records Requests

Wisconsin Association of School Boards (PDF), via a kind reader’s email:

Create: The WASB supports legislation to allow a public records authority to charge a requester for all of the actual, necessary and direct costs associated with complying with requests under the Public Records Law.
Rationale: The committee advanced this resolution to allow the membership to decide whether to go on record in support of allowing public records authorities, including school districts, to charge a requester for all of the actual, necessary and direct costs associated with complying with requests under the Public Records Law. (A recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision held that public records authorities are not authorized to charge a requester for the costs of redacting non-disclosable information contained in otherwise disclosable public records.)

Related: Madison Schools’ Report Cards Take a hit after data error and Where does MMSD get its numbers from?.
Open Records. Sunlight Foundation.
The publication of1996-2006 Madison Police call data occurred after a lengthy open records process. Perhaps the City is becoming more forthcoming?

A Guide for the Perplexed — A Review of Rigorous Charter Research

Collin Hitt:

So you say charter schools don’t work. That’s an empirical claim. It needs to be backed up by evidence. Here’s a helpful guide to the most rigorous research available. Once you’ve tackled this material, you’ll be in position to prove your point.
As you probably know, the gold standard method of research in social science is called random assignment. Charter schools are particularly well-suited for random assignment evaluations, since they’re usually required by law to admit students by lottery. The lotteries are fair to families – that’s why they’re put in place. But they also allow researchers to make fair comparisons between students who win or lose lotteries to attend charter schools.
To date, nine studies lottery-based evaluations of charter schools have been released. Let’s go through them, starting with the earliest work.
The first random assignment study of charter schools was released in 2004 by Caroline Hoxby and Jonah Rockoff. It focused on Chicago International Charter School. After three years, charter students had significantly higher reading scores, equal to 3.3 to 4.2 points on 100-point rankings. Gains were even stronger for younger students.

Related: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.

Accountability: Report card scores for most Madison schools take small hit

Matthew DeFour, via a kind reader’s email

The report card scores of nearly all Madison schools will be reduced slightly after the district discovered it had reported incorrect student attendance data to the state and revised it.
In most cases the new, lower scores — which the Department of Public Instruction plans to update on its website next week — have no impact on the rating each Madison school receives on the report card. But six schools will be downgraded to a lower category.
Randall and Van Hise elementaries, which were rated in the highest performance category, are now in the second-highest tier. Olson and Chavez elementaries are now in the middle tier. And Mendota and Glendale elementaries are in the second-lowest tier.
The corrections — prompted by a State Journal inquiry — have no immediate practical ramifications, though the implications are significant as state leaders contemplate tying school funding to the report card results.
Adam Gamoran, director of the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, said it’s “extremely important” that the data used to rate schools is accurate. The report cards are part of the state’s new school accountability system, and DPI has proposed directing resources to schools struggling in certain categories.
“The report cards are only as good as the data that goes into them,” he said.

Props to DeFour and the Wisconsin State Journal for digging and pushing.
Related: Madison Mayor Paul Soglin: “We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”.
Where does the Madison School District Get its Numbers from?
Global Academic Standards: How we Outrace the Robots and
An Update on Madison’s Use of the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) Assessment, including individual school reports. Much more on Madison and the MAP Assessment, here.
I strongly support diffused governance of our public schools. One size fits all has outlived its usefulness.

“We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”

Larry Winkler kindly emailed the chart pictured above.

Where have all the Students gone?

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin:

We are not interested in the development of new charter schools. Recent presentations of charter school programs indicate that most of them do not perform to the level of Madison public schools. I have come to three conclusions about charter schools. First, the national evidence is clear overall, charter schools do not perform as well as traditional public schools. Second where charter schools have shown improvement, generally they have not reached the level of success of Madison schools. Third, if our objective is to improve overall educational performance, we should try proven methods that elevate the entire district not just the students in charter schools. The performance of non-charter students in cities like Milwaukee and Chicago is dismal.
In addition, it seems inappropriate to use resources to develop charter schools when we have not explored system-wide programming that focuses on improving attendance, the longer school day, greater parental involvement and combating hunger and trauma.
We must get a better understanding of the meaning of ‘achievement gap.’ A school in another system may have made gains in ‘closing’ the achievement gap, but that does not mean its students are performing better than Madison students. In addition, there is mounting evidence that a significant portion of the ‘achievement gap’ is the result of students transferring to Madison from poorly performing districts. If that is the case, we should be developing immersion programs designed for their needs rather than mimicking charter school programs that are more expensive, produce inadequate results, and fail to recognize the needs of all students.
It should be noted that not only do the charter schools have questionable results but they leave the rest of the district in shambles. Chicago and Milwaukee are two systems that invested heavily in charter schools and are systems where overall performance is unacceptable.

Related links:

I am unaware of Madison School District achievement data comparing transfer student performance. I will email the Madison School Board and see what might be discovered.
Pat Schnieder:

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has some pretty strong ideas about how to improve academic achievement by Madison school children. Charter schools are not among them.
In fact, Madison’s ongoing debate over whether a charter school is the key to boosting academic achievement among students of color in the Madison Metropolitan School District is distracting the community from making progress, Soglin told me.
He attended part of a conference last week sponsored by the Urban League of Greater Madison that he says overstated the successes elsewhere of charter schools, like the Urban League’s controversial proposed Madison Preparatory Academy that was rejected by the Madison School Board a year ago.
“A number of people I talked with about it over the weekend said the same thing: This debate over charter schools is taking us away from any real improvement,” Soglin said.
Can a new committee that Soglin created — bringing together representatives from the school district, city and county — be one way to make real progress?

The City of Madison’s Education Committee, via a kind reader’s email. Members include: Arlene Silveira, Astra Iheukemere, Carousel Andrea S. Bayrd, Erik Kass, Jenni Dye, Matthew Phair, Maya Cole and Shiva Bidar-Sielaff.

Madison Memorial High School Evening Meal Program Aims to Reduce Achievement Gap

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter:

Often one does not realize how information gathered may be used to benefit others when the information is first received. Such is the case of the Memorial High School Evening Meal Program. Several years ago, Art Camosy, MTI Vice President and MTI’s Senior Faculty Representative for Memorial High School, attended a lecture given by Columbia Teachers’ College Professor Richard Rothstein. The lecture was sponsored by MTI, State Representative Cory Mason (Racine), and several entities within the UW. Professor Rothstein spoke about the impact of poverty on learning, citing, among other things, that a lack of medical and dental care result in lack of readiness for school, one of the causes of an achievement gap for the children growing up in poverty.
According to Rothstein in his book, “Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Achievement Gap” (, children of high school drop-outs probably know 400 words by the time they enter school; children of high school graduates 1600 words; and children of college graduates 2400 words. That preparedness deficit added to poor nutrition and lack of regular meals makes it almost impossible for a child to catch up with his/her peers who do not experience the described complicating factors. Rothstein states, “Low-income kindergartners whose height and weight are below normal children for their age tend to have lower test scores …. Indeed, the relationship between good nutrition and achievement is so obvious, that some school districts, under pressure recently to increase poor children’s test scores, boosted caloric content of school lunches on test days.”
Having heard Rothstein’s passion on the impact of poverty on nutrition, and nutrition on the achievement gap, Camosy approached MTI Executive Director John Matthews about providing an evening meal at Memorial. Matthews approached United Way President Leslie Howard, who was excited about the idea and offered UWDC support. MTI and United Way met last spring with various Memorial staff, students, parents and community members to get the project rolling. The Memorial Evening Meal Project got under way. Matthews also contacted Madison Mayor Paul Soglin to ensure appropriate bus transportation. Kick-off was last Monday, with 100 meals served and the number of participants rising. Added benefit to the students participating is tutoring by upper level students and teachers, all of whom are volunteering their time and talents. Thanks to the progressive Memorial Principal Bruce Dahmen, who not only has worked with Camosy to make the project a reality, but whose efforts in working with others in the District have made the Evening Meal Program an instant success. Camosy’s idea is sure to spread to other schools. It’s impact on the achievement gap is certain.

Madison School District’s Teacher Union Bargaining Update

Matthew DeFour:

Matthews said a few proposals gave him “heartburn,” such as one that would allow the district to dismiss someone who had been on medical leave for two years. A proposal converting workloads from four class periods and one study hall to 25 hours per week could also give the district latitude to shorten class periods and increase each teacher’s number of classes, he said.
One change that Matthews said could be easily resolved is a proposal from both sides to make Unity health insurance available to employees. The district wants to be able to choose Physicians Plus, which it currently offers, or Unity, while MTI wants the district to offer both.
The union’s proposal seeks to reverse some of the changes that were negotiated before Act 10 took effect in 2011. They include giving teachers control over their time during Monday early release and deleting a clause that allows the district to require up to 10 percent health insurance premium contributions.

Madison Teachers’, Inc. Solidarity eNewsletter (PDF):

Last Monday’s Board of Education meeting brought a pleasant surprise. With nearly every chair and all standing room taken in the McDaniels’ Auditorium by MTI members in red solidarity shirts or AFSCME members sporting their traditional green, those present erupted in applause when Board of Education member Ed Hughes announced that Board members (who arrived 40 minutes late because of the length of their prior meeting) had agreed to bargain with MTI and AFSCME over Contract terms for 2013-14.
Governor Walker’s Act 10, which forbid public sector bargaining (except over limited wage increases) has been set aside by Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas who ruled that Act 10 violated the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech, freedom of association, and equal protection, in response to MTI’s lawsuit.
Honoring a vote majority of 76% in Madison and 68% in Dane County, Mayor Soglin and County Executive Parisi have negotiated contracts through June 2015 with City and County employees.
Now the Madison Board of Education has seen the light. Negotiations in the District are to commence today. MTI members should stay in contact with their elected leaders and via MTI’s webpage ( as regards the Contract ratification process.

Commentary on Student Tenure and Achievement in Madison

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Given that, we should be cautious not to overreact to recent data the school district provided at the request of Mayor Paul Soglin. Yet the data is intriguing. And the numbers highlight the academic peril that often follows a transient student.
For example, in tracking the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination scores of eighth-graders, we learn that those students who took the math portion of the test in Madison as both a fourth-grader and an eighth-grader scored significantly higher than those who took the test here only in eighth grade.
For the longer-term students who took the test last school year, 78 percent scored proficient or advanced in math while, for the shorter-term students, 65 percent were proficient or higher. The story is much the same in reading scores. Of long-term students in the district, 81 percent scored proficient or higher as an eighth-grader while, for the more recently arrived students, just 65 percent hit that mark.

I look forward to seeing a more in-depth analysis of this question.

Madison School Board & Employee Handbook

Madison Teachers’, Inc. 46K PDF, via a kind Jeanie Bettner email:

Not only did Governor Walker’s Act 10 strip from the Madison Metropolitan School District the ability to engage in collective bargaining regarding wages, benefits and working conditions, but it gave full authority to the Board to unilaterally create a “replacement document”, the Employee Handbook.
At last week’s Board of Education meeting, MTI Executive Director John Matthews delivered a letter to the Board in which, after acknowledging the negative impact of Act 10, he told the Board that Act 10 DID NOT take away the Board’s ability to engage in conversation with representatives of MTI about the subjects to which the parties had previously agreed in bargaining, as well as any other topics. Board President James Howard called Matthews to tell him that the Board’s process is still being developed and offered to meet with Matthews after the Board next meets about the Handbook.
MTI has developed a process for Handbook development for which MTI has asked to present that to the Board of Education. MTI’s proposed process includes a recommendation that those elected by the members of MTI’s various bargaining units be appointed to the BOE’s Handbook Committee. This will assure both elected representation and input from all employee groups.
Matthews told Board of Education members about the discussions he and representatives of the AFSCME, Firefighters and Police Unions have been having with Mayor Soglin, County Executive Parisi and Supt. Nerad about the need to maintain positive employment relations, particularly relative to the development of the Handbook. Unfortunately, this effort at creating goodwill hit a bump in the road by former Supt. Nerad’s failure to inform Interim Supt. Belmore. Working together to solve issues is the Madison way.

District working to pay more attention to new students

Matthew DeFour:

The later students enter Madison schools, the less likely they are to graduate on time and score well on state tests, according to district data Mayor Paul Soglin requested this year. The data do not take into account other variables connected to achievement such as race and income (bold added).
“Maybe we shouldn’t be as critical of the system in holding the district responsible for the failure of a 14-year-old who’s only been here a year and is reading at a seventh-grade level,” Soglin said. “If there is a difference, maybe it shows that some intense work should be done with kids upon arrival.”

I hope that the District evaluates the data in more depth…

“Good Thing We Have Some Time”; on Madison’s Next Superintendent Hire….

Paul Fanlund:

As for superintendent candidates, someone with the pugnacious edge of our 67-year-old mayor might serve the city well.
In a recent interview, Paul Soglin told me he’s believed for 40 years that the quality of a school system is the “number one driver” for a city’s success.
Soglin said Madison’s schools are excellent, and, yes, the achievement gap needs attention. But Soglin said it’s unfair to expect schools here to shoulder blame for children who arrived only recently. The school district “has not done a good enough job explaining itself,” Soglin said.
It is hard to disagree.
So, in sum, our next school chief should have Soglin-like skills at the big vision and respond to sniping at public schools, be able to boost the morale of embattled teachers and staff, collaborate effectively with a disparate set of civic partners, and bring experience and keen judgment to tackling the achievement gap.
Good thing we have some time.

I’m glad that Paul has written on this topic. I disagree, however, regarding “time”. The District’s singular administrative focus must be on the basics: reading and math.
Those behind the rejected Madison Preparatory IB charter school may have a different view, as well.

Conservatives wrecked Madison public schools. Somehow

David Blaska:

For our liberal/progressive acquaintances have run out of excuses. After all, they have owned the public school system, through the teachers union and its Democratic Party subsidiary, for the last 30 years or so.
Nowhere more so than in Madison, Wis., where not a single conservative serves on the 20-member Common Council, where the seven members of the current Madison School Board range on the political spectrum from Left-liberal to Hugo Chavez. (Beth Moss, Marjorie Passman, and Arlene Silveira are Progressive Dane.)
History, not conspiracy: The Left has had its hands on the controls of city government since Paul Soglin beat Bill Dyke in 1973 and the Madison School Board since forever.
Madison’s dominant Left is gagging a fur ball because its public schools have failed the very people liberal/progressives claim to champion. The Madison Metro School District graduates fewer than half – 48% – of its black students and only 56% of its Latinos.
Blacks and Latinos, where would they be without the tender ministrations of the liberal welfare state – living evidence of Republican perfidy! Clucked and cooed over in the tenured parlors of well-meaning West Side liberals – people like Nan Brien, Anne Arnesen, Barbara Arnold, and Carol Carstensen. All four ladies presided over this educational debacle as former Madison School Board members. Despite all evidence, these liberals are not one bit abashed by their failure, so strong is their faith in the powers of more spending and more government.
The Urban League’s school must not be approved, the four women write, because “Madison Prep will not be accountable to the Madison School Board nor to the taxpayers of Madison.” Touching, this sudden concern for the taxpayer. (Madison Prep Academy would cost the school district $17-28 million over five years. Supt. Nerad’s plan would cost $105.6 million over five years.)
Some would say that the Madison School Board has not been accountable to its children of color OR its taxpayers.

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

Chicago’s poor fleeing to Wisconsin for safer streets, greater welfare benefits

New York Times news service, via a kind reader:

In Madison, the influx of poor people from Chicago is testing the city’s historical liberalism. About one-quarter of the 3,300 Madison families receiving welfare are former Illinois residents.
Even Mayor Paul Soglin, who earned his liberal stripes in the anti-establishment politics of the 1960s as a Vietnam War protester, now talks of “finite limits of resources” for the poor.
“We’re like a lifeboat that holds 12 people comfortably,” Mr. Soglin said. “We’ve got about 16 in it now, and there’s a dozen more waiting in the water. Since we’re already in danger of going under, what can our community be expected to do?”
A vibrant economy in Wisconsin accounts for much of the migration among poor people, most of them looking for jobs. The state’s unemployment rate has dipped below 4 percent while that in Illinois is 4.4 percent.

my correspondent notes:

Here is an interesting article from 1995.  Worth revisiting with Soglin back in office (just because he is the mayor quoted at the time), but mostly as it pertains to our discussions around Madison Prep.  What are the unique attributes and qualities that make up both our white population and our minority population?

Bidding Adieu to the Madison School Board; “Facts are an Obstacle to the Reform of America”

Lucy Mathiak, via a kind email:

Dear Friends,
I am writing to thank you for your encouragement and support in my decision to seek election to the MMSD Board of Education in late fall 2005. Your help in getting elected, your support during tough times, and your help in finding solutions to problems, have made a great difference to my service on the board.
I am writing to let you know that I will not seek re-election in 2012. I continue to believe that the Board of Education is one of the most important elected positions for our community and its schools, and encourage others to step forward to serve in this capacity. MMSD is facing significant challenges, and it is more important than ever that thoughtful citizens engage in the work that will be needed to preserve the traditional strengths of our public schools while helping those schools to change in keeping with the times and the families that they serve.
At the same time, I do not view school board service as a career, and believe that turnover in membership is healthy for the organization and for the district. I have been fortunate to have had an opportunity to serve on this board, and to work with many fine community organizations in that capacity. For that I am grateful.
Again, thank you for your interest, support, and collegiality.
Lucy J. Mathiak
716 Orton Ct.
Madison, WI 53703
Madison School Board
Seat #2

I am appreciative of Lucy’s tireless and often thankless work on behalf of our students.
Every organization – public or private, deteriorates. It is often easier to spend more (raise taxes), raise fees on consumers – or a “rate base”, reduce curricular quality and in general go along and get along than to seek substantive improvements. Change is hard.
Citizens who seek facts, ask difficult and uncomfortable questions are essential for strong institutions – public or private. Progress requires conflict.
Yet, very few of us are willing to step into the theatre, spend time, dig deep and raise such questions. I am thankful for those, like Lucy, who do.
Her years of activism and governance have touched numerous issues, from the lack of Superintendent oversight (related: Ruth Robarts) (that’s what a board does), the District’s $372M+ budget priorities and transparency to substantive questions about Math, reading and the endless battle for increased rigor in the Madison Schools.
In closing, I had an opportunity to hear Peter Schneider speak during a recent Madison visit. Schneider discussed cultural differences and similarities between America and Germany. He specifically discussed the recent financial crisis. I paraphrase: “If I do not understand a financial vehicle, I buy it”. “I create a financial product that no one, including me, understands, I sell it”. This is “collective ignorance”.
Schneider’s talk reminded me of a wonderful Madison teacher’s comments some years ago: “if we are doing such a great job, why do so few people vote and/or understand civic and business issues”?
What, then, is the payoff of increased rigor and the pursuit of high standards throughout an organization? Opportunity.
I recently met a technical professional who works throughout the United States from a suburban Madison home. This person is the product of a very poor single parent household. Yet, high parental standards and rigorous academic opportunities at a somewhat rural Wisconsin high school and UW-Madison led to an advanced degree and professional opportunities.
It also led to a successful citizen and taxpayer. The alternative, as discussed in my recent conversation with Madison Mayor Paul Soglin is growth in those who don’t contribute, but rather increase costs on society.
Lucy will be missed.

Madison Teachers, Inc. 2011 Candidate Questionnaire

1MB PDF, via a kind reader’s email:. Mayoral Candidate Paul Soglin participated and I found this question and response interesting:

What strategies will you introduce to reduce the 6000+ families who move in and out of Madison Public School classrooms each year?
In the last three years more children opted out of the district than all previous years in the history of the district. That contributed to the increase of children from households below the poverty line rising to over 48% of the kids enrolled.
To stabilize our enrollment we need stable families and stable neighborhoods. This will require a collaborate effort between governments, like the city, the county and the school district, as well as the private sector and the non-profits. It means opening Madison’s economy to all families, providing stable housing, and building on the assets of our neighborhoods.
One decades old problem is the significant poverty in the Town of Madison. I would work with town officials, and city of Fitchburg officials to see if we could accelerate the annexation of the town so we could provide better services to area residents.

Ed Hughes and Marj Passman, both running unopposed responded to MTI’s questions via this pdf document.

MTIVOTERS 2011 School Board Election Questionnaire
Please respond to each ofthe following questions. If you wish to add/clarifY your response, please attach a separate sheet and designate your responses with the same number which appears in the questionnaire. Please deliver your responses to MTI Headquarters (821 Williamson Street) by, February 17, 2011.
If the School Board finds it necessary to change school boundaries due to enrollment, what criteria would you, as a Board member, use to make such a judgement?
Ifthe School Board finds it necessary to close a school/schools due to economic reasons, what criteria would you, as a Board member, use to make such a judgement?
If the School Board finds it necessary, due to the State-imposed revenue controls, to make further budget cuts to the 2011-12 budget, what criteria would you, as a Board member, use to make such a judgement?
IdentifY specific MMSD programs and/or policies which you believe should to be modified, re-prioritized, or eliminated, and explain why.
What should the District do to reduce violence/assure that proper discipline and safety (of the learning and working environment) is maintained in our schools?
Do you agree that the health insurance provided to District employees should be mutually selected through collective bargaining?
_ _ YES _ _ NO Explain your concerns/proposed solutions relative to the District’s efforts to reduce the “achievement gap”.
Should planning time for teachers be increased? If yes, how could this be accomplished?
Given that the Wisconsin Association of School Boards rarely supports the interests of the Madison Metropolitan School District, do you support the District withdrawing from the W ASB? Please explain your rationale.
From what sources do you believe that public schools should be funded?
a. Do you support further increasing student fees? _ _ YES _ _ _ NO
Do you support the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools’ (WAES) initiative to raise sales tax by 1% to help fund schools?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Do you support class sizes of 15 or less for all primary grades? _ _ YES _ _ NO
Do you support:
a. The use of public funds (vouchers) to enable parents to pay tuition with tax payers’ money for religious and private schools?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
b. The expansion of Charter schools within the Madison Metropolitan School District? _ _ YES _ _ NO
c. The Urban League’s proposed “Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men” as a charter school which would not be an instrumentality of the District?
_ _ YES _ _ _ NO
Do you agree that the usual and customary work ofteachers, i.e. work ofthose in MTI’s teacher bargaining unit, should not be performed by others (sub-contracted)?
_ _ YES _ _ NO List MMSD staff and Board member(s) from whom you do or would seek advice.
Is your candidacy being promoted by any organization? _ _ YES _ _ NO
If yes, please name such organization(s). Have you ever been employed as a teacher? If yes, please describe why you left the teaching profession.
Do you support the inclusion model for including Title 1, EEN and ESL students in the regular education classroom? Why/why not?
What grouping practices do you advocate for talented and gifted (TAG) students?
Aside from limitations from lack ofadequate financial resources, what problems to you feel exist in meeting TAG students’ needs at present, and how would you propose to solve these problems?
The Board ofEducation has moved from the development ofpolicy to becoming involved in implementation of policy; i.e. matters usually reserved to administration. Some examples are when it:
a. Decided to hear parents’ complaints about a teacher’s tests and grading. b. Decided to modifY the administration’s decision about how a State Statute should be implemented.
Do you believe that the Board should delegate to administrators the implementation of policy which the Board has created?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Do you believe that the Board should delegate to administrators the implementation of State Statutes? _ _ YES _ _ NO
Do you support the Board exploring further means to make their meetings more efficient? _ _ YES _ _ _ NO
Do you support a merit pay scheme being added to the Collective Bargaining Agreement _ _ YES _ _ _ NO
If yes, based on which performance indicators?
Do/did/will your children attend private or parochial schools during their K-12 years? Ifno, and ifyou have children, what schools have/will they attend(ed)?
_ _ YES _ _ NO If you responded “yes”, please explain why your child/children attended private parochial schools.
Will you introduce and vote for a motion which would direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage oflegislation to eliminate the revenue controls on public schools and return full budgeting authority to the School Board?
_ _ YES _ _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage oflegislation to prohibit the privatization ofpublic schools via the use oftuition tax credits (vouchers) to pay tuition with taxpayers’ money to private or religious schools?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage of legislation which will maintain or expand the benefit level of the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act?
_ _ YES _ _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage oflegislation which will increase the retirement formula multiplier from 1.6% to 2% for teachers and general employees, i.e. equal that of protective employees?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage of legislation which will forbid restrictions to free and open collective bargaining for the selection ofinsurance for public employees (under Wis. Stat. 111.70), including the naming ofthe insurance carrier?
_ _ YES
_ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage of legislation which will guarantee free and open collective bargaining regarding the establishment of the school calendar/school year, including when the school year begins?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsiu Association of School Boards to request the introduction and promote the passage of legislation to forbid the work of employees organized under Wis. Stat. 111.70 (collective bargaining statute) to be subcontracted?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to seek passage of legislation which will require full State funding of any State-mandated program?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Will you introduce and vote for a motion to direct the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to seek passage oflegislation which will provide adequate State funding of public education?
_ _ YES _ _ NO
Do you support a specific school finance reform plan (e.g., School Finance Network (SFN), Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES), Andrews/Matthews Plan)?
Why/why not? Your Campaign:
Are you, or any of your campaign committee members, active in or supportive (past or present) of the “Get Real”, “ACE”, “Vote No for Change” or similar organizations?
Name ofCampaign Committee/Address/Phone #/Treasurer. List the members ofyour campaign committee.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Attack high tax burden on Wisconsin homes

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

If you own a home or business in Wisconsin, you already know your property taxes are high.
But now it’s official.
So let’s keep the pressure on government at all levels to try to ease the burden.
Wisconsin has the ninth highest property tax in the nation, a nonprofit research group reported this week. The Tax Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., used new Census Bureau data to rank the best and worst real estate tax burdens across the country.
Wisconsin’s median property tax last year was $2,963, compared to the national median of $1,897, the group reported.
When home values are factored in, Wisconsin moves up the list to fourth highest among the 50 states. By this measure, our burden is almost twice as heavy as the national median.

Notes and links from former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin along with Paul Caron. WISTAX:

Wisconsin’s two largest taxes, the income tax and property tax, generate more than $15 billion for state and local governments.
In 2008, income tax collections totalled $6.71 billion. At 3.3% of personal income, Wisconsin’s income tax collections ranked 10th highest nationally. On a per capita basis ($1,137), the Badger state was 13th.
Recent income tax law changes reduced the capital gains exclusion from 60% in 2008 to 30% in 2009 and added a fifth tax bracket (7.75%). In 2008, the top tax rate was 6.75%

Ted Kolderie urges “dramatic change” in the public sector.

2 Madison Elementary Schools Fail No Child Left Behind Standards

Gayle Worland:

For the first time, two Madison elementary schools will face sanctions for failing to meet federal No Child Left Behind standards.
Leopold and Lincoln fell short of the federal law’s criteria for “adequate yearly progress” for the second year in a row, marking them as “schools identified for improvement,” or SIFI. The SIFI list targets schools that miss the same testing benchmark, such as reading scores among economically disadvantaged students, for two or more consecutive years.
Under the sanctions, the schools will have to review their school improvement plans, offer more academic services outside of the regular school day and allow parents to transfer their child to any public school within the School District where space allows. Students performing poorly on statewide tests would get first preference to transfer.

Former Madison Mayor Paul Soglin comments.

A Fascinating Look at Wisconsin’s K-12 and Higher Ed Finance Battles

Much continues to be written about Wisconsin’s K-12 and Higher Education spending growth, an issue that will be front and center as the State grapples with a structural deficit and slowing tax revenue growth. Following is a recent roundup of rhetoric on this matter:

We’ll certainly see many more articles on this topic as the Governor and Legislature address the state’s spending difficulties.

Advocating for the November, 2008 Madison School District Referendum

Paul Soglin:

On next Tuesday’s ballot there is a referendum for Madison Metropolitan School District residents to vote on supporting public education.
As one Wisconsin business leader put it when discussing the challenges of global competition which includes everything from taxation to environmental regulation, “What I need is an intelligent workforce.”
We invest every day. Some investments turn out better than others.
There is really no wiser and prudent investment than the education of our children.
An educated child makes more money and pays taxes. An uneducated child is in need of public support for housing, healthcare, and food. An educated child is less likely to go to prison and more likely to support charities. An uneducated child is more likely to become a parent at a young age and is likely to have greater health problems.

Much more on the referendum here.
Related: Don Severson & Vicki McKenna discuss the referendum (25mb mp3 audio).

Wisconsin “School Lawsuit Facts” Site Posted by PR Firm

“School Lawsuit Facts”:

MILWAUKEE, WI, September 30, 2008 . . . Five Wisconsin school districts (the “Districts”) filed suit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court yesterday seeking to rescind their $200 million investment with Stifel Nicolaus & Company, Inc. (“Stifel”) and the Royal Bank of Canada (“RBC”). They allege $150 million in losses to date.
The Districts contend Stifel and RBC either knowingly or negligently misrepresented and omitted crucial details in transactions made by the Districts to secure funding for their Other Post-Employment Benefit (OPEB) liabilities by failing to disclose or concealing their true risks. The Districts contend such investments were unsuitable for a public trust fund. They further allege Stifel and RBC collected large fees and realized massive cost savings while effectively positioning the Districts as guarantors of an ultra-risky portfolio of assets.
The school districts include: Kenosha Unified School District; Kimberly Area School District; School District of Waukesha; West Allis – West Milwaukee School District and Whitefish Bay School District. In addition to Stifel Nicolaus and RBC, the school districts have also included James M. Zemlyak of Elm Grove in the complaint. During the time of the transaction Zemlyak was the Chief Financial Officer and Co-Chief Operations Officer for Stifel.

Madison Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Erik Kass was most recently with the Waukesha School District. Amy Hetzner and Paul Soglin have more.
Roger Frank Bass on Two Crises: Wall Street & Education:

One, $700 billion is peanuts. Low-end estimates of educational outlays are more than $400 billion per year — that’s $5.2 trillion during a child’s K-12 education, more than seven times what the government will spend to prop up “free” enterprise. (The Global Movement for Children, using United Nations data, states that the 80 million children not receiving education could be schooled for about $15 billion per year.) And, like our financial institutions, U.S. education performs less well than in virtually all developed countries despite per-student outlays that are some of the highest anywhere. In military terms, this is a clear and present danger.
Along with bankrolling failures, the parallels include lax oversight. Just as Wall Street was craftily packaging collateralized debt obligations and hedge funds, state- and local-education agencies were bundling worthless test scores into triple-A public relations.
Just as the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory agencies failed to monitor their charges, Departments of Public Instruction and those responsible for our children’s education never demanded the transparency needed to evaluate the substandard data behind ever riskier instructional methods. When a stock market falls apart, at least we can pick ourselves up and keep going. When education falls apart, we won’t have the intellectual capital to move forward. Economic growth begins with knowledge, not money. Ask India.

These events provide timely and useful dinner conversation fodder with our children:

  • “What do you think happened to the baby-sitting money deposited into the bank yesterday?”
  • “What will you do one day if the money is not there?”
  • “Where does the money come from?”

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:

Looking Back With Retiring Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater

Neil Heinen:

Before he leaves his post as head of the Madison Metropolitan School District, Art Rainwater reflects on the past, present and future of public education for all in a city and a school system that look and feel very different than the ones he was introduced to a decade-and-a-half ago
For an Arkansas native who grew up professionally in Kansas City–and who still looks like he’d be right at home on a Southern high-school football field–it’s hard to imagine Madison schools without Art Rainwater at the helm. The guy’s right up there with Soglin and Alvarez: They hail from somewhere else but if you didn’t know it you’d think they’ve been Madisonians all along.
But just as our collective recollection of his predecessor Cheryl Wilhoyte’s tumultuous term as schools superintendent has faded, so too will our familiarity with the large and at times imposing personality of Rainwater, sixty-five, after he retires in June. What will fade more slowly is the impact he has had on the Madison school district.
While it remains one of the best school districts in America, MMSD faces profound challenges that the next superintendent will inherit from Rainwater, who arrived in Madison almost fourteen years ago to design and implement the district’s first magnet school. He came from the Kansas City, Missouri School District, where he started as a principal in 1987 and finished as special assistant to the superintendent, the number-two position in the district. If Rainwater has seemed comfortable in the eye of the storm, it’s because his career matured amid the extremely difficult and sometimes ugly stress of one of America’s most bitter desegregation battles–a battle that in 1994 looked like it might flare anew.

Madison Mayor’s Perspective on the Schools

Mary Yeater Rathbun: Bill Clingan will become part of a bridge between the mayor’s office and the Madison School District if the City Council confirms Clingan’s appointment as the director of its new Economic and Community Development Department. As Mayor Dave Cieslewicz told the Capital Times editorial Board this week, the city has no real … Continue reading Madison Mayor’s Perspective on the Schools

“Politically Correct Trumps Substance Every Time”

Paul Soglin on Why the Prospects for Madison are so Bleak, Part II: “Struck by the number of residents who said if things don’t improve soon, they’ll consider moving elsewhere.” Good grief. Its been going on for over a decade and really picked up around 2000. The school enrollment figures clearly show that. And go … Continue reading “Politically Correct Trumps Substance Every Time”

Views on Wisconsin’s K-12 School Spending

Frank Lassee: The third Friday of September is an important date for schools. On that day the final enrollment count is made, then each school district will move to finalize their annual budget. Having the school budgets final by mid October is important for all of us, especially property taxpayers. Under current law, schools will … Continue reading Views on Wisconsin’s K-12 School Spending

2007 / 2008 Budget Approved: School Board keeps Lindbergh open

Susan Troller: Board members tussled over dozens of suggestions to try to find money to return various programs and services to the district that had been cut by the administration in an effort to balance the $339.6 million budget. The administration had originally proposed about $8 million in cuts, including $2 million from special education … Continue reading 2007 / 2008 Budget Approved: School Board keeps Lindbergh open

Strangling Wisconsin Education With Underfunded Special Ed

Paul Soglin: I met with some special education teachers on Tuesday and wish to share my observations about the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). These are my observations and conclusions, not theirs. For the 1996-97 school year the State of Wisconsin paid 40.223% of the cost of special education. For 2006-2007 the state paid  28%. … Continue reading Strangling Wisconsin Education With Underfunded Special Ed

Two Educators Discuss “My Life & Times with the Madison Public Schools”

Audrey Soglin & Char Gearing respond to Marc Eisen’s recent words: I think we have learned and the research supports that kids need a balanced literacy approach. The “whole language vs. phonics” wars should really be put to rest. It is an old fight. Kids don’t learn the same way so a variety of instructional … Continue reading Two Educators Discuss “My Life & Times with the Madison Public Schools”

School Finance: K-12 Tax & Spending Climate

School spending has always been a puzzle, both from a state and federal government perspective as well as local property taxpayers. In an effort to shed some light on the vagaries of K-12 finance, I’ve summarized below a number of local, state and federal articles and links. The 2007 Statistical Abstract offers a great deal … Continue reading School Finance: K-12 Tax & Spending Climate

Mayors and Public Schools

There’s been a great deal of activity vis a vis Mayoral control and influence over local public schools: Los Angeles Washington, DC New York Chicago Locally, Mayor Dave has been, as far as I can tell, very quiet vis a vis substantive public school issues, other than periodically meeting with MTI’s John Matthews. I’m unaware … Continue reading Mayors and Public Schools

“State School Spending is Above Average”

Channel3000: A new report by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance found that Wisconsin’s schools spend about 11 percent more per student than the national average. The report finds the state spends about $9,000 per student, which puts Wisconsin 12th highest nationwide based on 2004 census data. The national average was is about $1,000 less. Paul Soglin … Continue reading “State School Spending is Above Average”

Fordham Foundation: Wisconsin DPI Academic Standards = D-

Alan Borsuk: It’s the fourth time in three months that a national study has accused state officials of shirking their responsibilities, particularly to minority students and those from low-income homes. Two national education reformers said Monday that Department of Public Instruction officials have misled citizens about their work to improve the quality of education in … Continue reading Fordham Foundation: Wisconsin DPI Academic Standards = D-

Discussion, Notes and Links on Milwaukee’s Voucher Program

There’s been an increase in discussion recently regarding Milwaukee’s Voucher Program largely around Amanda Poulson’s recent article in the Christian Science Monitor: Hers is the sort of story Milwaukee’s school-choice advocates cite when touting the oldest and largest voucher program in the country. Now it’s expanding, but 16 years after it began, the policy is … Continue reading Discussion, Notes and Links on Milwaukee’s Voucher Program

2006 / 2007 MMSD Food Service Budget Discussion

28 minute video excerpt of this evening’s discussion of the MMSD’s food service budget (the food service budget is evidently supposed to break even, but the operating budget has apparently been subsidizing it by several hundred thousand dollars annually). This sort of excellent citizen oversite is essential to any publicly financed organization, particularly one that … Continue reading 2006 / 2007 MMSD Food Service Budget Discussion

Teaching Commission Final Report

The Teaching Commission: The Teaching Commission, the non-profit advocacy organization founded by former IBM chairman and CEO Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., this morning released a final report urging state and local leaders to go “far further, far faster” in transforming the teaching profession. The message comes as the Commission ends its work on schedule, three … Continue reading Teaching Commission Final Report

Misleading School Budget Debate Led by Current Board Majority

In his blog titled Misleading School Budget Debate, Mr. Soglin says: “…it is incumbent upon us to figure out where the additional revenue should come from and if we are going to cut, the consequences of those cuts.”[emphasis added] I feel it is most definitely incumbent upon us to figure this out in order to … Continue reading Misleading School Budget Debate Led by Current Board Majority

Nineteen Finance and Taxation Questions for Elected Officials

Paul Soglin: These questions were developed in Wisconsin but are universal. Here are nineteen questions that an elected official (School Board, City Council/Town or Village Board, County Board, State Legislature) should be able to address after two budgets, or two years in office, whichever comes first. Note: Some of the questions are premised upon faulty … Continue reading Nineteen Finance and Taxation Questions for Elected Officials

East / West Task Force Report: Board Discussion and Public Comments

Video | MP3 Audio Monday evening’s Board meeting presented a rather animated clash of wills between, it appears, those (A majority of the Board, based on the meeting discussions) who support Fitchburg’s Swan Creek residents and their desire to remain at a larger Leopold School vs. those who favor using existing District schools that have … Continue reading East / West Task Force Report: Board Discussion and Public Comments

30 Years of Clout: MTI’s John Matthews & the ’76 Teacher’s Strike

Susan Troller: The key architect behind that transformation was the tough young executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., John Matthews, who had come to Madison eight years earlier from Montana. Thirty years later, Matthews is still tough and, more than ever, still casts a powerful shadow across the public education landscape of Madison as a … Continue reading 30 Years of Clout: MTI’s John Matthews & the ’76 Teacher’s Strike

Tax Base, City Growth and the School District’s Budget

Paying my annual property tax bill recently, I wondered what the effect of Madison’s development growth (some might call it sprawl) has had on overall spending growth and on an individual’s tax burden (note, Madison Schools include Fitchburg, Maple Bluff and Shorewood parcels). I contacted the city assessor’s office and asked how the number of … Continue reading Tax Base, City Growth and the School District’s Budget