25.62% of Madison’s $402,464,374 2014/2015 budget to be spent on benefits; District’s Day of Teacher Union Collective Bargaining; WPS déjà vu

The Madison School Board Act 10 duckduckgo google wikipedia Madison Teachers, Inc. Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (PDF), via a kind Jeannie Kamholtz email:: School Board Decisions on Employee Health Insurance Contributions Could Further Reduce Wages Under MTI’s various Collective Bargaining Agreements, the District currently pays 100% of the health insurance premiums for both single … Continue reading 25.62% of Madison’s $402,464,374 2014/2015 budget to be spent on benefits; District’s Day of Teacher Union Collective Bargaining; WPS déjà vu

Going to the Mat for WPS

Jason Shephard: Suzanne Fatupaito, a nurse’s assistant in Madison schools, is fed up with Wisconsin Physicians Service, the preferred health insurance provider of Madison Teachers Inc. “MTI uses scare tactics” to maintain teacher support for WPS, Fatupaito recently wrote to the school board. “If members knew that another insurance [plan] would offer similar services to … Continue reading Going to the Mat for WPS

Teachers Pay High Fees for Retirement Funds. Unions Are Partly to Blame.

Anne Tergesen and Gretchen Morgenson: The pitch from the president of the Indian River County teachers union couldn’t have been clearer. Liz Cannon, who heads the Indian River chapter of the Florida Education Association, urged union members to buy retirement investments from Valic Financial Advisors Inc. through a firm owned by the union. That way … Continue reading Teachers Pay High Fees for Retirement Funds. Unions Are Partly to Blame.

Madison School Board OKs big change in employee health insurance options

Karen Rivedal: Employees of the Madison School District will have one fewer health insurance provider to choose from, requiring just over 1,000 employees to find a new primary care doctor. But the estimated $3 million the district will save from dropping Unity, its highest-cost provider, will help bankroll increased compensation for the district’s roughly 4,000 … Continue reading Madison School Board OKs big change in employee health insurance options

New Jersey Teacher “Last in First Out” Teacher Layoff Law Lawsuit Update

Friends – Please note the very latest on the NJ LIFO Lawsuit – the big piece of information is that the oral arguments on the motions to dismiss have been moved – and are scheduled for 2pm on May 3 before the Mercer County Superior Court. Hope you are well – and please let me … Continue reading New Jersey Teacher “Last in First Out” Teacher Layoff Law Lawsuit Update

In Latest Court Filing, Newark Public School District and Superintendent Christopher Cerf Concede “Last In, First Out” Teacher Layoff Law Hurts Students

Matthew Frankel, via a kind email: In Latest Court Filing, Newark Public School District and Superintendent Christopher Cerf Concede “Last In, First Out” Teacher Layoff Law Hurts Students Trenton, New Jersey — The Newark Public School (NPS) district and NPS Superintendent Christopher Cerf, defendants in HG v. Harrington, yesterday submitted an answer to the lawsuit … Continue reading In Latest Court Filing, Newark Public School District and Superintendent Christopher Cerf Concede “Last In, First Out” Teacher Layoff Law Hurts Students

Commentary on Redistributed State Tax Dollars and Madison’s $450M+ School Budget ($18k/student)

Molly Beck: The law, known as Act 10, required local governments who offer a state health insurance plan to their employees to pay no more than 88 percent of the average premiums. Walker’s 2017-19 state budget will now require the same of all school districts, regardless of which health insurance plans they offer. That spells … Continue reading Commentary on Redistributed State Tax Dollars and Madison’s $450M+ School Budget ($18k/student)

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

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

New state budget raises taxes while borrowing $325,000,000

Tulsa Beacon: Higher education will be cut by 7.66 percent. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (the state Medicaid provider) will get a 9.24 percent increase. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will get a 2.18 percent increase. Government (redistributed tax dollars) health care spending growth has long crowded out other expenditures. … Continue reading New state budget raises taxes while borrowing $325,000,000

New York’s Elite Public High Schools Have a Diversity Problem. And Other Cities’ Don’t Look Much Better.

Miriam Hall: Last Friday was “match day” for New York City’s eighth graders, when they found out whether they’d been admitted to one of the city’s elite high schools. And not shockingly, the numbers were appalling when it came to diversity. There are nine of these selective high schools in New York City. At eight … Continue reading New York’s Elite Public High Schools Have a Diversity Problem. And Other Cities’ Don’t Look Much Better.

The decline and fall of the American university is written in 25-page course syllabi.

Rebecca Schuman: hen I was an undergrad in the ’90s, there was little more exciting than the first day of class. What will my professor be like? What books will I be reading? How many papers will I have to write? Answers came readily, in the form of a tidy one-page document that consisted solely … Continue reading The decline and fall of the American university is written in 25-page course syllabi.

The U.S. Is Letting Poor Kids Fall Further and Further Behind in Reading (and Madison)

Laura Moser: New data on child well-being released Tuesday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation make for depressing reading on many levels, not least because the findings are so deeply unsurprising. The basic gist is that, despite the economic recovery, more kids are living in poverty (defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as an annual … Continue reading The U.S. Is Letting Poor Kids Fall Further and Further Behind in Reading (and Madison)

Title IX Investigation Opened Against Female Northwestern Professor Over Column, Tweet

Ben Mathis-Lilly: Later in the piece, she argued that students “so committed to their own vulnerability, conditioned to imagine they have no agency, and protected from unequal power arrangements in romantic life” will struggle to deal with the problems and conflicts of the real world. On Friday, Kipnis published another piece in the Chronicle, revealing … Continue reading Title IX Investigation Opened Against Female Northwestern Professor Over Column, Tweet

Healthcare Costs & The Madison Schools

David Wahlberg: Madison Teachers Inc. and five other Madison-based unions are so concerned about significant financial losses at Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin, they’re urging members to vote for particular candidates in Group Health’s board election Thursday. “MTI cannot stand idly by and watch GHC disappear,” John Matthews, the teacher union’s executive director, … Continue reading Healthcare Costs & The Madison Schools

Health Insurance premiums account for 16% of the Madison School District budget

Madison School District (PDF): MMSD will spend $61 million on health insurance this year. One of Every Six Dollars is Spent on Health Insurance in the MMSD budget. Health Insurance premiums account for 16% of the MMSD budget. Over 3,900 employees are enrolled in the MMSD plan The MMSD plan design lacks common features that … Continue reading Health Insurance premiums account for 16% of the Madison School District budget

The Right to Be Let Alone: Privacy in the United States

Tim Schwartz: Based on other books that I had encountered in the Reanimation Library, I expected Gerald S. Snyder’s The Right to Be Let Alone: Privacy in the United States, to be an off-the-grid, back-to-nature, survivalists musings on privacy, brimming with paranoid attitudes such as “get off my land” and “don’t trust the banks.” To … Continue reading The Right to Be Let Alone: Privacy in the United States

Get Ready for Some Law Schools to Close

Jordan Weissman: OK, slight exaggeration. But with applications in free fall, schools are locked in a brutal competition to attract students who might theoretically one day be qualified to sit for a bar exam. And that, the New York Times reports today, has meant slashing tuition and dolling out discounts. At Northwestern University School of … Continue reading Get Ready for Some Law Schools to Close

When College Grads Earn Like High School Grads

Jordan Weissmam: For the average graduate, going to college is a wonderfully profitable investment. The evidence is unambiguous. Even after subtracting tuition and all the years of foregone salary, the pay boost from a degree will still pay for itself, and then some. The problem is that the “average” college student doesn’t really exist; she’s … Continue reading When College Grads Earn Like High School Grads

Get Tech Out of Schools Students interact plenty with technology outside of classrooms, so let’s leave it there.

Annie Murphy Paul: ne thousand: That’s approximately the number of instructional hours required of U.S. middle school and high school students each year. Four thousand: That’s approximately the number of hours of digital media content U.S. youths aged 8 to 18 absorb each year. (If you doubt that’s possible, be sure you’re taking into account … Continue reading Get Tech Out of Schools Students interact plenty with technology outside of classrooms, so let’s leave it there.

Textbook giants are now teaching classes.

Gabriel Kahn: This summer, Chad Mason signed up for online general psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. This spring, Jonathan Serrano took intro to psychology online at Essex County College in Newark, New Jersey. Though the two undergraduates were separated by more than 600 miles, enrolled in different institutions, and paying different … Continue reading Textbook giants are now teaching classes.

Millennials Are Better-Read, Vastly Superior to Rest of Population, Says Science

Enily Tankin: On Thursday, as A.O. Scott mourned the death of adulthood in American culture (R.I.P.), a new study by the Pew Research Center confirmed that it’s young adults who are keeping American (literary) culture alive. Contrary to reports that have questioned whether or not millennials read, younger Americans actually read more than their older … Continue reading Millennials Are Better-Read, Vastly Superior to Rest of Population, Says Science

On Equality

Nicholas Eberstadt: Is the human condition becoming more unequal? Many assert it is, but their focus is almost exclusively on economic inequality. This is problematic for two key reasons. First, even in data-rich America, statistics on wealth distribution are at best rudimentary. Measured economic equality differs dramatically depending on whether one looks at income (pre- … Continue reading On Equality

Healthcare cost growth pushed to faculty

Colleen Flaherty: Institutions say complying with the Affordable Care Act has caused them to pass on some costs to employees, according to a new survey from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. Since the act began to take effect, some 20 percent of institutions have made changes to benefits in an effort … Continue reading Healthcare cost growth pushed to faculty

Madison’s Property Taxes Per Capita 2nd Highest in WI; 25% of 2014-2015 $402,464,374 Budget Spent on Benefits

Tap the chart to view a larger version. A few slides from the School District’s fourth 2014-2015 budget presentation to the Board: I am surprised to see Physician’s Plus missing from the healthcare choices, which include: GHC, Unity or Dean. The slides mention that the “Budget Proposal Covers the First 5% of Health Insurance Premium … Continue reading Madison’s Property Taxes Per Capita 2nd Highest in WI; 25% of 2014-2015 $402,464,374 Budget Spent on Benefits

Health insurance changes a cure for what ails Madison schools budget?

Christ Rickert

The Madison School District won an historic concession from its teachers union over the last two years — the ability to require that teachers pay part of their health insurance premiums.
It came as the district was quickly extending union contracts before a law eliminating most collective bargaining rights took effect, and again while that law was held up in court.
But now as the district goes about crafting a 2013-14 budget that — among other cost-savings measures — reduces maintenance spending, freezes equipment budgets and includes no money for new efforts to close the district’s achievement gap, it doesn’t appear there’s much interest in implementing the concession.
The budget proposal from new Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham doesn’t subject teachers to health insurance premiums, and that’s fine with School Board President Ed Hughes.
“Because of our recent transitions, this was not the budget to take up significant changes to our structure of salary and benefits,” he said in an email. “I and other board members are looking forward to an in-depth review of salary and benefit levels as part of next year’s budget, when we’ll have the benefit of input from Jen Cheatham and (assistant superintendent for business services) Mike Barry, as well as from our affected teachers and staff. I’m sure that health insurance contributions will be part of that discussion.”
“Recent transitions” didn’t keep Cheatham from proposing changes to the district’s salary schedules, though.

Madison’s expensive approach to healthcare benefits are not a new subject.
Much more on the Madison School District’s 2013-2014 plans for spending and property tax increases, here.
Mr. Hughes in 2005

Madison School Board Members 2012-2013 “Budget Amendments”

It is interesting to compare and contrast Board member amendments to the Administration’s proposed 2012-2013 Madison School District budget. The 2011-2012 budget spent $369,394,753 for 24,861 students or $14,858.40 each.
Mary Burke: Require Accountability for All Achievement Gap Programs.
Maya Cole offers 11 amendments, the first seeks to address the District’s literacy problems. Cole’s amendment 6 questions the Administration’s use of WPS health care savings (“general fund”).
James Howard seeks a student data analysis assistant and the implementation of a parent university.
Ed Hughes offers 3 amendments, the first seeks to moderate proposed administrative staffing growth, the 2nd requests $3,000,000 in additional maintenance spending (500K less than the Administrative proposal) and a change (reduction) in the use of the District’s reserves (or “fund equity“). Mr. Hughes’ amendments would result in a 5.7% property tax increase. Related: controversy and a possible audit over past maintenance spending.
Beth Moss requests additional middle school media library staffing and increased funding for the middle school Avid program. Much more on the AVID program, here.
Marj Passman requests the introduction of a credit recovery program at East High School (the other high schools evidently have in-house programs) and the creation of a “Department of African American achievement”.
Arlene Silveira requests $75K for the Superintendent Search and a possible interim candidate, a dropout recovery program, a Toki Middle School “Expeditionary Learning Program” and the creation of an implementation plan for all achievement gap programs. Notes and links on Toki middle school and the “Expeditionary Learning Program“.
Somewhat related: Madison Schools Administration has “introduced more than 18 programs and initiatives for elementary teachers since 2009”
I continue to wonder if all schools are held to the same academic and financial standards expressed during the debate and rejection of the proposed the proposed Madison Preparatory IB charter school?

Wisconsin Teachers & Healthcare Plans

Erica Breunlin:

The Greendale School District’s high-deductible plan has been in place for the past four years but was not available to teachers until last year. When the district first offered the plan, nonunion employees agreed to try it out but teachers declined, Green said. Once Act 10 came into effect, the district offered the high-deductible plan to teachers again. The district allowed teachers to choose between the high-deductible plan and the traditional plan this school year, and 70% decided to go the high-deductible route after seeing how it was working for other staff members, Green said.
The district runs the plan in conjunction with a health reimbursement account.
In addition to a wellness plan, the Greendale district provides an on-site nurse practitioner from Aurora Health Care.
Green said the high-deductible plan significantly reduces the price of health insurance plans for school districts. When factoring in the cost of the high-deductible plan each year plus what the district is putting into the health reimbursement account, the total is about $1,000 less per family plan per year than the traditional plan.

Related: The Madison School District recently ended their longtime support of a costly WPS healthcare plan.

What Does Your MTI Contract Do for You? Health Insurance

Madison Teachers, Inc. Solidarity Newsletter (63K PDF), via a kind Jeanie Bettner email:

Since the late 1960’s, MTI members have had the benefit of the best health insurance available. Stressing the importance of quality health insurance in providing economic security, members have made health insurance their #1 priority via their responses to the Union’s Bargaining Survey. And, the Union not only was able to bargain specific benefits, such as acupuncture and extended mental health coverage, as demanded by MTI members, but due to a 1983 MTI victory in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, MTI was able to have an equal voice in which insurance company would provide the plan. This is important because different insurance companies have different interpretations of the same insurance provisions.
Unfortunately, the District Administration took advantage of the increased leverage in negotiations enabled by Governor Walker’s Act 10 forcing concessions in health insurance and other Contract provisions in exchange for them agreeing to extend MTI’s five Collective Bargaining Agreements through June 2013.
Members of MTI’s teacher bargaining unit, who elected WPS health insurance under old Contract terms, will now lose that coverage June 30, 2012. The District is in the process of distributing materials by which members of the teacher bargaining unit can become familiar with the options available for coverage commencing July 1. They are Dean Health Plan, Physicians Plus and Group Health Cooperative. Each offers an HMO and a Point of Service Plan. The latter carries a higher premium, but enables broader choices for services.
The District has scheduled five sessions for those with questions to seek answers from the above-referenced plans.
April 9 – Doyle Auditorium -1:00-3:00 p.m.
April 11- La Follette C17 – 4:00-6:00 p.m.
April 17 – Memorial Wisconsin Center – 4:00-6:00 p.m.
April 19 -West LMC – 4:00-6:00 p.m.
April 23 – East LMC – 4:00-6:00 p.m.

The Madison School District’s support of the costly WPS health insurance option has been quite controversial over the years.

MISSED ADJUSTMENTS and OPPORTUNITIES RATIFICATION OF Madison School District/Madison Teachers Collective Bargaining Agreement 2011-2013

The Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education and the Madison Teachers, Inc. ratified an expedited Collective Bargaining Agreement for 2011-2013. Several significant considerations were ignored for the negative impact and consequences on students, staff and taxpayers.
First and foremost, there was NO ‘urgent’ need (nor ANY need at all) to ‘negotiate’ a new contract. The current contract doesn’t expire until June 30, 2011. Given the proposals regarding school finance and collective bargaining processes in the Budget Repair Bill before the legislature there were significant opportunities and expectations for educational, management and labor reforms. With such changes imminent, there was little value in ‘locking in’ the restrictive old provisions for conducting operations and relationships and shutting the door on different opportunities for increasing educational improvements and performances in the teaching and learning culture and costs of educating the students of the district.
A partial listing of the missed adjustments and opportunities with the ratification of the teacher collective bargaining agreement should be instructive.

  • Keeping the ‘step and advancement’ salary schedule locks in automatic salary increases; thereby establishing a new basis annually for salary adjustments. The schedule awards increases solely on tenure and educational attainment. This also significantly inhibits movement for development and implementation of ‘pay for performance’ and merit.
  • Continues the MOU agreement requiring 50% of teachers in 4-K programs (public and private sites combined) to be state certified and union members
  • Continues required union membership. There are 2700 total or 2400 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers, numbers rounded. Full-time teachers pay $1100.00 (pro-rated for part-time) per year in automatic union dues deducted from paychecks and processed by the District. With 2400 FTE multiplied by $1100 equals $2,640,000 per year multiplied by two years of the collective bargaining unit equals $5,280,000 to be paid by teachers to their union (Madison Teachers Inc., for its union activities). These figures do not include staff members in the clerical and teacher assistant bargaining units who also pay union dues, but at a lower rate.
  • Continues to limit and delay processes for eliminating non-performing teachers Inhibits abilities of the District to determine the length and configuration of the school day, length and configuration of the school year calendar including professional development, breaks and summer school
  • Inhibits movement and placement of teachers where needed and best suited
  • Restricts adjustments to class sizes and teacher-pupil ratios
  • Continues very costly grievance options and procedures and litigation
  • Inhibits the District from developing attendance area level teacher/administrator councils for collaboration in problem-solving, built on trust and relationships in a non-confrontational environment
  • Continues costly extra-duties and extra-curricular agreements and processes
  • Restricts flexibility for teacher input and participation in professional development, curriculum selection and development and performance evaluation at the building level
  • Continues Teacher Emeritus Retirement Program (TERP), costing upwards to $3M per year
  • Does not require teacher sharing in costs of health insurance premiums
  • Did not immediately eliminate extremely expensive Preferred Provider (WPS) health insurance plan
  • Did not significantly address health insurance reforms
  • Does not allow for reviews and possible reforms of Sick Leave and Disability Leave policies
  • Continues to be the basis for establishing “me too” contract agreements with administrators for salaries and benefits. This has impacts on CBAs with other employee units, i.e., support staff, custodians, food service employees, etc.
  • Continues inflexibilities for moving staff and resources based on changes and interpretations of state and federal program supported mandates
  • Inhibits educational reforms related to reading and math and other core courses, as well as reforms in the high schools and alternative programs

Each and every one of the above items has a financial cost associated with it. These are the so-called ‘hidden costs’ of the collective bargaining process that contribute to the over-all costs of the District and to restrictions for undertaking reforms in the educational system and the District. These costs could have been eliminated, reduced, minimized and/ or re-allocated in order to support reforms and higher priorities with more direct impact on academic achievement and staff performance.
For further information and discussion contact:
Don Severson President
Active Citizens for Education
608 577-0851
100k PDF version

What cuts? Madison schools OK

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial:

Alarmists in Madison suggest Gov. Scott Walker’s state budget proposal will decimate public education.
But Superintendent Dan Nerad’s proposed 2011-2012 budget for Madison School District tells a different story.
Under Nerad’s plan, unveiled late last week, the Madison district would:

That’s not to suggest Madison schools are flush with money. Gov. Walker, after all, is trying to balance a giant state budget deficit without raising taxes or pushing the problem further down the road. Walker has proposed cuts to most state programs, including aid to public schools.

Madison School Board Tension over Spending/Taxes & Compensation

Bill Lueders:

Gov. Scott Walker says the changes he has rammed through the Legislature will give school districts and local governments “the tools” they need to withstand the severe cuts in state aid his budget will deliver. What he doesn’t get into is how the tensions caused by his agenda will divide the members of these bodies, as they have the state as a whole.
One example of this is the Madison school board, where disagreements over the impact of Walker’s actions have spurned an ugly exchange, in which school board member Lucy Mathiak lobbed an F-bomb at a fellow board member, Marj Passman.
The exchange happened yesterday, March 14. Passman was contacted by a Madison school teacher who felt Mathiak had been dismissive of the teacher’s concerns, urging her to “get over yourself.” Passman, who allows that board members have been deluged with angry emails, says she expressed to Mathiak that she agreed this response was a little harsh.

Somewhat related: Jason Shepherd: Going to the mat for WPS
School board yields to pressure to keep costlier insurance option

Suzanne Fatupaito, a nurse’s assistant in Madison schools, is fed up with Wisconsin Physicians Service, the preferred health insurance provider of Madison Teachers Inc.
“MTI uses scare tactics” to maintain teacher support for WPS, Fatupaito recently wrote to the school board. “If members knew that another insurance [plan] would offer similar services to WPS and was less expensive – it would be a no-brainer.”
WPS, with a monthly price tag of $1,720 for family coverage, is one of two health coverage options available to the district’s teachers. The other is Group Health Cooperative, costing $920 monthly for a family plan.
During the past year, the Madison school board has reached agreements with other employee groups to switch from WPS to HMO plans, with most of the savings going to boost pay.
In December, the board held a secret vote in closed session to give up its right to seek health insurance changes should negotiations on the 2007-09 teachers contract go into binding arbitration. (The board can seek voluntary insurance changes during negotations.)

Lucy has been a long time friend and I have long appreciated her activism on behalf of students, the schools and our community.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Walker’s claim on health insurance savings for public schools questioned

David Wahlberg:

School districts required to offer health insurance through WEA Trust, a company created by the teachers’ union, would save $68 million a year if employees could switch to the state health plan, Gov. Scott Walker said this week, repeating a claim he made last year.
“That’s one of the many examples of why it’s so critically important to change collective bargaining,” Walker said at a news conference Monday before bringing up the issue again in his public address Tuesday.
Madison-based WEA Trust, created by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, disputes the claim. The insurer says it provides lower-cost choices, and districts can already join the state health plan.
“It’s been an option for them for some time,” said WEA Trust spokesman Steve Lyons.
About 65 percent of the state’s school districts contract with WEA Trust, covering about 35 percent of school employees. Several large districts, including Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee, don’t offer the plan.

The cost of providing WPS coverage to Madison teachers has long been controversial.

Health care tops contract debates School districts focus negotiations on cost of retirees’ benefits

Amy Hetzner:

After years of watching escalating health insurance costs eat up and even surpass the savings provided by early retirements, some public school districts are getting tough in contract negotiations to reduce benefit levels.
The Hartland-Lakeside School Board and its teachers union went to arbitration in mid-December as district officials sought to cap insurance benefits and lower a stipend given to retiring teachers.
The Waukesha School Board has gone even further, denying almost all early retirement requests by teachers for the past two years as it advances toward arbitration in contract negotiations.

Health care cost growth has also been an issue locally.

Making something hard to read means it is more likely to be remembered

The Economist

A PARADOX of education is that presenting information in a way that looks easy to learn often has the opposite effect. Numerous studies have demonstrated that when people are forced to think hard about what they are shown they remember it better, so it is worth looking at ways this can be done. And a piece of research about to be published in Cognition, by Daniel Oppenheimer, a psychologist at Princeton University, and his colleagues, suggests a simple one: make the text conveying the information harder to read.
Dr Oppenheimer recruited 28 volunteers aged between 18 and 40 and asked them to learn, from written descriptions, about three “species” of extraterrestrial alien, each of which had seven features. This task was meant to be similar to learning about animal species in a biology lesson. It used aliens in place of actual species to be certain that the participants could not draw on prior knowledge.
Half of the volunteers were presented with the information in difficult-to-read fonts (12-point Comic Sans MS 75% greyscale and 12-point Bodoni MT 75% greyscale). The other half saw it in 16-point Arial pure-black font, which tests have shown is one of the easiest to read.

Wisconsin Gubernartorial Candidate Walker proposes letting schools, government units use lower-cost state health plan

Lee Bergquist:

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker proposed a plan he says would potentially save school districts and local units of government more than $300 million in health care costs.
Walker, a Republican candidate for governor, said his proposal would allow local units of government to switch from health plans that have high premiums to the state’s lower-cost employee health plan.
Walker said his proposal could save school districts $68 million and local governments up to $242 million annually in health care costs.
He cautioned, however, that the savings estimate for local units of government is impossible to estimate because there is no central database of what municipalities pay for health care. To make his projections, he used data of the potential savings at school districts and applied those figures to the state’s more than 200,000 local public employees.
Walker said the biggest reduction would come from Milwaukee Public Schools, which he said could realize $20 million a year in savings.

Locally, the Madison School District’s use of WPS has long been controversial due to its high cost versus alternatives, such as GHC, among others.

Milwaukee School District Seeks Health Care Changes to Save Jobs

Erin Richards:

Though shrouded in the overly formal language of district documents, new amendments to the proposed 2010-’11 Milwaukee Public Schools budget signal an ultimatum to unions from the Milwaukee School Board: Accept changes to your health care and be open to a furlough, or watch your colleagues be laid off next year.
In a Strategic Planning and Budget Committee meeting Thursday night that carried into Friday morning, the board got its first chance to discuss and act on amendments to the administration’s proposed $1.3 billion budget, which calls for an estimated 150 to 200 teacher layoffs and hundreds of other staff job eliminations.
Amendments that direct changes to the health-care plan and the implementation of furloughs would require an agreement with labor unions that represent certain employees. But the board’s amendments could set the ball in motion for those discussions.
One of those included restoring about a third of the positions set to be eliminated for teachers, paraprofessionals and general education aides, but only if those bargaining units – namely, the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association – agree to accept the less expensive health care plan.

This is not a new topic. Some elements of the Madison School District have sought similar changes.

Latest College athletics fiscal data hint at moderation

Gary Brown:

ata from the NCAA’s most recent study on revenue and expenses [6MB PDF Complete Report] at Division I institutions show a slight moderation in the rate of spending in the aggregate within the division and a reduced growth in the gap between the so-called “haves” and “have-nots,” though the gap continues to be wide.
The report summarizing Division I athletics program finances between 2004 and 2008 also reveals that 25 schools – all in the Football Bowl Subdivision – reported positive net revenue for the 2008 fiscal year, six more than in the 2006 fiscal year. Only 18 FBS institutions, however, have reported revenue over expenses when the data from all five years are aggregated.
The findings make NCAA officials cautiously optimistic that the advice from former NCAA President Myles Brand’s Presidential Task Force three years ago to moderate spending is being heeded, though those same officials acknowledge that these data through the end of the 2008 fiscal year (June) do not reflect the subsequent economic downturn that may reveal a different story on spending in next year’s report.

Schools improve certification for school lunches

Henry Jackson:

Schools are doing a better job of identifying students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches, but some states are much better than others, the Agriculture Department says in a report to Congress.
In 2008-2009, 78 percent of schools identified eligible students by using government records of which households already receive aid like food stamps. Use of the so-called direct certification method, the most efficient way to enroll school children in subsidized lunch programs, was up 11 percentage points from the previous year, according to the report, which is being delivered to Congress on Tuesday. A copy was obtained by The Associated Press.
Direct certification helps eliminate the lengthy application process for free meals.
Despite the overall improvement, the report shows a wide disparity in performance from state to state. The top four states – Alaska, Delaware, New York and Tennessee – all directly enrolled more than 90 percent of students from households that receive food stamps.

Wisconsin Open Enrollment Study

Amy Hetzner:

Spending more, adding extracurricular activities and increasing the percentage of students deemed advanced on state tests could help Wisconsin school districts that want to attract more students through the state’s open enrollment program.
Those are some of the main conclusions of a new study examining student transfers between 2003 and 2007 under the state’s public school choice program. [Open Enrollment SIS links.]
“There’s a lot of surveys saying parents want this or they want that, but when they actually have to take their kid and drive them to school, that reveals what they really want in a school district,” said David Welsch, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and lead author of the study, which is slated for publication in the Economics of Education Review.
Under the state’s open enrollment program, which has been in effect for more than a decade and now serves more than 28,000 students, students can attend any public school district in Wisconsin so long as there is room and they provide their own transportation. State aid – nearly $6,500 this school year – accompanies each open enrollment transfer.
One of the most striking findings in the recent study was that students were more likely to transfer from districts with higher property values and lower tax rates to districts that spend more per pupil. For every $100 difference in spending per student, a higher-spending district could expect about 1.7% more incoming transfers.

Wisconsin Open Enrollment: Part Time / Full Time.

Burlington Township School Superintendent on Elementary Students Singing About President Obama

Christopher Manno:

By now, we’re sure that you are aware of a video placed on the Internet that has been reported heavily by the media. The video is of a class of students singing a song about President Obama.
Over the past two days we have been able to learn more about this situation and would like to provide you with some additional information. The song was one of eight skits performed during a February 2009 program that included second grade classes. Parents attended the program which took place on February 27, 2009. The other skits in the program included Groundhog Day, Chinese New Year, Abraham Lincoln, Valentine’s Day, George Washington, Mardi Gras, and Dental Health Month. The song about President Obama was in recognition of Black History Month. We have been informed that the lyrics of the song were sent home with the children in advance of the assembly, which was the teacher’s normal procedure. There were no concerns or complaints prior to, during, or after the program.
On March 23, 2009, an author visited the Young School as part of the school’s Women’s History Month recognition. As is usual procedure, parents were notified prior to the visit and invited to attend. The author presented two assemblies during which she read from two of her books. She also met with the Teen Book Club at our high school and did an evening book signing for parents and children. The author was accompanied by two individuals. After the first assembly on March 23rd, the class that performed the song at the February assembly about President Obama provided a special performance for the author, since one of the books she wrote was about Barack Obama. We were informed by a representative of the author that one of the individuals who accompanied the author video recorded the performance. School staff had no knowledge of the recording.

Madison School District & Madison Teachers Union Reach Tentative Agreement: 3.93% Increase Year 1, 3.99% Year 2; Base Rate $33,242 Year 1, $33,575 Year 2: Requires 50% MTI 4K Members and will “Review the content and frequency of report cards”

via a kind reader’s email (200K PDF):

The Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison Teachers Inc. reached a tentative agreement Tuesday evening on the terms and conditions of a new two-year Collective Bargaining Agreement for MTI’s 2,600 member teacher bargaining unit. Negotiations began April 15.
The Contract, for July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011, needs ratification from both the Board of Education and MTI. The Union will hold its ratification meeting on Wednesday, October 14, beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the Alliant Energy Center, Dane County Forum. The Board of Education will tentatively take up the proposal in a special meeting on October 19 at 5:00 p.m.
Terms of the Contract include:
2009-2010 2010-11
Base Salary Raise – 1.00% Base Salary Raise – 1.00%
Total Increase Including Benefits – 3.93% Total Increase Including Benefits – 3.99%
Bachelor’s Degree Base Rate $33,242 Bachelor’s Degree Base Rate $33,575
A key part of this bargain involved working with the providers of long term disability insurance and health insurance. Meetings between MTI Executive Director John Matthews and District Superintendent Dan Nerad and representatives of WPS and GHC, the insurance carriers agreed to a rate increase for the second year of the Contract not to exceed that of the first year. In return, the District and MTI agreed to add to the plans a voluntary health risk assessment for teachers. The long term disability insurance provider reduced its rates by nearly 25%. The insurance cost reductions over the two years of the contract term amount to roughly $1.88 million, were then applied to increase wages, thus reducing new funds to accomplish this.
The new salary schedule increase at 1% per cell, inclusive of Social Security and WRS, amount to roughly $3.04 million. Roughly 62% of the salary increase, including Social Security and WRS, was made possible by the referenced insurance savings.
Key contract provisions include:

    Inclusion in the Contract of criteria to enable salary schedule progression by one working toward the newly created State teacher licensure, PI 34. Under the new Contract provision, one can earn professional advancement credits for work required by PI 34.

  • Additive pay regarding National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, i.e. an alternative for bargaining unit professionals who are not teachers (nurses, social workers, psychologists, et al) by achieving the newly created Master Educator’s License.
  • Continuance of the Teacher Emeritus Retirement Program (TERP).
  • The ability after retirement for one to use their Retirement Insurance Account for insurance plans other than those specified in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This will enable one to purchase coverage specific to a geographic area, if they so choose, or they may continue coverage with GHC or WPS – the current health insurance providers.
    For elementary teachers, the frequency and duration of meetings has been clarified, as have several issues involving planning time. All elementary teachers and all elementary principals will receive a joint letter from Matthews and Nerad explaining these Contract provisions.

  • For high school teachers who volunteer for building supervision, there is now an option to enable one to receive compensation, rather than compensatory time for the service. And there is a definition of what “class period” is for determining compensation or compensatory time.
  • For elementary and middle school teachers, MTI and the District will appoint a joint committee for each to study and recommend the content and frequency of report cards.
    For elementary specials (e.g. art, music) teachers, the parties agreed to end the class and a half, which will mean that class sizes for specials will be similar to the class size for elementary classroom teachers.

  • For coaches, and all others compensated on the extra duty compensation schedule, the additive percentage paid, which was frozen due to the State imposed revenue controls, will be restored.
  • School year calendars were agreed to through 2012-2013.
  • Also, MTI and the District agreed to a definite five-year exemption to the Contract work assignment clause to enable the District to assist with funding of a community-based 4-year-old kindergarten programs, provided the number of said 4-K teachers is no greater than the number of District employed 4-K teachers, and provided such does not cause bargaining unit members to be affected by adverse actions such as lay off, surplus and reduction of hours/contract percentage, due to the District’s establishment of, and continuance of, community based [Model III] 4-K programs. (See note below.)

2008 NCAA Division 1 Sports Graduation Success Rates


The NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) and the Academic Success Rate (ASR) were developed in response to college and university presidents who wanted graduation data that more accurately reflect the mobility among college students today. Both rates improve on the federally mandated graduation rate by including students who were omitted from the federal calculation.
The GSR measures graduation rates at Division I institutions and includes students transferring into the institutions. The GSR also allows institutions to subtract student-athletes who leave their institutions prior to graduation as long as they would have been academically eligible to compete had they remained.
The ASR measures graduation rates at Division II institutions and is very similar to the GSR. The difference is that the ASR also includes those freshmen who were recruited to the institution but did not receive athletics financial aid.

Great Little Schools Without a Name

Jay Matthews:

For awhile I figured that didn’t matter. These schools are raising student achievement to new heights without a cool, overarching label. Maybe they don’t need one. But I changed my mind about that after reading David Whitman’s splendid new book about these schools, “Sweating the Small Stuff.”
Whitman is a terrific reporter whose 365-page paperback, published by The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, provides a lively, readable and exhaustive account of this fast-growing phenomenon. Whitman focuses on six schools that represent different forms of this approach–the American Indian Public Charter School in Oakland, the Amistad Academy in New Haven, the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, the KIPP Academy in the South Bronx, the SEED public charter school in Washington, D.C. and the University Park Campus School in Worcester, Mass. The profiles of the schools and their founders are well-written. Whitman’s analysis of what has made them work is thoughtful and clear.
My problem is this: I hate his subtitle, “Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism.” And I like his decision to refer to this group as “the paternalistic schools” even less.

A Health Care Cost Win for the Madison School District & A Pay Raise for Madison Teacher’s Clerical Unit

Sandy Cullen:

Nearly 200 employees of the Madison School District who currently have health insurance provided by Wisconsin Physicians Service will lose that option, saving the district at least $1.6 million next year.
But the real savings in eliminating what has long been the most expensive health insurance option for district employees will come in “cost avoidance” in the future, said Bob Nadler, director of human resources for the district.
“It’s a big deal for us – it really is,” Nadler said.
“It certainly will be a benefit to both our employees and the taxpayers,” said Superintendent Art Rainwater, adding that the savings were applied to salary increases for the employees affected.
The change, which will take effect Aug. 1, is the result of an arbitrator’s ruling that allows the district to eliminate WPS coverage as an option for members of the clerical unit of Madison Teachers Inc., and instead offer a choice of coverage by Group Health Cooperative, Dean Care or Physicians Plus at no cost to employees. Those employees previously had a choice between only WPS or GHC.
Currently, the district pays $1,878.44 a month for each employee who chooses WPS family coverage and $716.25 for single coverage.
For Dean Care, the next highest in cost, the district will pay $1,257.68 per employee a month for family coverage and $478.21 for single coverage.
This year, WPS raised its costs more than 11 percent while other providers raised their costs by 5 percent to 9 percent, Nadler said.


The tradeoff between WPS’s large annual cost increases, salaries and staff layoffs will certainly be a much discussed topic in the next round of local teacher union negotiations.

Insurance coverage teachers’ top priority

John Matthews: The union is obligated to represent its members interests. The union surveyed its members prior to entering bargaining and the members spoke loudly and clearly: Retain our health insurance options. MTI members value Wisconsin Physicians Service because it enables freedom of choice in medical providers. And MTI members value the services of Group … Continue reading Insurance coverage teachers’ top priority

Cut Costs for Teacher Health Insurance (Or Not)

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial: The district proposed to add two more HMO options for teachers. If a teacher chose any of the three HMO options, the district would pay the full premium. But if a teacher chose the high-cost WPS option, the district would pay only up to the cost of the highest-priced HMO plan. … Continue reading Cut Costs for Teacher Health Insurance (Or Not)

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

Statement on MMSD/MTI Tentative Collective Bargaining Agreement Vote

After much consideration, I have decided to vote against the tentative agreement negotiated by the District and the MTI teachers union. I will do so because the agreement fails to include significant health insurance changes, and as a result, unreasonably depresses the salary increases that can be provided to our teachers. While the total salary … Continue reading Statement on MMSD/MTI Tentative Collective Bargaining Agreement Vote

Madison Schools MTI Teacher Contract Roundup

Conversation regarding the recent MMSD / MTI collective bargaining agreement continues: Andy Hall wrote a useful summary, along with some budget numbers (this agreementi s56% of the MMSD’s $339.6M budget): District negotiators headed by Superintendent Art Rainwater had sought to free up money for starting teachers’ salaries by persuading the union to drop Wisconsin Physicians … Continue reading Madison Schools MTI Teacher Contract Roundup

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 … Continue reading MMSD and MTI reach tentative contract agreement

3 Simple Things: Conduct Board Business Differently

Good Health Care at an Affordable Price: Reduce Costs by $12 Million Put a Lid on the Cookie Jar: Cut Taxes Over $9 Million Eliminate Chaos: Board Decisions; Priceless: Improve Student Achievement. MADISON MARKET COMPARITIVE HEALTH CARE COSTS The bargained contract between the Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison Teachers, Inc. (representing teachers) stipulates health … Continue reading 3 Simple Things: Conduct Board Business Differently

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 … Continue reading MMSD / MTI Contract Negotiations Begin: Health Care Changes Proposed

An open letter to the Superintendent of Madison Metropolitan Schools

Dear Mr. Rainwater: I just found out from the principal at my school that you cut the allocations for SAGE teachers and Strings teachers, but the budget hasn’t even been approved. Will you please stop playing politics with our children education? It?s time to think about your legacy. As you step up to the chopping … Continue reading An open letter to the Superintendent of Madison Metropolitan Schools

MMSD, MTI and Health Insurance – A Clarification

There seems to be some confusion about the negotiations between MTI and the school district. The Board WILL be negotiating health insurance with MTI; the Board has NOT taken health insurance off the table. The Voluntary Impasse Agreement (VIA) does NOT eliminate this as a subject of negotiation. The VIA DOES set up a structure … Continue reading MMSD, MTI and Health Insurance – A Clarification

Spring 2007 Madison School Board Election Update: Vote April 3!

Christine & Trent Sveom kindly forwarded candidate responses to additional questions not contained within the previously posted Video from the March 5, 2007 West High Forum. The questions: Please explain your views on additional charter schools given the success of Nuestro Mundo here in Madison and several offerings in Appleton just to name a few? … Continue reading Spring 2007 Madison School Board Election Update: Vote April 3!

An Alt View on Concessions Before Negotiations

Carol Carstensen: I thought it might be helpful to provide some facts and explanations about the topic of health insurance – hopefully this will clear up some of the misinformation and misconceptions present in the public discussions. It is important to remember that the focus must be on the total package settlement – because that … Continue reading An Alt View on Concessions Before Negotiations

3/5/2007 Madison School Board Candidate Forum: West High School

The Madison West High School PTSO held a school board candidate forum Monday night. Topics included: Madison High School Comparison A candidate’s ability to listen, interact and work successfully with other board members Past and future referenda support Candidate views on the $333M+ budget for our 24,000 students Extensive conversations on the part of Marj … Continue reading 3/5/2007 Madison School Board Candidate Forum: West High School

What’s the MTI political endorsement about?

In 2006-07 the Madison School district will spend $43.5M on health insurance for its employees, the majority of the money paying for insurance for teachers represented by Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) That is 17% of the operating budget under the revenue limits. In June of 2007, the two-year contract between the district and MTI ends. … Continue reading What’s the MTI political endorsement about?

MetLife 2006 Survey of the American Teacher

Harris Interactive: The 2006 survey looks at the expectations of teachers upon entering the profession, factors that drive career satisfaction, and the perspectives of principals and education leaders on successful teacher preparation and long-term support. In addition, it examines data collected from past MetLife American Teacher surveys to understand the challenges teachers face and their … Continue reading MetLife 2006 Survey of the American Teacher

Reading First: The Lie of Robert Sweet of Errors and Misconceptions in Washtington Post

Trying to find the truth in education, like in most areas in American society, is fraught with dilemma — most public commentors are either incompetent or bald-faced liars. Robert W. Sweet, Jr. likely falls into both categories. See previous posts of regarding his comments on this site, and his letter to the Washington Post here. … Continue reading Reading First: The Lie of Robert Sweet of Errors and Misconceptions in Washtington Post

Significant errors and misconceptions – “Billions for an Inside Game on Reading” by the Washington Post

Robert W. Sweet, Jr. This letter and the enclosure are an appeal to you for help in alerting your readers to significant errors and misconceptions in an article printed in the Post on October 1, 2006 titled “Billions for an Inside Game on Reading” by Michael Grunwald. He asserted that Reading First grants were awarded … Continue reading Significant errors and misconceptions – “Billions for an Inside Game on Reading” by the Washington Post

Sun Prairie Cuts Health Care Costs & Raises Teacher Salaries – using the same Dean Healthcare Plan

Milwaukee reporter Amy Hetzner: A change in health insurance carriers was achieved by several Dane County school districts because of unique circumstances, said Annette Mikula, human resources director for the Sun Prairie School District. Dean Health System already had been Sun Prairie’s point-of-service provider in a plan brokered by WEA Trust, she said. So, after … Continue reading Sun Prairie Cuts Health Care Costs & Raises Teacher Salaries – using the same Dean Healthcare Plan

Teachers bar shift in health coverage

Madison’s teachers union said Friday it will not agree to reopen its contract with the School District to renegotiate health-care benefits, dashing hopes the district could find cheaper coverage. A joint committee of district and union representatives has been studying rising health- care costs, but both sides had to agree to reopen the 2005-07 contract … Continue reading Teachers bar shift in health coverage

By Invitation Only: How the MMSD-MTI Health Insurance Task Force Limited Its Options

In June of 2005, when the majority of the Madison School Board approved the two-year collective bargaining agreement with the teachers union, the agreement included a task force to study and make recommendations on possible changes in health insurance coverage for the teachers, the majority of the district’s employees. Task force members would be the … Continue reading By Invitation Only: How the MMSD-MTI Health Insurance Task Force Limited Its Options

Very disappointing start for MTI-MMSD health insurance task force

On Wednesday, January 11, representatives of Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) and the Madison school district met at the union’s headquarters for three hours. MTI Executive Director John Matthews chaired the meeting. It was the first of two meetings at which MTI and MMSD will supposedly explore the potential for savings on health insurance costs for … Continue reading Very disappointing start for MTI-MMSD health insurance task force

Boosters & The Madison School District Budget

Sandy Cullen: In the last five years, the La Follette High School Booster Club has paid for everything from bats to books. They’ve raised more than $260,000 to pick up the tab for balls and jerseys, renovations of weight rooms and training rooms and even taxi fare for students who needed transportation to get eyeglasses, … Continue reading Boosters & The Madison School District Budget

More on the Elimination of No-Cut Freshman Sports

Susan Lampert-Smith: At Memorial, Athletic Director Tim Ritchie said he hopes kids who get cut will find a team in an expanded intramural basketball league through Madison School Community Recreation. “You hope that you have a good intramural program that keeps kids working towards making the team next year,” he said. I worry about the … Continue reading More on the Elimination of No-Cut Freshman Sports

Collaboration or collusion: What should the public expect from MMSD-MTI Task Force on Health Insurance Costs?

In a recent letter to the editor of Isthmus, KJ Jakobson asks “whether the new joint district-union task force for investigating health insurance costs be a truly collaborative effort to solve a very costly problem? Or will it instead end up being a collusion to maintain the status quo?” Here is the full text of … Continue reading Collaboration or collusion: What should the public expect from MMSD-MTI Task Force on Health Insurance Costs?

Teacher Health Insurance Costs: Why They Matter

Madison Teachers, Inc., the Madison teachers’ union, has recently ratified its collective bargaining agreement with the Madison school district for 2005-06 and 2006-07. Later this month, the Board of Education will have its chance to ratify the agreement, although the board gave preliminary assent on June 6. On June 10, Isthmus writer Jason Shepard provided … Continue reading Teacher Health Insurance Costs: Why They Matter

Madison Schools Health Care Cost/Benefit Analysis

Following are remarks and attachments distributed to the MMSD Board of Education electronically and hard copy on Monday, June 6, 2005, by KJ Jakobson, who is a researcher working with Active Citizens for Education in matters related to health care benefits for school district employees.  Discussion and questions may be directed to KJ Jakobson directly … Continue reading Madison Schools Health Care Cost/Benefit Analysis

Hard choices for Madison Voters

On May 24th, citizens in the Madison school district will vote on three referenda questions affecting whether to build an addition to Leopold School, exceed revenue caps, and renew the maintenance referendum. For many people the answers are an easy yes or no vote. Others, like me, have wrestled with their choice for each question. … Continue reading Hard choices for Madison Voters

Koloen: School Board Should Question Health Care Costs

Jim Koloen (appeared in the Capital Times): Dear Editor: It is perplexing that the Madison School Board can approve a labor contract without actually having read it except through a summary provided by the administration. Why bother with a board at all if it simply behaves as though the administration and the board are one … Continue reading Koloen: School Board Should Question Health Care Costs