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.

Madison school board candidate TJ Mertz discusses charter schools, teacher evaluation

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and education blogger, is running unopposed after Sarah Manski dropped out of the race for Seat 5 following the February primary. Her name will appear on the ballot, but she is moving to California. Mertz will replace retiring school board member Maya Cole.

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

Madison school board candidate TJ Mertz discusses superintendent Jennifer Cheatham, collective bargaining

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and education blogger, is running unopposed after Sarah Manski dropped out of the race for Seat 5 following the February primary. Her name will appear on the ballot, but she is moving to California. Mertz will replace retiring school board member Maya Cole.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. This week, we ask the candidates about where they think incoming superintendent Jennifer Cheatham should direct her attention. We also ask about the changes in collective bargaining wrought by Act 10: How have they affected the district, and how should it respond to this new policy?

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

Madison school board candidate TJ Mertz discusses why he is running, the achievement gap

Isthmus:

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College history instructor and education blogger, is running unopposed after Sarah Manski dropped out of the race for Seat 5 following the February primary. Her name will appear on the ballot, but she is moving to California. Mertz will replace retiring school board member Maya Cole.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates. We start by asking the candidates about their experience, and how they would address the achievement gap in the district.

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

Madison School Board Candidate & advocate TJ Mertz talks about Madison Prep, teachers and school ‘reform’

Pat Schneider:

Capital Times: What’s the most important issue facing the Madison Metropolitan School District today?
TJ Mertz: Trust. There’s a lot of distrust in the community on all sides — between community and the school district, within the school district between administration and classroom staff, between the board of education and the administration. If we’re going to have effective initiatives on the achievement gap, it requires trust.
CT: What can be done about that lack of trust?
TM: The district should be honest about what it can and can’t do, what is working and what isn’t working. It needs to be more open in decision-making and should be more transparent, welcoming and inclusive. There’s some collaborative work going on that’s good, but community leaders need to be more honest, too. If you are bringing in John Legend and Howard Fuller and Geoffrey Canada and say they have the answer, you’re lying to the audience. Look at how they are achieving their “success.” It’s being achieved largely through attrition, and even with that the test scores aren’t that good. Let’s talk about state school finance reform. Let’s not talk about firing teachers — every bit of research shows that as a tool for school improvement, it doesn’t work. People should stop looking for miracles. Hard work, incrementalism — it isn’t sexy — but that is what works.
CT: It was the Urban League of Greater Madison that brought Legend, Fuller and Canada to town recently for a fundraiser and education conference. You were strongly opposed to Urban League CEO Kaleem Caire’s Madison Prep proposal for a charter school aimed at students of color. Why?
TM: The proposed programs of that school did not target the kids who are being failed by the district. Ask anyone who knows curriculum if the international baccalaureate is a way to address students who are grades behind, and they’ll laugh. But that was what he was selling — so who was he targeting? Students below proficiency were the ones used in the PR campaign, which made it harder for them and a lot of other people to work with the school district. It was a bait-and-switch.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madison School Board word cloud:

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

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

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

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

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

Stagnant School Governance; Tax & Spending Growth and the “NSA’s European Adventure”

The Madison School District’s recent rhetoric around annual property tax increases (after a significant increase in redistributed state tax dollars last year and a “return to normal” this year) is, to the ongoing observer, unsurprising. We appear to be in the Rainwater era “same service” approach to everything, from million$ spent on a partially implemented Infinite Campus to long-term disastrous reading scores.
Steve Coll’s 5 July 2013 New Yorker column nails it:

The most likely explanation is that President Obama never carefully discussed or specifically approved the E.U. bugging, and that no cabinet-level body ever reviewed, on the President’s behalf, the operation’s potential costs in the event of exposure. America’s post-September 11th national-security state has become so well financed, so divided into secret compartments, so technically capable, so self-perpetuating, and so captured by profit-seeking contractors bidding on the next big idea about big-data mining that intelligence leaders seem to have lost their facility to think independently. Who is deciding what spying projects matter most and why?

Much more on annual local property tax increases, here:

The Madison School Board should limit the school property tax hike to the rate of inflation next year, even if that means scaling back a proposed 1.5 percent across-the-board salary increase for school district employees, says member Mary Burke.
“I think in an environment where we’ve seen real wages in Dane County decrease, and a lot of people are on fixed incomes, we have to work as hard as possible to limit any increase to the inflation rate,” Burke said Tuesday in an interview.

But School Board discussions have focused around reducing the proposed salary hike, and cutting back on facility maintenance to pare down the $392 million proposed budget enough to bring the property tax increase to 4 or 5 percent, board President Ed Hughes told me.
The district under state law could increase its levy by as much as $18,385,847 or 9 percent. Keeping the increase to around the rate of inflation would mean an increase of less 2 percent.

Board member TJ Mertz can’t vote on salaries because his wife is a teacher’s aide with the school district, he told me, but he has long been outspoken in his belief in good pay for teachers to ensure the best academic achievement for students.
“As a citizen, I understand our staff needs to be compensated,” he said, adding that teachers have taken losses in take-home pay since they were required to begin making contributions to their pensions in 2011. “If the state won’t invest in our children, it has to come from the property tax,” he said.
Mertz said he would prefer a tax increase steeper than the 4 percent or 5 percent the board as a whole is focusing on. “I firmly believe the most important thing we can do is invest in our students; the question should not be what property tax levy can we afford,” he said.

I appreciate Schneider’s worthwhile questions, including a discussion of “program reviews”:

Several School Board members interviewed for this story stressed that the 2013-2014 budget will be a transitional one, before a broad re-evaluation of spending planned by Cheatham can be conducted.

Yet, it would be useful to ask if in fact programs will be reviewed and those found wanting eliminated. The previous Superintendent, Dan Nerad, discussed program reviews as well.
Madison Schools’ 2013-2014 Budget Charts, Documents, Links, Background & Missing Numbers.
The Madison School Board seat currently occupied by Mr. Hughes (Seat 7, and Seat 6 – presently Marj Passman) will be on the Spring, 2014 ballot (candidate information is available at the Madison City Clerk’s website).









Madison’s racial divide: The school board race exposes an ugly problem

Amy Barrilleaux:

Reaction was swift and angry.
“Enough is enough of this. Hypocrisy is alive and thriving in Madison!” read a Facebook post from United Migrant Opportunity Services board chair Juan Jose Lopez.
“It was all part of a plan to silence Ananda Mirilli,” wrote radio host and former Urban League board member Derrell Connor in a blog post entitled “Madison liberals hurting communities of color.”
“To the communities of color in Madison, I say this: Don’t forget what has happened here. If there was ever a time to become organized and engaged, it is now.”
And perhaps most scathing of all, an editorial from The Madison Times:
“The MMSD School Board race that came crashing down pretty much typifies the status of race relations we see every day and the tremendous racial divide we have in Madison right now. White elite liberals dictating to, condescending to and manipulating Madison’s communities of color. This is when they are kind enough to not completely ignore them, which, unfortunately, is most of the time.”
This outcry was the result of a Madison school board primary in February. It didn’t seem like a big deal at first: Only 18,452 voters bothered to cast ballots.
“The interest was certainly greater after the election than it was before,” says TJ Mertz with a laugh. “There’s no question about that!”
Mertz, who finished second in the primary, is now the only candidate actively campaigning to win Seat 5 on April 2. First-place finisher Sarah Manski stunned voters when she dropped out of the race the day after the primary, citing her husband’s acceptance to a graduate school in California. Election rules say her name must remain on the ballot, though, and that leaves off the third-place finisher, Ananda Mirilli, who is Latina. Mirilli has decided not to pursue a write-in campaign.

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

Madison School Board Candidates Discuss Redistributed State Tax Dollars & Voucher Schools

Isthmus

Five candidates are competing for three seats on the Madison school board, with the general election on April 2, 2013.
The political context for the races is explosive, given Gov. Scott Walker’s revolutionary proposals for education in Wisconsin: cuts to public school funding, an expansion of the voucher program, and a revamping of teachers’ evaluations and bargaining rights.
In Madison, the issues are particularly complex, with the intense disagreements over the district’s achievement gap between white and minority students.
In the race for Seat 4, incumbent James Howard is running against Greg Packnett, a Democratic legislative aide.
In this competitive series of elections, there are numerous candidate forums and listening sessions under way, and we thought we’d pose our own questions to candidates.
For this fourth and final week of questions, we ask candidates to evaluate Gov. Scott Walker’s proposals for the Wisconsin’s 2013-15 budget, and consider how it would impact schools in the state. Along similar lines, we ask candidates to share their thoughts on the proposal to expand voucher schools in Wisconsin.

Wayne Strong and Dean Loumos (Isthmus) TJ Mertz (Isthmus).

Commentary on the 2013 Madison School Board Races

John Nichols:

As The Capital Times prepares to make endorsements in Madison School Board races that will be decided April 2, our editorial board will ponder issues ranging from the reactions of candidates to Gov. Walker’s voucher plan, the achievement gap and the challenge of maintaining quality schools in a time of funding cuts and shortfalls.
Our editorial board will make endorsements in two contested races, for Seat 3 between former La Follette High School teacher and low-income housing provider Dean Loumos and retired Madison police lieutenant Wayne Strong, and for Seat 4 between incumbent James Howard and challenger Greg Packnett, a legislative aide. The candidates all have strengths, and present voters with distinct options.
In the third race, there isn’t really a race. Candidates TJ Mertz and Sarah Manski won the primary Feb. 19. Then Manski surprised the community by dropping out of the contest several days later — announcing that her husband has been admitted to graduate school in California and that she would not be able to finish a term. We didn’t editorialize about the primary race. But after Manski dropped out, we said she had done the right thing because it would have been entirely inappropriate to maintain a campaign for a term she could not complete. But, as a board, we were disappointed by the loss of competition and urged the candidate who finished third in the primary, Ananda Mirilli, to make a bid as a write-in contender.
Mirilli made a great impression during the primary race and, had she waged a write-in campaign, she would have done so as an innovative thinker about how best to make great public schools work for all students. As the parent of an elementary-school student and a big proponent of public education, I’m familiar with a number of the people who organized Mirilli’s primary campaign, and who would have supported a write-in run. They form an old-fashioned grass-roots group that recalls the sort of organizations that traditionally backed School Board candidates in Madison. They could have mounted a fine campaign. But I also respect Mirilli’s decision not to run. The race would have been expensive and difficult. We’ve spoken several times, before the primary and since, and I’m convinced Mirilli’s voice will remain a vital one in local and state education debates. There’s a good chance she will eventually join the School Board, just as current board member Marj Passman was elected a year after she lost a close race to another current School Board member, Maya Cole.
Unfortunately, with Mirilli out of the running, the Seat 5 race is an uncontested one. That’s focused a good deal of attention on Manski, who I’ve known since she was writing for the Daily Cardinal on the University of Wisconsin campus. Among the several boards I have served on over the years, including those of the media reform group Free Press and Women in Media and News, I’ve been on the board of the reform group Liberty Tree, for which Manski has done fundraising work. Manski’s husband, Ben, worked for Liberty Tree before he left to manage Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s presidential run.

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

Community members are at each other’s throats after the Madison school board catastrophe

Ruth Conniff:

Sarah Manski did a lot of damage to Madison on her way out of town.
When she won the school board primary, sucking up endorsements from prominent local officials — apparently knowing all the while that she might not be hanging around to sit on the board — she did a major disservice to our community. As Madison Times editor A. David Dahmer observed, her highhanded use of the school board seat as a “backup plan” smacks of contempt for the people who care deeply about what is happening in our schools. Those people happen to include both of Manski’s opponents: school-policy blogger and educator TJ Mertz and Ananda Mirilli, a longtime advocate for Madison youth who’s on the board of the Spanish immersion charter school Nuestro Mundo.
Since Manski withdrew after she won the primary, her name — and not third-place finisher Mirilli’s — will appear on the ballot. That has convinced a lot of people of color that white liberals, including school board member Marj Passman, deliberately colluded to keep a woman of color off the board.

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

The Madison School Board Elections; setting the record straight

Kaleem Caire, via a kind email

March 6, 2013
Dear Madison Leaders.
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. While I will not, as a nonprofit leader, speak about the merits of individual candidates, we are concerned about how Madison Prep has become a red herring during the debates. The question of all the candidates has been largely narrowed to, “Did you support Madison Prep or did you not?”…as if something was horribly wrong with our charter school proposal, and as though that is the most important issue facing our school children and schools.
While the Urban League has no interest in partaking in the squabbles and confusion that has unfortunately come to define public conversation about our public schools, we do want to set the record straight about deliberations on Madison Prep that have been falsely expressed by many during this campaign, and used to dog individuals who supported the school proposal more than one year ago.
Here is how things transpired.
On May 9, 2011, Steve Goldberg of the CUNA Mutual Foundation facilitated a meeting about Madison Prep, at my request, between Madison Teacher’s Incorporated President, John Matthews and me. The meeting was held in CUNA’s cafeteria. We had lunch and met for about an hour. It was a cordial meeting and we each discussed the Madison Prep proposal and what it would take for the Urban League and MTI to work together. We didn’t get into many details, however I was sure to inform John that our proposal of a non-instrumentality charter school (non-MTI) was not because we didn’t support the union but because the collective bargaining agreement was too restrictive for the school model and design we were proposing to be fully implemented, and because we desired to recruit teachers outside the restrictions of the collective bargaining agreement. We wanted to have flexibility to aggressively recruit on an earlier timeline and have the final say on who worked in our school.
The three of us met again at the Coliseum Bar on August 23, 2011, this time involving other members of our teams. We got into the specifics of negotiations regarding the Urban League’s focus on establishing a non-instrumentality school and John’s desire to have Madison Prep’s employees be a part of MTI’s collective bargaining unit. At the close of that meeting, we (Urban League) offered to have Madison Prep’s teachers and guidance counselors be members of the collective bargaining unit. John said he felt we were making progress but he needed to think about not having MTI represent all of the staff that are a part of their bargaining unit. John and I also agreed that I would email him a memo outlining our desire to work with MTI, and provide the details of what we discussed. John agreed to respond after reviewing the proposal with his team. That memo, which we have not released previously, is attached [336K PDF]. You will see clearly that the Urban League initiated dialogue with MTI about having the teacher’s union represent our educators.
John, Steve and I met for a third time at Perkins restaurant for breakfast on the West Beltline on September 30, 2013. This time, I brought representatives of the Madison Prep and Urban League Boards with me: Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings, John Roach and Derrick Smith. It was at the close of this meeting that John Matthews told all of us that we “had a deal”, that MTI and the Urban League would now work together on Madison Prep. We all shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Our team was relieved.
Later that evening, I received calls from Matt DeFour, a reporter with the Wisconsin State Journal and Susan Troller of The Capital Times. They both asked me to confirm what John had told them; that we had a deal. I replied by confirming the deal. The next day, The Capital Times ran a story, Madison Prep and MTI will work together on new charter school. The State Journal ran an article too, Prep School agrees to employ union staff. All was good, or so we thought.
Unfortunately, our agreement was short-lived. The very next day after the story hit the newspapers, my team and I began receiving angry letters from social workers and psychologists in MMSD who were upset that we did not want to have those positions represented by MTI. We replied by explaining to them that our reasoning was purely driven by the fact that 99% of the Districts psychologists were white and that there were few social workers of color, too. For obvious reasons, we did not believe MMSD would have success hiring diverse staff for these positions. We desired a diverse staff for two reasons: we anticipated the majority of our students to be students of color and our social work and psychological service model was different. Madison Prep had a family-serving model where the school would pay for such services for every person in a family, if necessary, who needed it, and would make available to families and students a diverse pool of contracted psychologists that families and students could choose from.
That Monday evening, October 3, 2011, John Matthews approached me with Steve Goldberg at the School Board hearing on Madison Prep and informed me that his bargaining unit was very upset and that he needed to have our Physical education teacher be represented by MTI, too. Our Phy Ed model was different; we had been working on a plan with the YMCA to implement a very innovative approach to ensuring our students were deeply engaged in health and wellness activities at school and beyond the school day. In our plan, we considered the extraordinarily high rates of obesity among young men and women of color. However, to make the deal with MTI work, that evening I gave MTI the Phy Ed teaching position.
But that one request ultimately became a request by MTI for every position in our school, and a request by John Matthews to re-open negotiations, this time with a mediator. At first, we rejected this request because we felt “a deal is a deal”. When you shake hands, you follow through.
We only gave in after current school board president, James Howard, called me at home to request that the Urban League come back to the negotiating table. James acknowledged not feeling great about asking us to do this after all we had been through – jumping through hoop after hoop. If you followed the media closely, you would recall how many times we worked to overcome hurdles that were placed in our way – $200K worth of hurdles (that’s how much we spent). After meeting with MMSD leadership and staff, we agreed to come back to the table to address issues with MTI and AFSCME, who wanted our custodial and food service workers to be represented by the union as well. When we met, the unions came to the negotiation with attorneys and so did we. If you care to find out what was said during these negotiations, you can request a transcript from Beth Lehman, the liaison to the MMSD Board of Education who was taking official notes (October 31 and November 1, 2011).
On our first day of negotiations, after all sides shared their requests and concerns, we (ULGM) decided to let AFSCME represent our custodial and food service staff. AFSCME was immediately satisfied, and left the room. That’s when the hardball towards us started. We then countered with a plausible proposal that MTI did not like. When we couldn’t get anywhere, we agreed to go into recess. Shortly after we came back from recess, former MMSD Superintendent Dan Nerad dropped the bomb on us. He shared that if we now agreed to have our staff be represented by MTI, we would have to budget paying our teachers an average of $80,000 per year per teacher and dedicating $25,000 per teacher to benefits. This would effectively increase our proposal from $15M over five years to $28M over five years.
Why the increased costs? For months, we projected in our budgets that our staff would likely average 7 years of teaching experience with a Master’s degree. We used the MTI-MMSD salary schedule to set the wages in our budget, and followed MMSD and MTI’s suggestions for how to budget for the extended school day and year parts of our charter school plan. Until that day, MMSD hadn’t once told us that the way we were budgeting was a problem. They actually submitted several versions of budgets to the School Board, and not once raising this issue.
Superintendent Nerad further informed us that MMSD was going to now submit a budget to the Board of Education that reflected costs for teachers with an average of 14 years’ experience and a master’s degree. When we shockingly asked Nerad if he thought the Board of Education would support such a proposal, he said they likely would not. We did not think the public would support such a unusual request either. As you can imagine, we left the negotiations very frustrated. In the 23rd hour, not only was the run we thought we had batted in taken away from us in the 9th inning, we felt like our entire season had been vacated by commissioners.
When we returned to our office that afternoon, we called an emergency meeting of the Urban League and Madison Prep boards. It was in those meetings that we had to make a choice. Do we completely abandon our proposal for Madison Prep after all we had done to see the project through, and after all of the community support and interests from parents that we had received, or do we go forward with our original proposal of a non-instrumentality charter school and let the chips fall where they may with a vote by the Board? At that point, our trust of MMSD and MTI was not very high. In fact, weeks before all of this happened, we were told by Nerad in a meeting with our team and attorneys, and his staff and attorneys, that the Board of Education had voted in closed session to unilaterally withdraw our charter school planning grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. They reversed this decision after we informed them we would file a lawsuit against them. We were later told that a certain Board member was pushing for months to have this done. Then, after months of not being able to get certain board members to meet with us, Marj Passman, decided to meet with me alone in my office. During that meeting, she told me that we (ULGM) didn’t have the votes for Madison Prep and that we were never going to get the school approved. She the offered to donate her personal funds to Madison Prep, if we pulled our proposal and decided to do a private school instead. I told her that I appreciated her offer, but declined.
After finally meeting with all seven board of education members, both the Madison Prep and ULGM boards decided unanimously that we must in good conscience go forward, put the needs and future of our children first, and reintroduce the non-instrumentality proposal to the School Board. You know the rest of the story.
Over the next 45 days, we (ULGM) were categorically painted as an anti-union conservative outfit who proposed a flawed school model that divided Madison and threatened to join the Scott Walker effort to eliminate unions. We were made to be the great dividers (not the achievement gap itself) and me, “an Angry Black Man”. Lost in the debate were the reasons we proposed the school in the first place – because so many children of color were failing in our schools and there was no effective strategy in place to address it even though the school system has known about its racial achievement gap since it was first document by researcher Naomi Lede for the National Urban League in 1965. That gap has doubled since then.
Ironically, two of the people behind the attacks on ULGM were Ben Manski and TJ Mertz. They were uniquely aligned in their opposition to Madison Prep. John Matthews even weighed in on video with his comments against us, but at least he told a story that was 80% consistent with the events that actually transpired. Watch the video and listen to the reason he gave for why he didn’t support Madison Prep. He didn’t call us union haters or teacher bashers. He knew better. So why all the fuss now? Why have those who knew exactly what went on in these negotiations not told the true story about what really happened with Madison Prep? Why has a charter school proposal been made the scapegoat, or defining lever, in a school board race where there are so many other more important issues to address?
If all it takes to win a seat on the school board now is opposition to charter schools, rather than being someone who possesses unique experiences and qualifications to serve our now majority non-white and low-income student body and increasingly challenged schools, we should all worry about the future of our children and public schools.
So, for those who were unaware and those who’ve been misleading the public about Madison Prep and the Urban League, I hope you at least read this account all the way through and give all of the candidates in this school board election the opportunity to win or lose on their merits. Falsehoods and red herrings are not needed. They don’t make our city or our school district look good to the observing eye. Let’s be honest and accurate in our descriptions going forward.
Thank you for reading.
We continue to move forward for our children and are more determined than ever to serve them well.
Onward.
Strengthening the Bridge Between Education and Work
Kaleem Caire
President & CEO
Urban League of Greater Madison
Main: 608.729.1200
Assistant: 608.729.1249
Fax: 608.729.1205
www.ulgm.org
www.madison-prep.org
Invest in the Urban League
Urban League 2012 Third Quarter Progress Report

The Memorandum from Kaleem Caire to John Matthews (Madison Teachers, Inc)

MEMORANDUM
Date: August 23, 2011
To: Mr. John Matthews, Executive Director, Madison Teachers, Inc.
From: Kaleem Caire, President & CEO, Urban League of Greater Madison
cc: Mr. Steve Goldberg, President, CUNA Foundation; Mr. David Cagigal, Vice Chair, Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM); Ms Laura DeRoche-Perez, Charter School Development Consultant, ULGM; Mr. David Hase, Attorney, Cooke & Frank SC
Re: Discussion about potential MTl-Madison Prep Relationship
Greetings John.
I sincerely appreciate your openness to engaging in conversation about a possible relationship between MTI and Madison Preparatory Academy for Young Men. We, ULGM and Madison Prep, look forward to determining very soon what the possibilities could be.
Please accept his memo as a means to frame the issues.

  1. The Urban League of Greater Madison initially pursued a non-instrumentality public charter school
    focused on young men to, first and foremost, eliminate the academic and graduate gaps between young people of color and their white peers, to successfully prepare greater percentages of young men of color and those at-risk for higher education, to significantly reduce the incarceration rate among young adult males of color and to provide an example of success that could become a learning laboratory for
    educators, parents and the Greater Madison community with regard to successful ly educating young men, regardless of th eir race or socio-economic status.

  2. We are very interested in determining how we can work with MTI while maintaining independence with regard to work rules, operations, management and leadership so that we can hire and retain the best team possible for Madison Prep, and make organizational and program decisions and modifications as necessary to meet the needs of our students, faculty, staff and parents.
  3. MTl’s collective bargaining agreement with the Madison Metropolitan School District covers many positions within the school system. We are interested in having MTI represent our teachers and guidance counselors. All other staff would not be represented by MTI.
  4. The collective bargaining agreement between MTI and Madison Prep would be limited to employee wages and benefits. Madison Prep teachers would select a representative among them, independent of Madison Prep’s leadership, to serve as their union representative to MTI.

I look forward to discussing this with you and members of our teams, and hearing what ideas you have for the
relationship as well.
Respectfully,
Kaleem Caire,
President & CEO
CONFIDENTIAL

336K PDF Version
jpg version
Related Links:

Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School
(Rejected by a majority of the Madison School Board).
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman on “the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment.“.
John Matthews, Madison Teachers, Inc.
Kaleem Caire, Madison Urban League
The rejected Studio Charter School.
Union politics.
2013 Madison School Board Elections.
Update: Matthew DeFour’s article on Caire’s message:

Lucy Mathiak, who was on the board in 2011, also didn’t dispute Caire’s account of the board action, but couldn’t recall exactly what happened in the board’s closed sessions.
“Did (the Urban League) jump through many hoops, provide multiple copies of revised proposals upon request, meet ongoing demands for new and more detailed information? Yes,” Mathiak said. “It speaks volumes that Madison Prep is being used to smear and discredit candidates for the School Board and used as a litmus test of political worthiness.”
Matthews said the problems with Madison Prep resulted from Caire’s proposal to hire nonunion staff.
“What Kaleem seems to have forgotten, conveniently or otherwise, is that MTI representatives engaged in several discussions with him and several of his Board members, in attempt to reach an amicable resolution,” Matthews said. “What that now has to do with the current campaign for Board of Education, I fail to see. I know of no animosity among the candidates or their campaign workers.”
Passman and other board members who served at the time did not return a call seeking comment.

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

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

Call me crazy, but I think a record of involvement in our schools is a prerequisite for a School Board member. Sitting at the Board table isn’t the place to be learning the names of our schools or our principals.
Wayne Strong, TJ Mertz and James Howard rise far above their opponents for those of us who value School Board members with a history of engagement in local educational issues and a demonstrated record of commitment to our Madison schools and the students we serve.

Notes and links on Ed Hughes and the 2013 Madison School Board election.
I’ve become a broken record vis a vis Madison’s disastrous reading results. The District has been largely operating on auto-pilot for decades. It is as if a 1940’s/1950’s model is sufficient. Spending increases annually (at lower rates in recent years – roughly $15k/student), yet Madison’s disastrous reading results continue, apace.
Four links for your consideration.
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.

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.
3rd Grade Madison School District Reading Proficiency Data (“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.

Madison Schools Distort Reading Data (2004) by Mark Seidenberg.
How many School Board elections, meetings, votes have taken place since 2005 (a number of candidates were elected unopposed)? How many Superintendents have been hired, retired or moved? Yet, the core structure remains. This, in my view is why we have seen the move to a more diffused governance model in many communities with charters, vouchers and online options.
Change is surely coming. Ideally, Madison should drive this rather than State or Federal requirements. I suspect it will be the latter, in the end, that opens up our monolithic, we know best approach to public education.

On Madison School District Administrator Accuracy & Accountability

TJ Mertz:

Or who should be held accountable for the accountability design work being done by MMSD? These aren’t easy questions. Accountability is confusing, maybe not as confusing as the Abbott and Costello routine, but confusing (who should or should not be held accountable for the results of accountability measures is even more confusing….add teachers, families, the economy, inequality, …. to the list below). The chain of accountability goes from the voters who elect Board Members, to the Superintendent who the Board hires, fires and evaluates, to the administrators the Superintendent hires (with the consent of the Board, but for better or worse this has been a rubber stamp consent), supervises and evaluates. It also loops back to the Board, because they are responsible for making sure administrators have the resources they need to do good work, but this chain continues back to the Superintendent and the administrators who prepare draft budgets and should communicate their needs and capacities to the Board. The Superintendent is the bottleneck in this chain each time it loops around because the the MMSD Board has almost entirely limited their action in evaluation, hiring and firing to the Superintendent. Right now MMSD has an Interim Superintendent, so evaluation, hiring and firing is moot and the key link in the chain is broken. Like I said, confused.
What is clear is that the only lever of accountability community members hold is their vote in school elections. Three seats are up in April (Board President James Howard has announced his intent to run for re-election; Maya Cole and Beth Moss have not publicly stated their plans).
…………
Mary Burke noted that the left hand and the right hand didn’t appear to be coordinating. To be more specific, she pointed out that on page 15 (of the pdf) there is a chart with the stated goal “95% of all 11th graders will take the ACT in 2012-13,” but chart itself shows annual incremental increases, culminating at 95% for all groups in 2016-17. It was long ago decided that all students would take the ACT in 2012-13, whoever prepared the left part of the chart knew this, but whoever did the increments on the right did not (and apparently didn’t read the left part). Here it is:

This is not the first time administrative accountability issues have been raised.
It would certainly be a new day in the Madison schools should radical governance change arrive via school board elections.

John Dewey on comparing students — Blast from the Past/Quote of the Day

TJ Mertz

The current “accountability” madness is almost all based on misusing metrics of questionable value to make comparisons among students, among teachers, among schools, among districts, among nations (see here and here for two recent manifestations). If we are going to be “holding people accountable,” I’d prefer the metric be whether they are providing all students with the “opportunities to employ his [or her] own powers in activities that have meaning.”

Opt Out — Just Say No to the WKCE

TJ Mertz:

The WKCE testing and related assessments are scheduled for next week in the Madison Metropolitan School District schools (full schedule of MMSD assessments, here), but your child doesn’t have to be part of it. You can opt out. Families with students in grades 4,8, & 10 have a state statutory right to opt out of the WKCE; I have been told that it is district practice to allow families to opt out of any and all other, discretionary, tests. We opted out this year. In order to opt out, you must contact your school’s Principal (and do it ASAP, (contact info here).
The WKCE does your child no good. Just about everyone agrees that even in comparison to other standardized tests, it is not a good assessment. Because results are received so late in the year, it isn’t of much use to target student weaknesses or guide instruction. There are no benefits for students.

Is Teacher Union “Collective Bargaining” Good for Students?

The Madison School Board has scheduled [PDF] a 2:00p.m. meeting tomorrow, Sunday 30 September for an “Initial exchange of proposals and supporting rationale for such proposals in regard to collective bargaining negotiations regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) for MMSD Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) Teachers, Substitute Teachers, Educational Assistants, Supportive Educational Employees (SEE), and School Security Assistants (SSA), held as a public meeting pursuant to Wis. Stat. §111.70(4)(cm)”.
The School Board along with other Madison area governments have moved quickly to negotiate or extend agreements with several public sector unions after a judicial decision overturning parts of Wisconsin’s Act 10. The controversial passage of Act 10 changed the dynamic between public sector organizations and organized labor.
I’ve contemplated these events and thought back to a couple of first hand experiences:
In the first example, two Madison School District teacher positions were being reduced to one. Evidently, under the CBA, both had identical tenure so the choice was a coin toss. The far less qualified teacher “won”, while the other was laid off.
In the second example, a Madison School District teacher and parent lamented to me the poor teacher one of their children experienced (in the same District) and that “there is nothing that can be done about it”.
In the third example, a parent, after several years of their child’s “mediocre” reading and writing experiences asked that they be given the “best teacher”. The response was that they are “all good”. Maybe so.
Conversely, I’ve seen a number of teachers go far out of their way to help students learn, including extra time after school and rogue curricula such as phonics and Singapore Math.
I am unaware of the School Board meeting on a Sunday, on short notice, to address the District’s long time reading problems.
A bit of background:
Exhibit 1, written in 2005 illustrating the tyranny of low expectations” “When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before”.
Exhibit 2, 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use.
Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s 2009 Madison speech to the Madison Rotary Club is worth reading:

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

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

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

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

Madison School District Teacher Handbook Plateau Bargaining

Matthew DeFour

More than 40 members of Madison Teachers Inc. attended Tuesday’s board meeting, and executive director John Matthews delivered a letter reminding the board that changes in state law “did not take away the board’s ability to engage in conversation about” benefits and work rules.
Board vice president Marj Passman said she preferred a process where management and employees work out their differences.
“I don’t care what the governor wants,” Passman said. “I’d like to go back to the two equal body process.”
Board member Arlene Silveira said several districts included teachers on the committees that developed their handbooks and “having staff input right upfront prevents difficult ways of getting there.” She also suggested having a board member present at each meeting.
Prior to the meeting, School Board President James Howard said the work group is for administrators so it doesn’t need to include teachers. There will be other advisory groups that will include their input, he said.

Clusty Search: Plateau Bargaining.
Karen Vieth

“The kids are delighted to be back at school,” James Howard said as he addressed the Board and numerous spectators at tonight’s Board of Education Workshop. Everyone nodded their heads in agreement, while they anxiously awaited the real topic of conversation. This would be the Board’s first public conversation on the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Employee Handbook, a handbook that would replace more than sixty years of collective bargaining.
As Howard spoke, I surveyed the crowd that had gathered in the McDaniels Auditorium at the Doyle Administration Building. Madison Teachers Inc. (MTI) members stood out in their red, Union T-shirts. They made up more than half of the audience. The AFSCME members were dressed in green, representing custodial, maintenance and food service workers in the district. MMSD administrators, community members and a County Board member were also present.

TJ Mertz:

There was some Pollyannaish talk that the “Guiding Principles” in the process document — especially the first two “1. Improve student learning. As in everything we do, the first question and the top priority is student learning. How does what we are considering impact students? 2. Empower staff to do their best work. How does this impact teachers and staff? Does it help or hinder them in doing their jobs effectively?” — would be sufficient (a little more below on this), but there seemed to be a consensus that at very least the committee should present some options to the Board. That’s another reason to have an inclusive committee; to get better options.
A quick aside on the “Guiding Principals” and related thoughts and then back to the Board’s role. It is all well and good to say that student learning is or should be primary in just about everything, but it is also false and serves to marginalize staff. I’ve long said that the interests of teachers align with the interests of students and the district by about 95% and yes “student learning” is the prime interest. But staff are adults, with mortgages, families to support, loans to pay, relationships to cultivate and maintain, …They are not and should not be people who put student learning above the their own well being. To even contemplate that they should be is disrespectful. That’s why we hear the “All about the students” meme from the anti-teacher/anti-union reform crowd. It sound good, but it is wrong. Think about it, did the people negotiating a contract on behalf of Interim Superintendent Belmore put “student learning at the top of their list? Of course not, and they shouldn’t have.

Vocational Education and the Voices of Workers: Blast from the Past #2

TJ Mertz:

In 1911, Wisconsin passed a pioneering Vocational Education law. It was far from perfect, but in two places the law made sure that in making public provision for explicitly preparing students fro employment our state was not simply turning education over to businesses and employers. This was done by guaranteeing that labor had an equal voice in the programs that were created. On the state Board:

Madison Schools’ Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) Assessment Results Released

Interim Madison Superintendent Jane Belmore (175K PDF):

The Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) is a computer adaptive series of assessments from the North West Evaluation Association (NWEA). There are tests in reading, language usage and math.
When taking a MAP test, the difficulty of each question is based on how well a student answers all the previous questions. As the student answers correctly, questions become more difficult. If the student answers incorrectly, the questions become easier. In an optimal test, a student answers approximately half the items correctly and half incorrectly. The final score is an estimate of the student’s achievement level. Each test takes approximately 50 minutes to complete.
MMSD has chosen to administer MAP for the following reasons:

  • It helps ensure technical infrastructure to support implementation of Smarter Balanced Assessment.
  • Rapid turn-around of classroom, school and district level data.
  • Nationally normed results give a more accurate picture of MMSD’s standing.
  • MAP measures student achievement growth in content area and within strands in a content area.
  • Beginning 2012-13, MAP will be aligned with the Common Core State Standards
  • MAP is not high stakes. It is not reported to the state for accountability purposes, but rather for district and school improvement.

In 2011-12, MAP was administered for Grades 3 through 7. In 2012-13, it will be expanded to include Grade 8. The default is to provide the test to all students, but MMSD has the ability to use judgment for students with disabilities. So, not all special education students will take MAP. Also, MAP is not for ELL levels 1 or 2.

I’m glad the Madison Schools published this information, and that they are implementing a much more rigorous assessment than the oft-criticized WKCE. I look forward to seeing the District’s report on the EXPLORE assessment, as well.
Nearby Monona Grove has used the MAP assessment for a number of years. It would be interesting to see how the Districts compare.



















Matthew DeFour and TJ Mertz comment.

Madison’s Superintendent Search Service Contenders

Proact Services: [1MB PDF Presentation]

Gary Solomon, Chief Executive Officer
Gary Solomon was elevated to CEO of PROACT Search in 2009. Previously, Mr. Solomon had founded Synesi Associates and worked in Education for the past twenty years, starting as a high school teacher and administrator in the Chicago suburbs. Gary transitioned from the public to the private sector taking on a position as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for The Princeton Review, and was responsible for rebuilding the sales organization into a senior consultative team focused on creating custom solutions in the areas of assessment, professional development and academic intervention. During his six years with The Princeton Review, where annual revenue goals were exceeded by and average 150%, Solomon was fortunate to do significant business in many of the top 50 urban districts in the country, and work with some of the best and brightest reformers in the K12 space. 

A graduate of the University of Illinois, Solomon holds a Masters in Education Arts from Northeastern University.

Thomas Vranas
, President
Thomas brings an extensive background in educational management in the private sector, as well as numerous start-ups across various industries. He recently served as Vice President at one of the largest publicly traded test preparation companies where he was directly responsible for their sales teams as well as online learning division. Previously Thomas built an urban tutoring program in Chicago to service over 8,000 students with recognition for a quality program from the local and national government. Thomas has also started-up a Wireless Internet company, a Sales and Marketing company as well as a boutique Venture Capital firm. Thomas has been published by the Northwestern Press for his work in political economics and is and active volunteer at many organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Northwestern University and Steppenwolf Theatre. He’s been a guest lecturer at Northwestern University, where he earned his B.A. in Economics and Slavic Languages.

Phil Hansen
, Chief Operations Officer
Phil Hansen is a seasoned educator with an impeccable record rooted in Accountability. For fifteen years Phil taught history, before moving on to five years as assistant principal for the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), and then Director of Special Education in the southern suburbs of Chicago. In 1991 Phil took on the role of Principal at Clissold Elementary, a Chicago Public school. In 1995 he became the CPS Director of School Intervention, before moving on in 1997 to take on the position of Chief Accountability Officer, where he served until 2002. At this time Phil was offered a position working as an assistant to the Illinois State Superintendent where he was the liaison between CPS and the Illinois State Board of Education specifically focused on No Child Left Behind (NCLB) implementation throughout the state.
Upon his retirement Phil joined The Princeton Review and managed a turnaround project in Philadelphia, transitioning four middle schools to new small high schools. He also separately did consulting work for the School District of Philadelphia, the St Louis Schools Office of Accountability, and the Recovery School District of New Orleans. In the Recovery School District he served as the Interim Chief Academic Officer during the transition of leadership. Upon joining Synesi Associates, as Vice President of Policy and Development he has worked with the State Board of Louisiana and the East Baton Rouge Parish School District. His primary work has been in completing school and district quality reviews followed up by long term support as an external partner. Through Synesi he also continues to work in New Orleans, assisting with the High School Redesign efforts
As an active member of his community, Phil has also served as President and Secretary of the Beverly Area Planning Association, and has received rewards for service from both the local community as well as the greater city of Chicago. Most recently Phil was honored as an outstanding City of Chicago Employee and Outstanding Educator from the National Conference for Community and Justice.

Stephen Kupfer
, Regional President
Steve Kupfer serves as Northeast Regional President for PROACT Search and is responsible for executing talent management and support strategies in K-12 education institutions and organizations. He was previously a Senior Consultant in the education practice at Public Consulting Group where he worked alongside district leadership to implement web-based special education and response to intervention (RtI) case management modules in some of the largest school districts in the country, including Miami Dade County Public Schools, The School District of Philadelphia, and the Louisiana Recovery School District.
Steve brings practical, district-level experience in organizational development to challenges in K-12 human capital management and support. In his most recent role, he leveraged local leadership to build operational and financial capacity through Medicaid reimbursement programs, mitigating budget shortfalls and sustaining critical student services. Steve has also developed and implemented comprehensive strategies to engage and communicate with key internal and external stakeholders across districts, and has front line experience with the urgency and complexity of the problems school leaders face today.
Steve is a proud product of the K-12 public school system. He went on to receive a B.A. in political economy from Skidmore College, where he played baseball and was a member of various chamber music groups. He continued on to receive an M.B.A. from Clark University.
Kristin Osborn, Director of Operations
Krissi Osborn runs all Operations and Recruitment for PROACT Search. In her role with the company, she has additionally established an award winning internship program exclusively with Northwestern University. Krissi is an active member in her Chicago community, volunteering as an ESL Tutor in Albany Park, as well as on the executive board for a community outreach group. Krissi graduated from Northwestern with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and History from the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

Ray and Associates: [2.6MB PDF Presentation]

Gary L. Ray, President
Christine Kingery, Vice-President
William Newman, National Executive Director
Ryan Ray, Corporate Director
Heidi Cordes, Corporate Associate
HeidiAnn Long, Executive Search Assistant
Carrie Gray, Executive Search Assistant

Notes, links, audio and video from the 2008 Madison Superintendent Search: Steve Gallon, James McIntyre and Dan Nerad.
Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992.
TJ Mertz comments.

Recall Day Rhetoric

A few links related to Wisconsin’s recall election:
#wirecall on Twitter
Madison Teachers, Inc Twitter Feed; Pro-Recall
Madison’s Isthmus
True School Activists Vote for Walker by “Penelope Trunk”, via a kind reader’s email.
TJ Mertz: Why Scott Walker doesn’t recall the QEO and how to help recall him
WisPolitics Elections Blog (WisPolitics is now owned by the Capital Times Company)
MacIver Institute
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel All Politics Blog.
Daily Kos
Talking Points Memo
Five Thirty Eight Blog..
National Review
WEAC Twitter Feed
AFSCME Twitter Feed
Politico

Who is Paul Vallas and why is he coming to Madison?

TJ Mertz

As Jim Anchower says, “I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya…” Sometimes you need a break; expect more soon.
Paul Vallas will be featured at a “school reform town hall meeting” this Saturday, May 26, 1:00 PM at LaFollette High School. The announcements feature “Madison Metropolitan School District, Verona Area School District, United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison & Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County” as “collaborating” hosts, but as reported by Matt DeFour the United Way “has requested that our name be removed from all upcoming communications related to the event, but will attend to hear the conversation from all those involved.”
Attempts to clarify MMSD’s role have not yielded a response. You can try yourself: Board of Education: board@madison.k12.wi.us, Supt. Dan Nerad: dnerad@madison.k12.wi.us. I’ve been told unofficially that MMSD is donating the space, which would mean that your tax dollars and mine are being used (see the district facilities rental policy here). It would really be a shame if our district collaborated in bringing Vallas here, there is very little in his version of school reform that our community, or any community will benefit from.

Much more on Paul Vallas’s visit, here.
ACLU on freedom of speech.
Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use?
and: 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
How long will our community tolerate its reading problem? Bread and circuses.

Costs drop 5 percent for Nashua School District’s special education out-of-district placements; District spends $7,854/student, or $12,145/student

Cameron Kittle & Maryalice Gill:

While the overall cost of out-of-district placements for special education students is expected to drop next year, some individual placements continue to run the district $100,000 and beyond.
The most expensive placement this year is for a student at the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, Vt. The estimated tuition cost for this year is $158,096.
There are also two other placements costing upward of $100,000 this year, including one student at Crotched Mountain in Greenfield for $136,934 and another student at the Nashoba Learning Group in Bedford, Mass., for $104,570.

Nashua School District’s 2011 budget is $93,425,591 for 11,895 students ($7,854 per student).
TJ Mertz sent a kind email noting that another Nashua document describes spending as follows: FY 2012 operating budget: $144,475,503 for 11,895 students = $12,145/student.
Locally, Madison will spend $14,858.40 per student this year, nearly double Nashua’s spending based on this document, or perhaps 18% more based on the 2012 document noted above
Global Report Card comparison:
Madison
Nashua

Madison Prep backers seek school board re-vote

Nathan Comp:

When asked why he didn’t second Ed Hughes’ motion at the Dec. 19 meeting to delay the schools’ opening until 2013, Howard replied, “We had not discussed the implications of what that means. I think we have time if we’re talking about 2013, to make sure we do it correctly, because we don’t know what the rules of the game will be in 2013.”
Superintendent Dan Nerad said, “Whether it will move forward I don’t know. That depends on whether the motion gets on the floor. I don’t have a read on it at this point.”
Others aren’t as diplomatic. “This is a waste of time and money for all involved,” said TJ Mertz, an Edgewood College professor and district watchdog who is among Madison Prep’s most ardent critics.
“The votes are not there and will not be there,” he continued. “It distracts from the essential work of addressing the real issues of the district, including issues of achievement for students in poverty.”

Myth of Madison Prep, Part 2

TJ Mertz:

Part 1 here, (the introductory material is copied from there).
The discussion around the Madison Preparatory Academy (MPA) proposal and the related events and processes has been heated, but not always grounded in reality. Many have said that just having this conversation is a good thing. I don’t agree. With myths being so prevalent and prominent, a productive conversation is nearly impossible. Since the vote is scheduled for Monday (12/19), I thought it would be good to take a closer — fact based, but opinionated — look at some of the myths. This is part two, although there are plenty of myths left to be examined, I’ve only gotten one up here. I may post more separately or in an update here on Monday.
Three things to get out of the way first.
One is that the meeting is now scheduled to be held at 6:00 Pm at the Memorial High School Auditorium and that for this meeting the sign up period to speak will be from 5:45 to 6:00 PM (only).
Second, much of the information on Madison Prep can be found on the district web page devoted to the topic. I’m not going do as many hyperlinks to sources as I usually do because much of he material is there already. Time constraints, the fact that people rarely click the links I so carefully include, and, because some of the things I’ll be discussing presently are more along the lines of “what people are saying/thinking,” rather than official statements, also played a role in this decision. I especially want to emphasize this last point. Some of the myths being examined come straight from “official” statements or sources, some are extensions of “official” things taken up by advocates, and some are self-generated by unaffiliated advocates.

Some Madison Teachers & Some Community Members (*) on the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School



200K PDF File, via a kind reader.
Madison Teacher’s Inc. Twitter feed can be found here.
Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.
* Please see TJ Mertz’s comment below. A link to the document was forwarded to me via a kind reader from Madison Teachers, Inc. Twitter Feed (a “retweet” of Karen Vieth’s “tweet”). Note that I enjoyed visiting with Karen during several Madison School District strategic planning meetings.
A screenshot of the link:

The outcome of the Madison Prep “question” will surely reverberate for some time.
Finally, I suspect we’ll see more teacher unions thinking different, as The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has done: Minneapolis teacher’s union approved to authorize charter schools.

Contradictions & Confusion: Madison Prep Board Members in Their Own Words

TJ Mertz

Of course Madison Prep wants the media opportunity of children waiting in an auditorium, some advocates for the school have demonized teachers, the Madison Prep Board has decided that the only way to make the school happen is to employee non-union staff and not pay them for the extended day and year (that they are also seeking African American and Latino staff, makes this even worse). It should also be noted that school choice backers like the Kochs, the Waltons and (Bradley and Koch funded) ALEC aren’t all that keen on “the right to clean water” either.

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

Madison School District Administrative Analysis of the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School; WKCE Rhetoric

Madison Superintendent Dan Nerad:

Critique of the District (MMSD)
Page # 23: MPA – No College Going Culture among Madison’s New Student Population
The data on student performance and course-taking patterns among students in MMSD paint a clear picture. There is not a prevalent college going culture among Black, Hispanic and some Asian student populations enrolled in MMSD. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. The majority of these students are failing to complete a rigorous curriculum that would adequately prepare them for college and 21st century jobs. Far too many are also failing to complete college requirements, such as the ACT, or failing to graduate from high school.
Page # 23: No College Going Culture among Madison’s New Student Population –
MMSD Response
MMSD has taken many steps towards ensuring college attendance eligibility and readiness for our students of color. Efforts include:
AVID/TOPS
East High School became the first MMSD school to implement AVID in the 2007-2008 school year. Teens of Promise or TOPS became synonymous with AVID as the Boys and Girls Club committed to an active partnership to support our program. AVID/TOPS students are defined as:
“AVID targets students in the academic middle – B, C, and even D students – who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard. These are students who are capable of completing rigorous curriculum but are falling short of their
potential. Typically, they will be the first in their families to attend college, and many are from low-income or minority families. AVID pulls these students out of their unchallenging courses and puts them on the college track: acceleration instead of remediation.”
Source: http://www.avid.org/abo_whatisavid.html
The MMSD has 491 students currently enrolled in AVID/TOPS. Of that total, 380 or 77% of students are minority students (27% African-American, 30% Latino, 10% Asian, 10% Multiracial). 67% of MMSD AVID/TOPS students qualify for free and reduced lunch. The 2010- 2011 school year marked an important step in the District’s implementation of AVID/TOPS. East High School celebrated its first cohort of AVID/TOPS graduates. East Highs AVID/TOPS class of 2011 had a 100% graduation rate and all of the students are enrolled in a 2-year or 4- year college. East High is also in the beginning stages of planning to become a national demonstration site based on the success of their program. This distinction, determined by the AVID regional site team, would allow high schools from around the country to visit East High School and learn how to plan and implement AVID programs in their schools.
MMSD has a partnership with the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE) and they are conducting a controlled study of the effects of AVID/TOPS students when compared to a comparison groups of students. Early analysis of the study reveals positive gains in nearly every category studied.
AVID pilot studies are underway at two MMSD middle schools and support staff has been allocated in all eleven middle schools to begin building capacity towards a 2012-2013 AVID Middle School experience. The program design is still underway and will take form this summer when school based site teams participate in the AVID Summer Institute training.

I found this commentary on the oft criticized WKCE exams fascinating (one day, wkce results are useful, another day – this document – WKCE’s low benchmark is a problem)” (page 7):

Page # 28: MPA – Student Performance Measures:
85% of Madison Prep’s Scholars will score at proficient or advanced levels in reading, math, and science on criterion referenced achievement tests after three years of enrollment.
90% of Scholars will graduate on time.
100% of students will complete the SAT and ACT assessments before graduation with 75% achieving a composite score of 22 or higher on the ACT and 1100 on the SAT (composite verbal and math).
100% of students will complete a Destination Plan before graduation.
100% of graduates will qualify for admissions to a four-year college after graduation.
100% of graduates will enroll in postsecondary education after graduation.
Page # 28: Student Performance Measures – MMSD Response:
WKCE scores of proficient are not adequate to predict success for college and career readiness. Cut scores equated with advanced are needed due to the low benchmark of Wisconsin’s current state assessment system. What specific steps or actions will be provided for students that are far below proficiency and/or require specialized support services to meet the rigorous requirements of IB?
Recommendation:
No Child Left Behind requires 100% proficiency by 2014. Madison Prep must be held to the same accountability standards as MMSD.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB charter school, here.
Madison School District links & notes on Madison Prep.
TJ Mertz comments, here.

Madison Prep, More Questions than Answers

TJ Mertz:

With only 24 days remaining till the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will vote on the Madison Preparatory Academy charter and only 9 days until the MMSD administration is required to issue an analysis of their proposal (and that is assuming the analysis is issued on a Sunday, otherwise we are talking only one week), there are still many, many unanswered questions concerning the school. Too many unanswered questions.
Where to start?
All officially submitted information (and more) can be found on the district web site (scroll down for the latest iterations, and thanks to the district public info team for doing this).
The issues around instrumentality/non instrumentality and the status of staff in relation to existing union contracts have rightfully been given much attention. It is my understanding that there has been some progress, but things seem to be somewhat stalled on those matters.

Much more on the proposed Madison Preparatory IB Charter school, here.
Do current schools face the same scrutiny as the proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter?

Some Truth About (Chicago’s) Urban Prep and Why It Matters

TJ Mertz:

To bolster their case and push their agendas, advocates for market-based education reform and market-based policies in general tout “miracle schools” that have supposedly produced amazing results . Urban Prep in Chicago is often exhibit A.

As Diane Ravitch wrote of Urban Prep and other ed deform favorites ” the only miracle at these schools was a triumph of public relations.”

Locally, backers of the Madison Preparatory Academy have incorporated much of the Urban Prep model in their plan and have repeatedly cited the “success” of that school as evidence of the soundness of their proposal. Just this weekend Derrell Connor was quoted as saying in relation to Madison Prep “We are using Urban Prep (in Chicago) as an example, which for the last four years has a 100 percent graduation rate and all those kids have gone on to college.” As I pointed out in a back-and-forth in the comments on that interview, the actual Urban Prep graduation rate is far below 100% (62.6% is the correct figure, my mistakes in the comments, also there have only been two graduating classes, not four) .

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

Madison Prep – 1,2,3 Yellow Light (updated)

TJ Mertz:

Big news over the weekend in the Madison Preparatory Academy saga. There has been significant and positive movement on four issues by the Urban League of Greater Madison (ULGM). First, they have changed their request from non-instrumentality to instrumentality, increasing control by and accountability to the district. Second, they have agreed to be staffed by teachers and other educators represented by Madison Teachers Incorporated (MTI) and follow the existing contract between MTI and the Madison Metropolitan School District (the memo on these two items and more is here). ULGM has also morphed their vision from a district-wide charter to a geographic/attendance area charter. Last, their current budget projections no longer require outrageous transfers of funds from other district schools. Many issues and questions remain but these move the proposal from an obvious red light to the “proceed with caution” yellow. It is far from being a green light.
Before identifying some of the remaining questions and issues, I think it is important to point out that this movement on the part on the Urban League came because people raised issues and asked questions. Throughout the controversies there has been a tendency to present Madison Prep as initially proposed as “THE PLAN” and dismiss any questioning of that proposal as evidence that the questioners don’t care about the academic achievement of minorities and children of poverty. This has been absurd and offensive. Remember this started at $28,000 per/pupil. Well, ULGM has moved this far because people didn’t treat their proposal as if it had been brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses; if the proposal is eventually approved, MMSD and likely Madison Prep will be better because these changes have been made. As this process enters the next phases, I hope everyone keeps that in mind.

Further Commentary on the Proposed Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School: Gender discrimination likely a red herring in charter school discussion

Chris Rickert:

The Madison School District now has another justification for killing a charter school aimed at doing what the district hasn’t: consistently educate minority students.
Last week, the state Department of Public Instruction said the first half of a planning grant for Madison Preparatory Academy would be released. Madison Prep would focus on low-income minority students and was originally just for boys but has since been revamped to include girls in separate classrooms.
But DPI had a catch: In order to get the rest of the grant, the school must provide scientific research that single-gender education is effective. If you’re going to discriminate by gender, DPI is saying, at least have a good reason for it.
I can’t help but wonder: Is this the best DPI can do?
I don’t know much more than what I’ve read in this newspaper about how Madison Prep would organize itself, what kinds of educational approaches it would use or how capable its sponsor, the Urban League of Greater Madison, would be.

TJ Mertz:

ewsletter (as of this writing PD has not taken a position on the Madison Prep proposal). I’ve only changed minimally for posting here; one thing I have added is some hyperlinks (but I did not link as thoroughly as I usually do), another is a small “For Further Reading” set of links at the end,” and of course the song. This is intended to be a broad overview and introduction to what I think are some of the most important issues concerning the decision on the Madison Preparatory Academy presented in the context of related national issues. Issues raised in this post have been and will be treated in more depth — and with hyperlinks — in other posts]

For decades free market advocates such as the Bradley Foundation, the Walton Foundation and the Koch brothers have a waged a multi-front campaign against the public sector and the idea of the common good. Public education has been one of the key battlegrounds. In the coming weeks the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will decide whether to approve a proposal for the Madison Prep Charter School. This proposal and the chief advocate for it – Kaleem Caire of the Urban League of Greater Madison – have their roots in the Bradley/Walton/Koch movement, and like much of that movement they offer false promises of educational progress in order to obscure the damage being done to every child in our public schools.

A Public Hearing on the Madison Prep proposal has been scheduled for Monday October 3, at 6:00 PM in the Doyle Building Auditorium; The Madison Prep proposal is on the agenda of the PD General Membership Meeting (Wed , 9/28 , 6:00 p.m, Hawthorne Branch Library, guests welcome).

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

Commentary on Wisconsin School Choice Battles

Mike Ford:

A 3,000 plus word article by Bill Lueders in the Capital Times today questions the motives behind legislators that support the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP). Specifically targeted is Rep. Howard Marklein, a freshman legislator from Spring Green who had the gall to not only support school choice in Milwaukee but also to introduce legislation to improve the program.
Lueders quotes Rep. Sandy Pope-Roberts as asking: “What’s in this for Howard Marklein?…If it isn’t for the campaign funds, why is he doing this?”
Perhaps he is doing it because it benefits taxpayers in the 51st Assembly district. As Marklein points out to Lueders, an analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows the MPCP is a benefit to his constituents. Without the MPCP, the 15 school districts represented by Rep. Marklein would lose $1.3 million in state aid. The estimate assumes that 90% of students in the MPCP would have no choice but to return to the more expensive Milwaukee Public School (MPS) system if the MPCP was ended. The 90% figure is the number used by the official state evaluators of the MPCP and is based on evidence from choice programs around the country.

David Blaska has more.
TJ Mertz:

This is Take Two in a series. Take One, with a fuller introduction, can be found here. Briefly, the idea of the series is to counter anti-teacher and anti-teachers’ union individuals and “reform” groups appropriation of the phrase “it is all about the kids” as a means to heap scorn and ridicule on public education and public education employees by investigating some of the actions of these individuals and groups in light of the question “is it all about the kids?” In each take, national developments are linked to local matters in relation to the Madison Prep charter school proposal.
Take Two: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words: Public Lotteries and the Exploitation of Families and Children

Is it “all about the kids” (and what that might mean)? — Take One (in relation to ULGM and Madison Prep)

TJ Mertz:

My training as a historian has taught me that all knowledge is tentative and that this is especially true when it comes to assigning motives to people’s actions. It has also taught me to not accept self-proclaimed motives at face value , to only state an opinion about the motives of others when there is a preponderance of evidence, and to look at actions and consequences as well as rhetoric when trying to make sense of things.
With those caveats, I think it is worthwhile to investigate the motives, actions and the consequences of the actions of Kaleem Caire and some of others associated with the Madison Prep proposal and the Urban League of Greater Madison in relation to public education.
Enemies of teachers and teacher unions have seized upon the phrase “it is all about the kids” to ridicule and attack teachers and their representatives. With union and (almost all) others, of course it isn’t “all about the kids.” Interestingly, those who blame unions for some or all of the ills of public education — like many of the proponents of Madison Prep — often offer their own versions of “it is all about the kids.” Examples include Michelle Rhee who named her group Students First (Valarie Strauss pointedly offered a column on Rhee’s organization titled “Rhee’s campaign is not about the kids.”) and the anti-Union political bribery has been done in Illinois (and elsewhere) under the banner of Stand for Children ( a must-see video here).

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

Madison Preparatory IB Charter School School Board Discussion Notes

Matthew DeFour:

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

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

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

TJ Mertz:

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

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

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

Rebecca Kemble:

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

Wisconsin Public School Advocates to Rally at the Capitol, Saturday July 30, 3:00 PM

99K PDF, via a TJ Mertz email:

As hundreds of thousands of public school supporters gather in Washington DC the weekend of July 28 to 30, 2011, Wisconsin advocates will hold a rally in support of the Save Our Schools agenda at 3:00 PM on Saturday July 30, near the State St. entrance to the Capitol.
“Public schools are under attack. There is a need for national, state, and local action in support of our schools. Wisconsin has been ground zero in this; the Save Our Schools demands from the Guiding Principles provide a great framework to build our state movement and work to expand opportunities to learn” said education activist Thomas J. Mertz.
The Save Our Schools demands are:

  • Equitable funding for all public school communities
  • An end to high stakes testing used for the purpose of student, teacher, and school evaluation
  • Teacher, family and community leadership in forming public education policies
  • Curriculum developed for and by local school communities

Doing more with less doesn’t work. “The time to act is now. While phony debates revolve around debt ceilings, students and teachers across the country are shortchanged. We need real reform, starting with finally fixing the school funding formula, and putting families and communities first. What child and what teacher don’t deserve an excellent school?” said rally organizer Todd Price, former Green Party Candidate for Department of Public Instruction and Professor of Teacher Education National Louis University.
The event will feature speeches from educators, students, parents and officials, as well as opportunities for school advocates from throughout Wisconsin to connect and organize around issues of importance in their communities.

For more information, visit: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch.org/ and http://saveourschoolswisconsin.wordpress.com/
Related:

My Thoughts on the MMSD Budget Gap

After some time for quiet reflection, I have posted some thoughts on the recent WSJ article on the Madison public schools’ budget gap. I am responding to comments that have been flying around since the board president indicated his sense that the board is not interested in raising property taxes.
About those property taxes and the MMSD budget gap…
I recently wrote this response to TJ Mertz’s blog on the newly-discovered shortfall in state aid to the Madison Metro School District. It places the gap, and the WSJ article on the gap, in perspective. At least it provides my perspective on where we are and what is likely to happen next.
Read full post at: http://lucymathiak.blogspot.com/2011/07/about-those-property-taxes-and-mmsd.html

Student mental health: ‘Need far outweighs resources’

Matthew DeFour:

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

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

On the Agenda Madison School District Board of Education, the Week of May 23, 2011

TJ Mertz:

I picked a bad week to start doing “On the Agenda” posts on the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education doings. Too much going on. Given the amount to cover, I’m going to try to keep the comments and context minimal. I should also note that I haven’t yet decided how regularly I will do these again.
The details for all of the meetings are here. Here is the rundown.

School board member Ed Hughes wants to give some docked pay back to Madison teachers (Proposal Withdrawn Later in the Day)

Matthew DeFour:

Hughes is making the proposal [56K PDF Ed Hughes Amendment] as an amendment to the district’s budget.
Funding would come from the $1.3 million windfall the district will get from docking the pay of 1,769 teachers who were absent without an excuse on one or more days between Feb. 16-18 and 21.
The district closed school during those four days because of the high number of staff members who called in sick to attend protests over Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed changes to public sector collective bargaining.
“Under the circumstances it seemed to me the school district shouldn’t necessarily profit from that, because the teachers agreed to make up the time in a way that took away planning time for them,” said Hughes, who is considering a run for school board president when new officers are elected Monday.
Hughes is also proposing increasing the district’s proposed property tax levy for next year by about $2 million to pay for maintenance and technology projects and any costs associated with the district’s implementation of a state-imposed talented-and-gifted education plan.
“It seems goofy that we give away $1 million and then raise property taxes [50K PDF Ed Hughes Amendment],” board member Lucy Mathiak said.

Jay Sorgi:

If a school board member in Madison gets his way, the district would used money it saved when teachers forced schools to shut down during the budget debate to award end of the year bonuses to teachers.
WTMJ partner station WIBA Radio in Madison says that teachers in Madison would receive $200 gift cards as year-end bonuses.
“Whenever we can, we need to show some kind of tangible appreciation for the extremely hard work our teachers and staff do,” said Ed Hughes, a member of the Madison school board.
“They’ve had a particularly tough year as you know, given that they kind of became political footballs in the legislature. We’re ending up slashing their take home pay by a substantial amount, pretty much because we have to.”

Additional links:

Related: 5/26/2005 MTI & The Madison School Board by Ed Hughes.

Wisconsin Senate Bill 95 Testimony

TJ Mertz:

Thank you for this opportunity to testify on Senate Bill 95.

Due to time limitations — both the time allotted here and the very, very short time between the release of the Bill on Friday and the scheduling of this hearing for today — I will be confining myself to only two of the topics covered in this wide ranging measure. Those are the dilution of the Student Achievement Guaranty in Education (SAGE) and the use of student standardized test scores as a determinant of educator employment conditions. I will note that I believe every section of this Bill should be thoroughly sifted and winnowed.

Before directly addressing the proposals on SAGE and the use of student standardized test scores, I’d like to say a few things about the broader trend in educational thinking and policy in Wisconsin.

Not too long ago Senator Olson chaired a Special Committee on Review of State School Aid Formula. I sat though most of the meetings of that committee. Although little came of it, there was a sense of optimism and ambition in the work of that committee, a sense that we can and should do better. This spirit was captured in the title of the presentation by Professor Alan Odden “Moving From Good to Great in Wisconsin: Funding Schools Adequately and Doubling Student Performance,” (paper of the same title here) . It should be added that Doctor Sarah Archibald, who is anow dvising Senator Olson, was part of that work.

Much more on Wisconsin Senate Bill 95, here.

Wisconsin Bill OKs teacher discipline for bad school test scores

Matthew DeFour:

School districts would be able to use standardized test scores as a factor in disciplining or firing teachers under a Republican bill made public Thursday and scheduled for a public hearing Monday.
Currently, districts can use the scores to evaluate teachers, with certain limitations, but not to discipline or fire them.
The bill comes after the state lost out on federal education funding in part due to limitations in how districts can judge teaching performance, and as a state task force develops a plan to better evaluate teachers.
In addition to the teacher evaluation changes, the bill sponsored by the chairmen of the Senate and Assembly education committees also would allow students to receive physical education credit for playing after-school sports, allow athletics suspensions based on police records and alter funding rules for certain programs, among other things.

TJ Mertz has more.

Parent organizing meeting set in Dane County

TJ Mertz, via email:

Parents in Dane County have scheduled an event to update the public on Governor Scott Walkers’ devastating cuts to their children’s educational opportunities and to plan what they can do, together, to form advocacy groups and work for a better way. The event follows closely on the heels of a similar meeting in Greenfield, March 5, that saw over 400 people come together to plan the next step.
March 27, members of the Dane County School Board Consortium and WAES (http://www.excellentschools.org) will host a community meeting — “The Future of Public Education and A Call to Action” — at the Monona Grove High School Commons (http://www.mononagrove.org/mghs/), 4400 Monona Drive, Monona. The hoped-for outcomes of the event, which runs from 3 to 4:40 p.m., include an increased understanding of school funding in Wisconsin, alternatives to cuts in funding, and formation of community advocacy groups. For more information, call 608-217-5938 or go to http://www.excellentschools.org/events/2011/budget/dane_county_flier.pdf.

An Update on Madison’s High School Reforms

TJ Mertz:

The issues are the failure of the MMSD Administration to follow basic practices of open inclusive governance and the implementation of segregative policies.
Below (and here) [70K PDF] is an open letter drafted and signed by 18 West High parents on Friday 1/7/2010. Understanding the letter requires some background and context. The background — along with the latest news and some final thoughts -follows.

Lots of related links:

More here.

Notes and Links on the Madison West High School Student Sit-in

Gayle Worland:

Sitting cross-legged on the ground or perched high on stone sculptures outside the school, about a quarter of West High’s 2,086 students staged a silent 37-minute sit-in Friday morning outside their building to protest a district proposal to revamp curriculum at the city’s high schools.
The plan, unveiled to Madison School District teachers and parents this week, would offer students in each high school the chance to pick from advanced or regular classes in the core subjects of math, science, English and social studies. Students in the regular classes could also do additional work for honors credit.
Designed to help the district comply with new national academic standards, the proposal comes in the wake of a complaint filed against the district by parents in the West attendance area arguing the district fails to offer adequate programs for “talented and gifted” ninth and 10th grade students at West. The complaint has prompted an audit by the state Department of Public Instruction.

Susan Troller:

Okay, everyone, remember to breathe, and don’t forget to read.
A draft copy of possible high school curriculum changes got what could be gently characterized as a turbulent response from staff and students at West High School. Within hours of the release of a proposal that would offer more advanced placement options in core level courses at local high schools, there was a furious reaction from staff and students at West, with rumors flying, petitions signed and social media organizing for a protest. All in all, the coordination and passion was pretty amazing and would have done a well-financed political campaign proud.
Wednesday and Thursday there was talk of a protest walk-out at West that generated interest from over 600 students. By Friday morning, the march had morphed into a silent sitdown on the school steps with what looked like 200 to 300 students at about 10:50 a.m. when I attended. There were also adult supporters on the street, a media presence and quite a few police cars, although the demonstration was quiet and respectful. (Somehow, I don’t think the students I saw walking towards the Regent Market or sitting, smoking, on a stone wall several blocks from school, were part of the protest).

TJ Mertz has more as does Lucy Mathiak.
Lots of related links:

The Mess with Madison West (Updated)

TJ Mertz, via email:

[Update: I just got emailed this letter as West parent. Crisis communication is happening. Not much new here, but some clarity}

The first steps with the “High School Curricular Reform, Dual Pathways to Post-Secondary Success” are a mess, a big mess of the administration’s own making.

Before I delve into the mess and the proposal, I think it is important to say that despite huge and inexcusable problems with the process, many unanswered questions and some real things of concern; there are some good things in the proposal. One part near the heart of the plan in particular is something I’ve been pushing for years: open access to advanced classes and programs with supports. In the language of the proposal:

Pathways open to all students. Students are originally identified by Advanced Placement requirements and other suggested guidelines such as EXPLORE /PLAN scores, GPA, past MS/HS performance and MS/HS Recommendation. however, all students would be able to enroll. Students not meeting suggested guidelines but wanting to enroll would receive additional supports (tutoring, skill development classes, AVID, etc.) to ensure success. (emphasis added and I would like to see it added in the implementation).

Right now there are great and at times irrational barriers in place. These need to go. I hope this does not get lost as the mess is cleaned up.

This is in four sections: The Mess; What Next?; The Plan: Unanswered Questions and Causes for Concern; and Final Thought.

Lots of related links:

Wisconsin School Finance Reform Climate: 16% Health Care Spending Growth & Local Lobbying

Jason Stein & Patrick Marley:

The state health department is requesting $675 million more from state taxpayers in the next two-year budget to maintain services such as Wisconsin’s health care programs for the poor, elderly and disabled, according to budget estimates released Thursday.
That figure, included in a budget request by the state Department of Health Services, shows how difficult it will be for the next governor to balance a budget that already faces a $2.7 billion projected shortfall over two years.
One of the chief reasons the state faces the steep increase in costs is because federal economic stimulus money for health care programs will dry up before the 2011-’13 budget starts July 1.
That scheduled decrease in funding would come even as high unemployment lingers, driving many families into poverty and keeping enrollment in the programs relatively high. State Health Services Secretary Karen Timberlake said the state needs to find a way to keep health care for those who need it.
“People need this program in a way many of them never expected to,” she said.
But maintaining health programs at existing levels could cost even more than the $675 million increase over two years – a 16% jump – now projected in the budget request, which will be handled by the next governor and Legislature.

Dane County Board Urges State Action on School Reform 194K PDF via a TJ Mertz email:

This evening the Dane County Board of Supervisors enthusiastically approved a resolution urging the Wisconsin Legislature to make comprehensive changes in the way schools are funded. The Board encouraged the Legislature to consider revenue sources other than the local property tax to support the diverse needs of students and school districts.

“I hear over and over again from Dane County residents that investing in education is a priority, said County Board Supervisor Melissa Sargent, District 18, the primary sponsor of the resolution. “However, people tell me they do not like the overreliance on property taxes to fund education – pitting homeowners against children,” she added.

For the last 17 years, the state funding formula has produced annual shortfalls resulting in program cuts to schools. In 2009-2010, cuts in state aid resulted in a net loss of over $14 million in state support for students in Dane County, shifting the cost of education increasingly to property taxpayers. More and more districts are forced to rely on either program cuts or sometimes divisive referenda. In fact, voters rejected school referendums in five districts Tuesday, while just two were approved.

“The future of our children and our community is dependent on the development of an equitable system for funding public education; a system the recognizes the diverse needs of our children and does not put the funding burden on the backs of our taxpayers, said Madison Metropolitan School
Board member Arlene Silvera. “I appreciate the leadership of the County Board in raising awareness of this critical need and in lobbying our state legislators to make this happen,” she said.

Jeffery Ziegler a Member of the Marshall Public School District Board of Education and Jim Cavanaugh, President of the South Central Federation of Labor, both emphasized the need to get the attention of state officials in statements supporting the resolution. Ziegler described how state inaction has forced Board Members to make decisions that harm education.

State legislators can apparently decide to just not make the tough decisions that need to be made. School boards have a responsibility to keep our schools functioning and delivering the best education they can under the circumstances, knowing full well that those decisions will have a negative effect on the education of the children in their community.

Cavanaugh observed that the consensus that reform is needed has not led to action and pointed to the important role local governmental bodies can play in changing this by following the lead of the Dane County Board

“Legislators of all political stripes acknowledge that Wisconsin’s system for funding public schools is broken. Yet, there doesn’t appear to be the political will to address this very complicated issue. Perhaps they need a nudge from the various local units of government.”

In passing this resolution, Dane County is taking the lead on a critical statewide issue. Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (WAES) board member Thomas J. Mertz said that WAES thanked the Dane County Board and said that WAES will seek similar resolutions from communities around the state in the coming months.

“All around Wisconsin districts are hurting and we’ve been working hard to bring the need for reform to the attention of state officials,” said WAES board member Thomas J. Mertz. “Hearing from local officials might do the trick,” he concluded.

Gubernertorial candidates Tom Barrett (Clusty) and Scott Walker (Clusty) on education.
The current economic climate certainly requires that choices be made.
Perhaps this is part of the problem.
Finally, The Economist on taxes.

Madison School Board Priorities: Ethics, Achievement, or ?

TJ Mertz makes a great point here:

Last up, is “Next Steps for Future Board Development Meetings and Topics.’ Board development is good and important, but with only 2/3 of the term left I hate to see too much time and energy devoted to Board Development.
I keep coming back to this. Every year about 1/3 of the time and energy is devoted to budget matters, that leaves 2/3 to try to make things better. Put it another way; it is September, budget season starts in January. Past time to get to work.
This just leaves the closed meeting on the Superintendent evaluation. Not much to add to what I wrote here. My big point is that almost all of this process should be public. I will repost the links to things that are public:

Charlie Mas continues to chronicle, in a similar manner to TJ, the Seattle School Board’s activities.
In my view, the Madison School Board might spend time on:

  • Public Superintendent Review, including oversight of the principal and teacher review process. Done properly, this should improve teaching effectiveness over time. This process should include full implementation of Infinite Campus. Infinite Campus is a potentially powerful tool to evaluate many activities within the District.
  • Implement a 5 year budget.
  • Evaluate ongoing MMSD Programs for their effectiveness, particularly from a spending and staffing perspective.

Voters will have another chance to weigh in on the Madison School Board during the spring, 2011 election, when seats currently occupied by Ed Hughes and Marj Passman will be on the ballot. Those interested in running should contact the City of Madison Clerk’s office.
Update: I received the draft Madison School Board ethics documents via a Barbara Lehman email (thanks):

  • Board Member Ed Hughes 241K PDF

    Presently we do not have a policy that describes expectations regarding the performance of School Board members. The Committee developed this list on the basis of similar policies adopted by other Boards as well as our own discussion of what our expectations are for each other. The Committee members were able to reach consensus on these expectations fairly quickly.
    Expectation No.4 refers to information requests. We realize that current MMSD Policy 1515 also refers to information requests, but our thinking was that the existing policy addresses the obligation of the superintendent to respond to information requests. We do not currently have a policy that addresses a Board member’s obligation to exercise judgment in submitting information requests.
    Expectation No. 10 is meant to convey that School Board members hold their positions 24-hours a day and have a responsibility to the Board always to avoid behavior that would cast the Board or the District in a poor light.

    How might Number 10 affect an elected Board member’s ability to disagree with District policies or activities?

  • Outgoing Madison School District Counsel Dan Mallin 700K PDF.:

    These paragraphs are a modification from existing language. Although the overall intent appears to remain similar to existing policy, I recommend the existing language because I think it does a better job of expressly recognizing the competing interests between the “beliefstatements” and a Board Member’s likely right, as an individual citizen (and perhaps as a candidate for office while simultaneously serving on the Board) to accept PAC contributions and or to make a statement regarding a candidate. Perhaps the langnage could make clear that no Board Member may purport to, or attempt to imply, that they are speaking for the School Board when making a statement in regard to a candidate for office. That is, they should be express that they are speaking in the individual capacity.

  • Draft ethics policy 500K PDF:

    The Board functions most effectively when individual Board Members adhere to acceptable professional behavior. To promote acceptable conduct of the Board, Board Members should:

  • Outgoing Counsel Dan Mallin’s 7/15/2010 recommendations.

Obama Dealt a Blow Over Education Initiatives

Stephanie Banchero:

President Barack Obama’s education-overhaul agenda was dealt its first major setback after the U.S. House of Representatives diverted money from charter schools, teacher merit pay and the Race to the Top competition to help fund a jobs bill that would stave off teacher layoffs.
Even a last-minute veto threat by Mr. Obama late Thursday couldn’t prevent the diversion of $800 million, including a $500 million cut from Race to the Top, the president’s showcase initiative that rewards states for adopting innovative education redesigns.
Officials with the U.S. Department of Education vowed Friday to keep the president’s education agenda intact and find other places to make budget trims.
“We’re grateful they passed a jobs bills but not at the expense of the reform efforts we need for our long-term economic interests,” said Peter Cunningham, spokesman for the Education Department.

TJ Mertz offers a number of comments, notes and links on congressional efforts to reduce “Race to the Top” funding and increase federal redistributed tax dollar assistance for teacher salaries.
It is difficult to see the governance and spending approaches of the past addressing the curricular, teacher and student challenges of today, much less tomorrow.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The Future Of Public Debt, Bank for International Settlements Debt Projections

John Mauldin:

“Seeing that the status quo is untenable, countries are embarking on fiscal consolidation plans. In the United States, the aim is to bring the total federal budget deficit down from 11% to 4% of GDP by 2015. In the United Kingdom, the consolidation plan envisages reducing budget deficits by 1.3 percentage points of GDP each year from 2010 to 2013 (see eg OECD (2009a)).
“To examine the long-run implications of a gradual fiscal adjustment similar to the ones being proposed, we project the debt ratio assuming that the primary balance improves by 1 percentage point of GDP in each year for five years starting in 2012. The results are presented as the green line in Graph 4. Although such an adjustment path would slow the rate of debt accumulation compared with our baseline scenario, it would leave several major industrial economies with substantial debt ratios in the next decade.
“This suggests that consolidations along the lines currently being discussed will not be sufficient to ensure that debt levels remain within reasonable bounds over the next several decades.
“An alternative to traditional spending cuts and revenue increases is to change the promises that are as yet unmet. Here, that means embarking on the politically treacherous task of cutting future age-related liabilities. With this possibility in mind, we construct a third scenario that combines gradual fiscal improvement with a freezing of age-related spending-to-GDP at the projected level for 2011. The blue line in Graph 4 shows the consequences of this draconian policy. Given its severity, the result is no surprise: what was a rising debt/GDP ratio reverses course and starts heading down in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. In several others, the policy yields a significant slowdown in debt accumulation. Interestingly, in France, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States, even this policy is not sufficient to bring rising debt under contro
[And yet, many countries, including the US, will have to contemplate something along these lines. We simply cannot fund entitlement growth at expected levels. Note that in the US, even by “draconian” estimates, debt-to-GDP still grows to 200% in 30 years. That shows you just how out of whack our entitlement programs are.
Sidebar: This also means that if we – the US – decide as a matter of national policy that we do indeed want these entitlements, it will most likely mean a substantial VAT tax, as we will need vast sums to cover the costs, but with that will come slower growth.]

TJ Mertz reflects on the Madison School District’s 2010-2011 budget and discusses increased spending via property tax increases:

I was at a meeting of Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools people yesterday. Some of the people there were amazed at the hundreds of Madisonians who came out to tell the Board of Education that they preferred tax increases to further cuts. Some of the people were also perplexed that with this kind of support the Board of Education is cutting and considering cutting at the levels they are. I’m perplexed too. I’m also disappointed.

We’ll likely not see significant increases in redistributed state and federal tax dollars for K-12. This means that additional spending growth will depend on local property tax increases, a challenging topic given current taxes.
Walter Russell Mead on Greece’s financial restructuring:

What worries investors now is whether the Greeks will stand for it. Will Greek society resist the imposition of savage cuts in salaries and public services, and will the government’s efforts to reform the public administration and improve tax collection (while raising taxes) actually work?
The answer at this point is that nobody knows. On the plus side, the current Greek government is led by the left-wing PASOK party. The trade unions and civil service unions not only support PASOK; in a very real way they are the party. Although the party’s leader George Papandreou is something of a Tony Blair style ‘third way’ politician who is more comfortable at Davos than in a union hall, the party itself is one of Europe’s more old fashioned left wing political groups, where chain-smoking dependency theorists debate the shifting fortunes of the international class war. The protesters are protesting decisions made by their own political leadership; this may help keep a lid on things. If a conservative government had proposed these cuts, Greece would be much nearer to some kind of explosion.
On the minus side, the cuts are genuinely harsh, with pay cuts for civil servants of about 15% and the total package of government spending cuts set at 10 percent of GDP. (In the United States, that would amount to federal and state budget cuts totaling more than $1.4 trillion, almost one quarter of the total spending of all state and local governments plus the federal government combined.) The impact on Greek lifestyles will be even more severe; spending cuts that severe will almost certainly deepen Greece’s recession. Many Greeks stand to lose their jobs and, as credit conditions tighten, may face losing their homes and businesses as well.

Much more on the Madison School District’s 2010-2011 budget here.

Madison School Board to Discuss the Superintendent’s Proposed Administrative Reorganization Monday Evening

Organization Chart 352K PDF
Reorgnanization Budget 180K PDF
February, 2010 background memo from Superintendent Dan Nerad.
I spoke with the Superintendent Friday regarding the proposed reorganization. The conversation occurred subsequent to an email I sent to the School Board regarding Administrative cost growth and the proposed reduction in Superintendent direct reports.
I inquired about the reduction in direct reports, the addition of a Chief Learning Officer, or Deputy Superintendent and the apparent increased costs of this change. Mr. Nerad said that he would email updated budget numbers Monday (he said Friday that there would be cost savings). With respect to the change in direct reports, he said that the District surveyed other large Wisconsin Schools and found that those Superintendents typically had 6 to 8, maybe 9 direct reports. He also reminded me that the District formerly had a Deputy Superintendent. Art Rainwater served in that position prior to his boss, Cheryl Wilhoyte’s demise. He discussed a number of reasons for the proposed changes, largely to eliminate management silos and support the District’s strategic plan. He also referenced a proposed reduction in Teaching & Learning staff.
I mentioned Administrative costs vis a vis the current financial climate.
I will post the budget numbers and any related information upon receipt.
Finally, I ran into a wonderful MMSD teacher this weekend. I mentioned my recent conversation with the Superintendent. This teacher asked if I “set him straight” on the “dumbing down of the Madison School District”?
That’s a good question. This teacher believes that we should be learning from Geoffrey Canada’s efforts with respect to the achievement gap, particularly his high expectations. Much more on the Harlem Children’s Zone here.
Finally, TJ Mertz offers a bit of commentary on Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting.

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

Superintendent Dan Nerad 75K PDF:

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

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

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

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

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

Related:

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

Progressive Dane to host Madison School Board Candidate Forum 2/21/2010

via a TJ Mertz email [PDF Flyer]:

What: Public Forum featuring all candidates for Madison Board of Education.
When: Sunday February 21, 2010; 1:30 to 3:30 PM.
Where: JC Wright Middle School, 1717 Fish Hatchery Rd. Madison, WI.
Contact: Thomas J. Mertz, tjmertz@sbcglobal.net; (608) 255-4550
On Sunday, February 21, voters in the Madison Metropolitan School District will have their first opportunity to hear and question the School Board candidates on the ballot in the April 6 election. Unopposed incumbents Beth Moss and Maya Cole will begin with short statements on their service and why they are seeking re-election. Next the candidates for Seat 4, James Howard and Tom Farley, will answer questions from Progressive Dane and the audience. Madison District 12 Alder and member of the Board of Education
– Common Council Liaison Committee Satya Rhodes-Conway will serve as the moderator.
Progressive Dane is hosting this event as a public service to increase awareness of this important election.”The seven people on the School Board are responsible for the education of about 24,000 students and an annual budget of roughly $400 million.” explained Progressive Dane Co-Chair and Education Task Force Chair Thomas J. Mertz. “We want people to know what is going on, choose their candidate wisely and get
involved.
Candidates Tom Farley and James Howard welcome this opportunity to communicate with the voters. Farley expects a substantive discussion; he is “looking forward to participating in the Progressive Dane forum. It will certainly be our most in-depth public discussion of the issues – and most likely the liveliest and most enjoyable one too.”
Howard expressed his appreciation for “this opportunity to talk to the voters about my record of service with public schools and my unique perspective that I will add to the Board of Education” and is also ready to discuss “how to maintain and strengthen Madison schools.”
Incumbents Cole and Moss are also pleased to take part. Cole said she is “happy to have this opportunity to meet with members of our community to discuss the work of the Board, to listen to their concerns and to share the opportunities we are embracing to make our district better for all children. Moss also appreciates the chance to share her thoughts on “the good work that is going on in the schools and some of the challenges we face.”
Progressive Dane is a progressive political party in Dane County, Wisconsin. Progressive Dane is working to make Dane County a better place for everyone (no exceptions!). Progressive Dane helps community members organize around issues that are important to them and also works on the grassroots level to elect progressive political candidates.
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Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget: Comments in a Vacuum?

TJ Mertz comments on Monday evening’s Madison School Board 2010-2011 budget discussion (video – the budget discussion begins about 170 minutes into the meeting). The discussion largely covered potential property tax increases. However and unfortunately, I’ve not seen a document that includes total revenue projections for 2010-2011.
The District’s Administration’s last public total 2009-2010 revenue disclosure ($418,415,780) was in October 2009.
Property tax revenue is one part of the MMSD’s budget picture. State and Federal redistributed tax dollars are another big part. The now dead “citizens budget” was a useful effort to provide more transparency to the public. I hope that the Board pushes for a complete picture before any further substantive budget discussions. Finally, the Administration promised program reviews as part of the “Strategic Planning Process” and the recent referendum (“breathing room”). The documents released to date do not include any substantive program review budget items.
Ed Hughes (about 190 minutes): “it is worth noting that evening if we taxed to the max and I don’t think we’ll do that, the total expenditures for the school District will be less than we were projecting during the referendum“. The documents published, as far as I can tell, on the school board’s website do not reflect 2010-2011 total spending.
Links to Madison School District spending since 2007 (the referendum Ed mentioned was in 2008)

It would be great to see a year over year spending comparison from the District, including future projections.
Further, the recent “State of the District” document [566K PDF] includes only the “instructional” portion of the District’s budget. There are no references to the $418,415,780 total budget number provided in the October 26, 2009 “Budget Amendment and Tax Levy Adoption document [1.1MB PDF]. Given the organization’s mission and the fact that it is a taxpayer supported and governed entity, the document should include a simple “citizen’s budget” financial summary. The budget numbers remind me of current Madison School Board member Ed Hughes’ very useful 2005 quote:

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

In my view, while some things within our local public schools have become a bit more transparent (open enrollment, fine arts, math, TAG), others, unfortunately, like the budget, have become much less. This is not good.
Ed, Lucy and Arlene thankfully mentioned that the Board needs to have the full picture before proceeding.

2010 Madison School Board Election Notes and Links

A number of folks have asked why, like 2009, there are two uncontested seats in this spring’s Madison School Board election. Incumbents Maya Cole and Beth Moss are running unopposed while the open seat, vacated by the retiring Johnny Winston, Jr. is now contested: Tom Farley (TJ Mertz and Robert Godfrey have posted on Farley’s travails, along with Isthmus) after some nomination signature issues and an internal fracas over the School District lawyer’s role in the race, faces James Howard [website].
I think we’ve seen a drop on the ongoing, very small amount of school board activism because:

Finally, with respect to the Howard / Farley contest, I look forward to the race. I had the opportunity to get to know James Howard during the District’s 2009 strategic planning meetings. I support his candidacy.

Public Comments on a Sales Tax Increase For Schools and TAG Problems at the 1/11/2010 Madison School Board Meeting

19MB mp3 audio file. TJ Mertz spoke in favor of a .01 increase in the state sales tax, dedicated to schools. There were also a number of pointed parent comments on the District’s Talented and Gifted program.

Notes & Commentary on a Madison School Board & Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pocan Meeting

TJ Mertz:

State Representative Mark Pocan met with the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education on Monday, November 30 to discuss “K-12 Funding in Wisconsin and the Impact of the State Budget on School District Finances.” (State Senator Mark Miller, who was also expected, was ill, Liz Stevens from his office attended in his stead). The short version of what transpired is that although Pocan brought Bob Lang and Dave Loppnow from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau as support, they were unable to “shut the lions’ mouths” and the Board got a few nips in. Beyond that, Pocan explained the intent and context of the budget “fix,” emphasized the importance of addressing revenue issues, gave some thoughts on school finance reform, defended parts of his record and more-or-less split the blame for everything bad between Governor Jim Doyle and the economy.
I have to give Pocan some credit and respect for facing the lions and for being very forthright and forthcoming. I’ll even go beyond that and say that when he was talking about what can and should be done and why, he showed understanding and that he cared. It was words, not actions, and I want action from my State Rep.. But at least he didn’t shut the door on action. Let’s help him open that door (more on that below, but think Penny for Kids).

A Virtual Revolution Is Brewing for Colleges

Zephyr Teachout:

Students starting school this year may be part of the last generation for which “going to college” means packing up, getting a dorm room and listening to tenured professors. Undergraduate education is on the verge of a radical reordering. Colleges, like newspapers, will be torn apart by new ways of sharing information enabled by the Internet. The business model that sustained private U.S. colleges cannot survive.
The real force for change is the market: Online classes are just cheaper to produce. Community colleges and for-profit education entrepreneurs are already experimenting with dorm-free, commute-free options. Distance-learning technology will keep improving. Innovators have yet to tap the potential of the aggregator to change the way students earn a degree, making the education business today look like the news biz circa 1999. And as major universities offer some core courses online, we’ll see a cultural shift toward acceptance of what is still, in some circles, a “University of Phoenix” joke.
This doesn’t just mean a different way of learning: The funding of academic research, the culture of the academy and the institution of tenure are all threatened.

K-12 spending will not continue to increase at the rate it has over the past twenty years (5.25% annually in the case of the Madison School District). Online education provides many useful learning opportunities for our students. While it is certainly not the “be all and end all”, virtual learning can be used to supplement and provide more opportunities for all students. Staff can be redeployed where most effective (The budget pinch, flat enrollment despite a growing metropolitan area along with emerging learning opportunities are two major reasons that the Madison School District must review current programs for their academic and financial efficiency. Reading recovery and reform math are two useful examples).
Related: K-12 Tax & Spending Climate, the coming reset in state government spending and the Madison School District’s planned property tax increase. TJ Mertz on the local budget and communications.
Jeff Jarvis has more.

Kewaskum High school offer much longer orientation to incoming freshmen

Amy Hetzner:

The hallways of Kewaskum High School were hushed, with only the odd staff member quietly shuffling down its corridors, while the school’s field house rang with the sound of more than 130 student voices.
“V-I-C-T-O-R-Y, that’s our freshman battle cry!” groups of ninth-graders chanted from the bleachers.
With almost a week to go before the start of the school year, nearly three-quarters of Kewaskum High’s freshman class has chosen to spend the next few days learning about its new school. Freshmen will look for their lockers, track down classroom teachers and meet or reacquaint themselves with their classmates.
And, hopefully, they will get a head start on what educators consider the most important year of high school.
“If you talk to any high school principal, what they’re going to tell you is that when a kid is most likely to fail is in that freshman year,” Kewaskum High School Principal Christine Horbas said. “So to get them off on the right foot, I think, is very, very important.”
Many schools hold orientation nights or freshman-only times on the first day of school. Kewaskum tried some of those ideas, too, before launching a full warm-up week this year.
The extra time means Kewaskum can hold more fun activities for the ninth-graders – such as teaching them school cheers or playing four-way tug-of-war – as well as refresh skills such as writing exam answers and making measurements.

Meanwhile, TJ Mertz wonders what is happening with the Madison School District’s “Ready, Set, Go” conferences.

Madison School Board Talented & Gifted (TAG) Plan Discussion & Approval

There were several public appearances [4.1MB mp3 audio] Monday evening related to the Madison School District’s Talented & Gifted plan. TJ Mertz, Kris Gomez-Schmidt, Janet Mertz (not related) and Shari Galitzer spoke during the public appearance segment of the meeting. Their comments begin at 3:13 into this mp3 audio file.
The School Board and Administration’s discussion can be heard via this 6MB mp3 audio file. The previous week’s discussion can be heard here. Madison United for Academic Excellence posted a number of useful links on this initiative here.
Finally, the recent Private/Parochial, Open Enrollment Leave, Open Enrollment Enter, Home Based Parent Surveys provides a useful background for the interested reader.

CAST July 09 MMSD Budget Statement

via a TJ Mertz and Jackie Woodruff email: July 15, 2009
The school referendum approved overwhelmingly by Madison Metropolitan School District voters in November 2008 was based on a “Partnership Plan” that promised to maintain educational quality, initiate a community-wide strategic planning process, and mitigate the impact on property tax-payers in a variety of ways.
While the school district remains committed to the principles of this Partnership Plan, with the uncertain economy many things have changed since November. Most significantly, the recently enacted state budget has left MMSD facing what now looks like a $9 million reduction in state aid as well as requiring an almost $3 million reduction in expenditures for the 2009-10 school year.
As the MMSD Board of Education seeks ways to address the shortfalls created by the state budget, Community and Schools Together (CAST) believes it is important that the community recognize that this problem was created by state officials, not local decisions. The reductions in revenues and in funding for targeted programs (via categorical aids) will impact every district in the state. Madison is one of about 100 districts that have had their general state aid cut by 15%, but almost all districts are experiencing significant reductions in state support and will be contemplating higher than anticipated property tax increases.
These cuts come after 16 years of inadequate funding, annual cuts in most districts as well as reductions of the state’s portion of education costs in recent years. This recent state budget moves us further away from the sustainable, equitable and adequate educational investments that are needed to keep Madison and Wisconsin strong and competitive.
It is also important that the community understand that the tax and revenue projections in the Partnership Plan and those used in the preliminary district budget passed in May were good projections made in good faith based on the best available information. That preliminary budget strengthened education and held property tax mil rate increase to 1¢ (far below the 11¢ increase anticipated prior to the referendum).
In the coming months the Board of Education must find ways to meet the shortfalls created by the state budget. There are no good choices.
These choices involve some combination re-budgeting and re-allocating, potential new cuts, use of the district’s recently growing fund balance, temporarily employing targeted stimulus monies, or increasing the local tax levy. CAST urges the Board to retain their commitment to quality education and community involvement. We also ask the community to take advantage of opportunities to let all our state and local elected officials know that Madison values education.
###
Community and Schools Together (CAST) is a grass roots organization dedicated to securing sustainable, adequate and equitable public education investments in Madison and Wisconsin.
(Contact) CAST Co-Chairs:
Thomas J. Mertz – 608-255-1542, Carol Carstensen – 608-255-8441, Troy Dassler — 608-241-5183

Tonight’s Madison School Board Meeting at O’Keefe Middle School

The meeting, which will discuss math (TJ Mertz comments), non-SAGE schools and many other topics. The meeting begins at 6:00p.m.
O’Keeffe Middle School
510 South Thornton Ave. [Map]
Madison, WI 53703
Library Media Center
The meeting agenda can be found here.

A Look at Wisconsin State Tax Funded K-12 Spending

TJ Mertz:

Not only is one time revenue being used for ongoing expenses (which may be acceptable in these economic circumstance), but all this revenue is being used to offset state funds. When combined with the “current law” revenue cap increases estimated at $277 and $286 per member for the two years, this shifts the burden to local property taxpayers in significant ways.
However things go down, the state will move further from the 2/3 support concept and consequently the local property tax portion of school revenues will be increasing at a faster rate than the state portion (unless districts don’t tax to the limit, but that has some bad effects in subsequent years). I am still confused about the Governor’s and the LFB thoughts on IDEA and Title I, which appear to be at least partially contrary to the “supplement not supplant” provisions. I do know that there is lobbying going on from many quarters to expand the loopholes and allow more of the stimulus money to be used to fund existing, not expanded programs and services.
There are also some positives. Revenue cap increases are included at past levels, school safety, nurses and transportation are eased; the low revenue ceiling is raised, Special Education isn’t actually cut, SAGE and 4 K are given increases, albeit insufficient ones. It could be worse.

Madison Says No to a Nuestro Mundo Charter Middle School, Opting for Dual Immersion Across the District

TJ Mertz comments on Monday’s Madison School Board meeting:

At Monday’s Board of Education Meeting an administrative recommendation to move forward with planning for a dual language district middle school program at Sennett was approved by a vote of 7-0 and the request for a memo of understanding with Nuestro Mundo Inc in order to qualify a charter dual language immersion middle school program for planning grants was not acted on. The lack of action was an expression of non support for the charter, as the comments by the Board members made clear.

I applaud the Board for their action and inaction.

Background here.

Mathmetician The Best Job in the US; Madison Math Task Force Community Meetings Tonight & Tomorrow

Sarah Needleman:

Nineteen years ago, Jennifer Courter set out on a career path that has since provided her with a steady stream of lucrative, low-stress jobs. Now, her occupation — mathematician — has landed at the top spot on a new study ranking the best and worst jobs in the U.S.
“It’s a lot more than just some boring subject that everybody has to take in school,” says Ms. Courter, a research mathematician at mental images Inc., a maker of 3D-visualization software in San Francisco. “It’s the science of problem-solving.”
The study, to be released Tuesday from CareerCast.com, a new job site, evaluates 200 professions to determine the best and worst according to five criteria inherent to every job: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. (CareerCast.com is published by Adicio Inc., in which Wall Street Journal owner News Corp. holds a minority stake.)
The findings were compiled by Les Krantz, author of “Jobs Rated Almanac,” and are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, as well as studies from trade associations and Mr. Krantz’s own expertise.
According to the study, mathematicians fared best in part because they typically work in favorable conditions — indoors and in places free of toxic fumes or noise — unlike those toward the bottom of the list like sewage-plant operator, painter and bricklayer. They also aren’t expected to do any heavy lifting, crawling or crouching — attributes associated with occupations such as firefighter, auto mechanic and plumber.
The study also considers pay, which was determined by measuring each job’s median income and growth potential. Mathematicians’ annual income was pegged at $94,160, but Ms. Courter, 38, says her salary exceeds that amount.

Related:

Parents and citizens have another opportunity to provide input on this matter when Brian Sniff, Madison’s Math Coordinator and Lisa Wachtel, Director of Madison’s Teaching & Learning discuss the Math Report at a Cherokee Middle School PTO meeting on January 14, 2009 at 7:00p.m.

Madison School Board OKs Nov. referendum

Tamira Madsen:

Members of the Madison School Board will ask city taxpayers to help finance the Madison Metropolitan School District budget, voting Monday night to move forward with a school referendum.
The referendum will be on the ballot on Election Day, Nov. 4.
Superintendent Dan Nerad outlined a recommendation last week for the board to approve a recurring referendum asking to exceed revenue limits by $5 million during the 2009-10 school year, $4 million for 2010-11 and $4 million for 2011-12. With a recurring referendum, the authority afforded by the community continues permanently, as opposed to other referendums that conclude after a period of time.
Accounting initiatives that would soften the impact on taxpayers were also approved Monday.
One part of the initiative would return $2 million to taxpayers from the Community Services Fund, which is used for afterschool programs. The second part of the initiative would spread the costs of facility maintenance projects over a longer period.

Andy Hall:


Madison School District voters on Nov. 4 will be asked to approve permanent tax increases in the district to head off projected multimillion-dollar budget shortfalls.
In a pair of 7-0 votes, the Madison School Board on Monday night approved a proposal from Superintendent Daniel Nerad to hold a referendum and to adopt a series of accounting measures to reduce their effect on taxpayers.
Nerad said the district would work “day and night” to meet with residents and make information available about the need for the additional money to avert what school officials say would be devastating cuts in programs and services beginning in 2009-10, when the projected budget shortfall is $8.1 million.

WKOW-TV:

“I understand this goes to the community to see if this is something they support. We’re going to do our best to provide good information,” said Nerad.
Some citizens who spoke at Monday’s meeting echoed the sentiments of board members and school officials.
“Our schools are already underfunded,” said one man.
However, others spoke against the plan. “This is virtually a blank check from taxpayers.

Channel3000:

Superintendent Dan Nerad had to act quickly to put the plan together, facing the $8 million shortfall in his first few days on the job.
“I will never hesitate to look for where we can become more efficient and where we can make reductions,” said Nerad. “But I think we can say $8 million in program cuts, if it were only done that way, would have a significant impact on our kids.”
The plan was highly praised by most board members, but not by everyone who attended the meeting.
“This virtually gives the board a blank check from all of Madison’s taxpayers’ checkbooks,” said Madison resident David Glomp. “It may very well allow the school board members to never have to do the heavy lifting of developing a real long-term cost saving.”

NBC 15:

“We need to respect the views of those who disagree with us and that doesn’t mean they’re anti-school or anti-kids,” says board member Ed Hughes.
Board members stressed, the additional money would not be used to create new programs, like 4-year-old kindergarten.
“What’s a miracle is that our schools are continuing to function and I think that’s the conversation happening around Wisconsin, now, says board vice president Lucy Mathiak. “How much longer can we do this?”
The referendum question will appear on the November 4th general election ballot.
The board will discuss its educational campaign at its September 8th meeting.

Much more on the planned November, 2008 referendum here.
TJ Mertz on the “blank check“.

Madison’s City Budget & Education

TJ Mertz:

I’ve been so tied up with life and the referendum stuff that I haven’t been much paying attention to the city budget process. A story in today’s Wisconsin State Journal got my attention, this graphic in particular. Two items on the possible cut list will directly impact the school district budget and at least three more will make things harder for our schools to do their job.
These possible cuts have been identified early in the budget process. Mayor Cieslewicz asked all departments to list what they would propose in the way of a 5% budget cut. If things go as the Mayor envisions, about 37% of these cuts will need to be enacted. Nothing is set in stone at this point. The Mayor will propose his budget in October and the Common Council will act in November.

Two Forums Set on a Potential Madison School Referendum

Tamira Madsen:

At this juncture, several board members won’t say if they favor a referendum, instead choosing to wait to hear what the public has to say and to discover what Nerad’s recommendations are. But it is widely expected that a referendum will be the path they will take in order to close a gaping hole in the budget.
One other topic of discussion that was brought up at Monday’s meeting was Nerad’s stance on implementing 4-year-old kindergarten. Nerad and Eric Kass, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services, are working on a cost analysis of bringing 4K to the district. Fully exploring the options of how the program can be funded until it generates revenue is Nerad’s main concern, and though Kass is gathering the data, the district won’t be ready to present the data in time for a possible fall referendum.
“My preference would be to see if there are any other options short of a referendum to address the first two years of the funding,” Nerad said. “I will also say that I haven’t closed my mind at all because if those other options don’t work, then we need to have the discussion about addressing this in any other way.”

Related:

  • Much more on the local referendum climate here.
  • Andy Hall:


    The property tax effect of a potential referendum will be unveiled in two weeks, Madison schools Superintendent Daniel Nerad said Monday.
    At the Madison School Board’s meeting on Aug. 18, Nerad plans to recommend whether the School Board should ask voters for additional money to avoid deep budget cuts.
    The district’s budget shortfall is projected to be $8.2 million in the 2009-10 school year and about $5 million each of the following three years.
    The referendum could appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

  • TJ Mertz
  • Madison School District: Current Financial Condition.

Nerad Details His First-Year Vision To Madison School Board

Channel3000:

For the past two weeks, Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendant Dan Nerad has been learning the ropes in Madison. He said he has been doing a lot of listening and learning.
On Monday, he officially brought his ideas to the Madison School Board, for the first time laying out a vision for his first year as superintendant.
“I guess my hope, over time, is that while I’m learning about the Madison Metropolitan School District that I can also help inform the school district of important new directions I hope we can take over time,” said Nerad.
One idea Nerad said he believes should be revisited in Madison is 4-year-old kindergarten.

TJ Mertz has more.
Much more on Madison & 4 Year Old Kindergarden here.

Property taxes jump 3.8%, most in 3 years

Steven Walters:

The property tax bill on the typical Wisconsin home rose 3.8% last year – the biggest increase in three years, officials said Monday.
But fall levy limits on local governments, more state aid and slowing home values should prevent another boost like that this December, they said.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau told legislators that property taxes on the median-valued home, which was assessed at $170,305 last year, totaled $2,838 – a $105 increase over the previous year. In each of the previous two years, the increase was less than 1%.
The $105 increase was up by about $10 from what lawmakers and Gov. Jim Doyle expected in October when they adopted the current state budget.
But the 3.8% increase was more than the inflation rate last year, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated at 2.8%.
State Budget Director Dave Schmiedicke said he expects the owner of a typical Wisconsin home to open a December tax bill that will go up less than 1%, which he called “a very small increase.”

Related Links:

  • Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance:

    Compared to the prior year (fiscal 2005), Wisconsin taxes were up slightly, from 12.1% to 12.3% of income, but the 50-state rank fell from eighth to 11th. The state’s tax burden was 5.5% above the U.S. average (11.6%). Since the late 1950s (see diagram, over), the Badger State’s tax burden and rankings have ranged from lows of 9.7% (1958) and 18th (1960) to highs of 15.8% (1973) and first (1964).

  • Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau Memorandum – 32K PDF. TJ Mertz comments on the tax increase.
  • Channel3000:

    Taxes paid to schools are by far the largest chunk of a homeowner’s tax bill. They increased 7.4 percent this year.
    The next two largest parts of a tax bill also went up: Municipal tax levies increased 5 percent, and county levies grew 4.5 percent.

  • K-12 Tax & Spending Climate
  • New York Governor proposes 4% cap on annual school property tax increases.

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Releases Latest State Test Results, Madison Trails State Averages

380K PDF Press Release [AP’s posting of DPI’s press release]:

Results for statewide testing show an overall upward trend for mathematics, stable scores in reading, and a slight narrowing of several achievement gaps. This three-year trend comes at a time when poverty is continuing to increase among Wisconsin students.
The 434,507 students who took the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examinations (WKCE) and the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment for Students with Disabilities (WAA-SwD) this school year showed gains over the past three years in mathematics in six out of seven grades tested. Reading achievement at the elementary, middle, and high school levels was stable over three years. An analysis of all combined grades indicates a narrowing of some achievement gaps by racial/ethnic group.
“These three years of assessment data show some positive trends. While some results point to achievement gains, we must continue our focus on closing achievement gaps and raising achievement for all students,” said State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster.

Andy Hall notes that Madison Trails State Averages [Dane County Test Result Comparison prepared by Andy Hall & Phil Brinkmanpdf]:

But in the Madison School District, just two of the 23 proficiency scores improved, while five were unchanged and 16 declined, according to a Wisconsin State Journal review of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school year data from the state Department of Public Instruction.
Madison’s scores trail the state average in 22 of the 23 scores. Typically the percentage of Madison students attaining proficient or advanced ratings trails the state average by several percentage points.
“The fact that we’re able to stay close to the state average as our demographics have made dramatic changes, I think is a positive,” said Madison schools Superintendent Art Rainwater, who added that the district’s “strong instructional program” is meeting many of the challenges of immigrant and low-income students while ensuring that “high fliers are still flying high.”
A district analysis shows that when the district’s students are compared with their peers across the state, a higher percentage of Madison students continue to attain “advanced” proficiency scores — the highest category.
Madison students who aren’t from low-income families “continue to outperform their state counterparts,” with higher percentages with advanced scores in reading and math at all seven tested grade levels, the district reported.
Rainwater said he’s long feared that the district’s increasingly needy student population, coupled with the state’s revenue limits that regularly force the district to cut programs and services, someday will cause test scores to drop sharply. But so far, he said, the district’s scores are higher than would be expected, based on research examining the effects of poverty and limited English abilities on achievement.
This school year, 43 percent of Madison students are from low-income families eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, while 16 percent of students are classified as English language learners — numbers that are far above those of any other Dane County school district.
Rainwater noted that students with limited English abilities receive little help while taking the reading and language arts tests in English.

Tamira Madsen:

Reading test scores for Madison students changed little compared to 2006-07, but math results decreased in six of the seven grades tested. Of 23 scores in five topics tested statewide, Madison lagged behind state peers in 22 of 23 of those scores.
Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater attributes the district’s performance and trends to the growing population of English language learners in the district.

Officials now are able to draw upon three years of results since Wisconsin began administering testing to students in grades three through eight and grade 10 in reading and mathematics. Based on state regulations, students in fourth, eighth and 10th grade were also tested in language arts, science and social studies.

Alan Borsuk on Milwaukee’s results:

But there is little room for debate about what the scores say about the need for improvement in the outcomes for Milwaukee Public Schools students: The gaps between Milwaukee students and the rest of the state remain large, and school improvement efforts of many kinds over the years have not made much of a dent.
The problem is especially vivid when it comes to 10th-graders, the highest grade that is part of Wisconsin’s testing system. The gap between sophomores in Milwaukee and those statewide has grown larger over the last two years, and, once again, no more than 40% of 10th-graders in MPS were rated as proficient or better in any of the five areas tested by the state. For math and science, the figure is under 30%.

Amy Hetzner notes that Waukesha County’s test scores also slipped.
Notes and links regarding the rigor of Wisconsin DPI standards. DPI academic standards home page. Search individual school and district results here. The 2006 Math Forum discussed changes to the DPI math test and local results.
TJ Mertz reviews Wright Middle School’s results.
Chan Stroman’s June, 2007 summary of Madison WKCE PR, data and an interesting discussion. Notes on spin from Jason Spencer.
Jeff Henriques dove into the 2007 WKCE results and found that Madison tested fewer 10th graders than Green Bay, Appleton, Milwaukee and Kenosha. There’s also a useful discussion on Jeff’s post.
Advocating a Standard Grad Rate & Madison’s “2004 Elimination of the Racial Achievement Gap in 3rd Grade Reading Scores”.
Madison School District’s Press Release and analysis: Slight decline on WKCE; non-low income students shine

Firing Back on “When Policy Trumps Results”

TJ Mertz:

Marc Eisen of the Isthmus has checked in again on the Madison Schools with a column titled “When Policy Trumps Results.” This time the target of his ill informed scribblings is the equity work of the district, particularly the Equity Task Force, of which I was a member. It is a hatchet job.
Mr. Eisen gets his facts wrong, misreads or misrepresents task force documents and at no point engages with the content of the task force’s work. We offered the Board ideas for policies and practices that we thought would help produce and assess results. You would never know that reading Mr. Eisen’s column. Despite the title, all he seems to care about is style.
In return, I’m going to wield the axe. I’m going to go paragraph by paragraph to highlight the low level of knowledge and effort Eisen displays and the ultimate emptiness of his critique, hitting some other things along the way (quotes from Mr. Eisen in italics). Mr. Eisen’s column probably does not deserve this much attention. However the power of the press is such that often when uncorrected, “the legend becomes fact.” I believe equity work in our school district is too important to allow that to happen. Let’s get started.

Comments on “When Policy Trumps Results”.

SAGE Thoughts

TJ Mertz:

The Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) contracts for MMSD schools will be on the agenda at Monday’s (3-10-2008) Special Board of Education Workshop meeting. I have mixed feelings about the SAGE program because of the choices it forces school district to make.

A serious overhaul of the school funding system is needed and one of the things that should be addressed are the problems with SAGE. Most of the proposals I’ve seen (Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools, School Finance Network, Alan Odden…) would minimize or eliminate some of the issues discussed below.

Tin-eared and Wrong-headed

TJ Mertz:

At the Board of Education meeting Monday (2/4/2008) a proposal was put forth to enact new limits on public testimony. This proposal and the way it was introduced and discussed showed some on the Board at their worst, both tin-eared and wrong-headed. These are overlapping criticisms, because with the interactions between elected officials and the public, perceptions (tin-eared) and realities (wrong-headed) are inseparable.
Before I go further a caveat is in order. I did not attend the meeting on Monday and only watched the last 45 minutes or so at home. Still, I’m pretty confident in what I have to say.

The Pangloss Index: How States Game the No Child Left Behind Act: Wisconsin Tied for #1

Kevin Carey:

This report includes an updated Pangloss Index, based on a new round of state reports submitted in 2007. As Table 1 shows, many states look about the same Wisconsin and Iowa are tied for first, distinguishing themselves by insisting that their states house a pair of educational utopias along the upper Mississippi River. In contrast, Massachusetts—which is the highest-performing state in the country according to the NAEP—continues to hold itself to far tougher standards than most, showing up at 46th, near the bottom of the list.

Alan Borsuk:

Wisconsin – especially the state Department of Public Instruction – continues to avoid taking steps to increase the success of low-performing children in the state, a national non-profit organization says in a report released today.
For the second year in a row, Education Sector put Wisconsin at the top of its Pangloss Index, a ranking of states based on how much they are overly cheery about how their students are doing. Much of the ranking is based on the author’s assessment of data related to what a state is doing to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind education law.
“Wisconsin policy-makers are fooling parents by pretending that everything is perfect,” said Kevin Carey, research and policy manager for the organization. “As a result, the most vulnerable students aren’t getting the attention they need.”
DPI officials declined to comment on the new report because they had not seen it yet. In 2006, Tony Evers, the deputy state superintendent of public instruction, objected strongly to a nearly identical ranking from Education Sector and said state officials and schools were focused on improving student achievement, especially of low-income and minority students on the short end of achievement gaps in education.
The report is the latest of several over the last two years from several national groups that have said Wisconsin is generally not doing enough to challenge its schools and students to do better. The groups can be described politically as centrist to conservative and broadly supportive of No Child Left Behind. Education Sector’s founders include Andrew Rotherham, a former education adviser to President Bill Clinton, and the group describes itself as non-partisan.
Several of the reports have contrasted Wisconsin and Massachusetts as states with similar histories of offering high-quality education but different approaches toward setting statewide standards now. Massachusetts has drawn praise for action it has taken in areas such as testing the proficiency of teachers, setting the bar high on standardized tests and developing rigorous education standards.
The Education Sector report and Carey did the same. The report rated Massachusetts as 46th in the nation, meaning it is one of the most demanding states when it comes to giving schools high ratings.
Carey said that in 1992, Wisconsin outscored Massachusetts in the nationwide testing program known as NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. But Wisconsin is now behind that state in every area of NAEP testing, he said.
“Unlike Wisconsin, Massachusetts has really challenged its schools,” Carey said.

Additional commentary from TJ Mertz and Joanne Jacobs. All about Pangloss.

Ongoing Status Quo Madison School Board Governance

Karen Rivedal The Madison School Board’s narrow rejection of a proposed five-year contract for a public Montessori charter school on Monday isn’t deterring supporters and may not represent the end of the process around the proposal. Ali Muldrow, described in the proposed contract as one of the school’s seven founders, said Tuesday she isn’t giving […]

Supreme Court Limits Use of Race to Achieve Diversity in Schools

Robert Barnes [PDF Opinion]: A splintered Supreme Court today threw out school desegregation plans from Seattle and Louisville, but without a majority holding that race can never be considered as school districts try to ensure racially diverse populations. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. authored the most important opinion of his two terms leading the […]

Audio / Video: Madison School Board Vote on the MTI 2007 – 2009 Agreement

The Madison School Board voted 4-3 (for: Carstensen, Moss, Silveira and Winston; no: Cole, Kobza and Mathiak) Monday evening to approve the proposed MMSD / MTI 2007 – 2009 agreement. The new arrangement, which does not include substantial health care changes, was set in motion by the “Voluntary Impasse Resolution Document” – also approved by […]

MMSD and MTI reach tentative contract agreement

Madison Metropolitan School District: The Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison Teachers Incorporated reached a tentative agreement yesterday on the terms and conditions of a new two-year collective bargaining agreement for MTI’s 2,400 member teacher bargaining unit. The contract, for the period from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2009, needs ratification from both the […]

MMSD / MTI Contract Negotiations Begin: Health Care Changes Proposed

Susan Troller: The district and Madison Teachers Inc. exchanged initial proposals Wednesday to begin negotiations on a new two-year contract that will run through June 30, 2009. The current one expires June 30. “Frankly, I was shocked and appalled by the school district’s initial proposal because it was replete with take-backs in teachers’ rights as […]

More Post Election Notes and Links

Dave Diamond: What do Madison progressives and Wal-Mart have in common? We’re both inveterate union-busters, according to Nate. The AMPS organization, originally established to promote school referenda, and MTI are spinning Marj Passman’s school board defeat as a conspiracy by Isthmus and “anti-teacher” special interests. What made Passman a superior choice, in their minds, is […]

Madison’s Fund 80 & Elections

TJ Mertz: In this morning’s Wisconsin State Journal there is a story that again misrepresents the place of Madison School Community Recreation and Fund 80 in the district and the community. The chart comparing Fund 80 levies in Madison to those in other districts ignores the fact that most or all of those locales have […]

11/7/2006 Referendum Update

I’ve added a number of links to the election page including: Marisue Horton’s letter to the editor: “Yes Moves Schools Ahead”. One Question Wraps Up $23.5M Referendum – Channel3000 Where’s the Beef? – WKOW-TV CAST Pro Referendum Internet Advertising, appearing Thursday the first day of no school during the fall WEAC convention. (TJ Mertz notes […]

“And I am going to call it Madison Prep.”

Amber Walker: Critics were also concerned about Madison Prep’s operating costs — totaling $11,000 per student — and its reliance on non-union staff in the wake of Wisconsin’s Act 10, a state law that severely limited collective bargaining rights of teachers and other state employees which passed early in 2011. Caire said despite the challenges, […]

Madison School Board members split on proposed 7.4% property tax hike

Matthew DeFour:

The Madison School Board’s two newest members are voicing the strongest support for a potential 7.4 percent property tax increase, but others worry the amount may be too high.
The property tax increase was included in a preliminary $393 million budget proposal put together by school district administrators.
The amount reflects the maximum amount the district could raise property taxes under Gov. Scott Walker’s state budget proposal.
T.J. Mertz and Dean Loumos, who were sworn in Monday, said they don’t oppose taxing the maximum amount allowed under state revenue limits, which as proposed would add about $182 to the average $230,831 Madison home’s property tax bill.
Mertz plans to advocate for taxing the maximum amount, though he questioned some of the proposed new spending, such as whether a community partnership coordinator needed to be an administrative position costing $128,000.

Related: 2010: Madison School District 2010-2011 Budget Update: $5,100,000 Fund Balance Increase since June, 2009; Property Taxes to Increase 9+%.
Status Quo Costs More: Madison Schools’ Administration Floats a 7.38% Property Tax Increase; Dane County Incomes down 4.1%…. District Received $11.8M Redistributed State Tax Dollar Increase last year. Spending up 6.3% over the past 16 months.

Re-thinking Madison School Board Elections

The Capital Times:

Now that the Madison School Board election is over, the board should take a serious look at reforming how elections are organized. The system of electing members on a districtwide basis from numbered seats worked reasonably well until this year. But the challenges that arose in the District 5 race after one of two primary winners quit the contest identified vulnerabilities in the process.
T.J. Mertz and Sarah Manski won a primary that also included Ananda Mirilli. Manski then quit, leaving Mertz in a noncompetitive “contest.” We urged Mirilli to mount a write-in campaign and she seriously considered doing so. But she and her supporters determined that mounting a citywide run would be expensive and difficult. That was a credible conclusion. And it raises a question: Might there be a way to avoid such circumstances?
For instance, what if School Board members were elected from districts? With a smaller pool of voters in relatively tight-knit neighborhoods, it would be easier for all candidates, not just write-in contenders, to mount grass-roots campaigns. That could reduce the cost of campaigns and get candidates back on the doorsteps.
Another fix might be to have all candidates run in one citywide race, rather than for numbered seats. If six candidates were contending for three seats, one candidate could exit the contest and the competition would remain.
Some communities have employed instant runoff voting, in which voters rank candidates in order of preference rather than simply selecting a single candidate. Votes cast for the weakest candidates are transferred to stronger contenders, creating the purest reflection of voter preferences.

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