K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Easy Money, Hard Truths & Local Maintenance Referendum Audit?

David Einhorn:

Are you worried that we are passing our debt on to future generations? Well, you need not worry.
Before this recession it appeared that absent action, the government’s long-term commitments would become a problem in a few decades. I believe the government response to the recession has created budgetary stress sufficient to bring about the crisis much sooner. Our generation — not our grandchildren’s — will have to deal with the consequences.
According to the Bank for International Settlements, the United States’ structural deficit — the amount of our deficit adjusted for the economic cycle — has increased from 3.1 percent of gross domestic product in 2007 to 9.2 percent in 2010. This does not take into account the very large liabilities the government has taken on by socializing losses in the housing market. We have not seen the bills for bailing out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and even more so the Federal Housing Administration, which is issuing government-guaranteed loans to non-creditworthy borrowers on terms easier than anything offered during the housing bubble. Government accounting is done on a cash basis, so promises to pay in the future — whether Social Security benefits or loan guarantees — do not count in the budget until the money goes out the door.
A good percentage of the structural increase in the deficit is because last year’s “stimulus” was not stimulus in the traditional sense. Rather than a one-time injection of spending to replace a cyclical reduction in private demand, the vast majority of the stimulus has been a permanent increase in the base level of government spending — including spending on federal jobs. How different is the government today from what General Motors was a decade ago? Government employees are expensive and difficult to fire. Bloomberg News reported that from the last peak businesses have let go 8.5 million people, or 7.4 percent of the work force, while local governments have cut only 141,000 workers, or less than 1 percent.

Locally, the Madison School Board meets Tuesday evening, 6/1 to discuss the 2010-2011 budget, which looks like it will raise property taxes at least 10%. A number of issues have arisen around the District’s numbers, including expenditures from the 2005 maintenance referendum.
I’ve not seen any updates on Susan Troller’s April, 12, 2010 question: “Where did the money go?” It would seem that proper resolution of this matter would inform the public with respect to future spending and tax increases.

Madison School Board member may seek audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent

Susan Troller, via a kind reader’s email:

Where did the money go?
For more than a year, Madison School Board member Lucy Mathiak has been asking Madison school district officials for a precise, up-to-date summary of how $26.2 million in 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent over the last five years.
She’s still waiting, but her patience is wearing out.
Now the sharp-tongued budget hawk says she may ask the school board as early as Monday night to authorize an outside audit that would identify how the money approved by taxpayers in 2005 for repairs and maintenance of dozens of the district’s aging buildings was actually spent between 2005 and fall of 2009.
“We need to have a serious, credible accounting for where the money went from the last referendum, and I haven’t seen that yet,” Mathiak told The Capital Times. “I’m ready to ask for an audit, and I think there are other board members who are equally concerned.”

Related: Proposed Madison School District Maintenance Referendum: 1999, 2005 and 2010 Documents:

The Madison School District is considering another maintenance referendum ($85M?). The documents below provide a list of completed (1999, 2005) and planned projects (2010+). The reader may wish to review and compare the lists:

The 2005 special election included 3 referenda questions, just one of which passed – the maintenance matter.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: a planned Madison tax increase for bricks and mortar? Will space utilization and attendance boundaries be addressed first? 1% spent on maintenance

Logan Wroge: Wiese said the district has an annual maintenance budget of about $5.4 million for 4.5 million square feet of space. The high schools alone have deferred maintenance needs of $154 million, according to a study completed in 2017. In 2015, district voters overwhelmingly passed a $41 million facilities referendum targeting improvements in 16 […]

The Art Of The Audit

The Economist: WHEN offices handle public money, said Aristotle, “there must of necessity be another office that examines and audits them.” Today’s equivalent is the “Supreme Audit Institution”, and 192 countries have one. These beancounters-cum-watchdogs check on behalf of legislatures and the public that their governments spend money cleanly and sensibly—and hold them to account […]

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

Madison School District Administration (PDF): MMSD received a total of 3,081 responses to the online survey. However, only Question #1 received the maximum number of responses; Questions #2-13 averaged around 2,200 respondents. Normally, a response rate is calculated by dividing the number of responses by the number of invitations to complete the survey. However, it […]

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

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

Madison Schools Propose a $24,000,000 Maintenance Referendum & Property Tax Increase; above $402M budget; 4%+ tax increase looms

The Madison School District (1.4MB PDF). “All elementary boundaries are due for a long term review”. Agreed. A look at the maps below along with the wide demographic variation across Madison public public schools indicates that addressing boundaries is job #2 – after dealing with the long term disastrous reading results. Going to referendum prior […]

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

Molly Beck There’s been little movement since mid-March when Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposed asking voters in November for $39.5 million in borrowing to upgrade facilities and address crowding. The proposed referendum’s annual impact on property taxes on a $200,000 Madison home could range from $32 to $44, according to the district. After […]

Preparing the Way for a Madison School District Maintenance Referendum

Gayle Worland::

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

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

W.Va. education spending audit may prove daunting

The Associated Press:

A proposed audit of West Virginia’s education spending enjoys widespread support, but that may not make its undertaking any less tricky.
Officials have yet to decide who would conduct the in-depth review, or even how to authorize it. Then there’s the scope. An estimated 14 cents of every dollar spent by the state goes to public education, from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia included an audit in its wish list for next month’s special legislative session focused on education.
“We are not aware of any recent or ongoing investigation regarding the spending practices by governmental departments, agencies and boards of education funded with public education dollars and whether the funds are being used for the intended purpose,” the group said in its outline of the proposal, one of eight it wants lawmakers to consider.

Related: Madison School Board member may seek audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent.

Madison School District Maintenance Report estimates $3,000 cost to replace single school toilet! What?

Susan Troller:

At $2,000 to $3,000 to replace a single toilet, and the same to repair a leaky faucet, it’s no surprise some Madison School Board members are suffering sticker shock when it comes to a new facility report on short- and long-term maintenance needs for Madison’s public schools.
In fact, Lucy Mathiak, board vice president, wonders if the numbers can even be trusted. “It makes me feel like I’m channeling Bill Proxmire when he challenged the costs on Pentagon toilets,” she says, referring to the late U.S. senator from Wisconsin. “Frankly, getting this information cost us a lot of money and, to say the least, I’m underwhelmed with the product.”
The estimates, though, might not be entirely out of whack with commercial repairs.
While swapping out an old toilet or sink at home could cost $500 or less, such a repair in an institutional or industrial setting might run upward of a couple thousand dollars, particularly if there were hazardous materials involved, or extensive tile or plumbing rework, experts say.

Related: Madison School Board member may seek audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent.

Maintenance Referendum: Long Range Planning Meeting Tonight

The Madison School Board’s Long Range Planning Committee is holding a public hearing on the proposed maintenance referendum (one of potentially 3 referendums this spring) Wednesday night, January 19, 2005 @ 6:00p.m. at the Doyle Administration Building, McDaniels Auditorium. I’ve emailed the MMSD TV folks to see if they are broadcasting this event, but have […]

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Education & Accountability at the Pentagon

Chuck Spinney:

On 4 August 1822, James Madison wrote a letter to W.T. Barry about the importance of popular education and, by inference, the importance of the relationship of the First Amendment to the task of holding an elected government accountable for its actions. He concluded his opening paragraph, setting the tone for the entire letter, by saying, “A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
Nowhere is the farce and tragedy feared by James Madison more evident than in the national debate over if, or how much, the defense budget should be cut back as part of our efforts to reduce the deficit. With the defense budget at war with Social Security, Medicare, and needed discretionary spending in education, investments in infrastructure, and elsewhere, it is a tragedy that must be undone if we are to protect our middle class way of life.

Related: A Madison Maintenance referendum audit?.

Mulligans for Wisconsin Elementary Reading Teachers

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction “DPI”, lead for many years by new Governor Tony Evers, has waived thousands of elementary reading teacher content knowledge requirements. This, despite our long term, disastrous reading results. Chan Stroman tracks the frequent Foundations of Reading (FoRT) mulligans: Yet the statutory FoRT requirement is now deemed satisfied by “attempts” […]

Why, for example, were board members approving staff contracts they’d never seen? Why was the district administrator’s salary higher than his contract stipulated?

Annysa Johnson: One way to make enemies in a small-town school district, it turns out, is to start sniffing around its finances. Christa Reinert was hardly welcomed when she joined the Mercer School Board in 2016. She’d run, at least partly, in protest after two girls basketball coaches — one a sitting School Board member […]

Black Hawk School financial review finds former principal Kenya Walker, staff didn’t follow rules

Karen Rivedal: A Madison School District review of financial practices at Black Hawk Middle School found widespread disregard for proper accounting and money handling practices under then-principal Kenya Walker, who admitted using district credit cards for personal needs and oversaw school office operations so lax they resulted in the theft of at least $1,000 from […]

The state of education “investigative” reporting

Kristen Hare: Andy had been an investigative journalist at the Wisconsin State Journal, where he and Dee both worked back in 2006. But he, nearing 50 at the time, he was reassigned to cover education. “It was a time at which I took a deep breath and considered what really mattered to me,” he said. […]

“In addition, we see that very few schools actually achieved growth improvements of 5% or more, with changes in growth generally clustering around 0%.” Slide updates on Madison’s $500M+ Government School System

PDF slides from a recent Madison School District Quarterly Board retreat. Readers may wish to understand “MAP” or “Measure of Academic Progress” [duck duck go SIS 2012 Madison and Waunakee results] Using MAP for Strategic Framework Milestones and SIP Metrics Feedback from various stakeholders has led us to examine the use of MAP (Measures of […]

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

Jim Schutze: When Hall was early on the board, the university revealed to regents there were problems with a large private endowment used to provide off-the-books six-figure “forgivable loans” to certain faculty members, out of sight of the university’s formal compensation system. Hall wanted to know how big the forgivable loans were and who decided […]

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Public Purse Media Spending Oversight, or note…. Bread & Circuses

Compare: Three reporters assigned to the Urban League’s governance transition: 1. Steven Elbow: Madison Urban League chair: Kaleem Caire’s credit card use an ‘internal’ issue. 2. Dee Hall: Urban League head: Kaleem Caire’s ‘integrity intact’. 3. Dean Mosiman: Kaleem Caire’s departure followed concerns about credit card use, overwork. 2005 a reporter follows a story with […]

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?

For our schools, is blame the only certain outcome?

Paul Fanlund:

But both are deeply concerned about what the school district’s ability to serve children, and the achievement gap is on the front burner. In the wake of a bitter fight over Madison Preparatory Academy — a proposed but ultimately rejected charter school aimed at fighting that gap — Nerad proposed a detailed achievement gap plan of his own. Even after scaling it back recently, it would still cost an additional $5.8 million next year.
And then there are the maintenance needs. “It’s HVAC systems, it’s roofs, it’s asphalt on parking lots,” Nerad says. “It’s all those things that don’t necessarily lead to a better educational outcome for young people, but it ensures that our buildings look good and people feel good about our buildings, they’re safe for children.”
He pauses, and adds, “My point is that we have a complex set of issues on the table right now.”
Madison teachers made about $20 million in voluntary pay and benefit concessions before the anti-collective bargaining law was enacted, according to district figures. But Nerad says state school support has been in relative decline for more than a decade, long before Walker’s campaign against teacher rights.

Related:

Paul Vallas visits Madison; Enrollment Growth: Suburban Districts vs. Madison 1995-2012





Related:

Paul Vallas will be speaking at Madison LaFollette high school on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 1:00p.m. More information, here.
Much more on Paul Vallas, here.
Directions.
Per Student Spending:
I don’t believe spending is the issue. Madison spends $14,858.40/student (2011-2012 budget)
Middleton’s 2011-2012 budget: $87,676,611 for 6,421 students = $13,654.67/student, about 8% less than Madison.
Waunakee spends $12,953.81/student about 13% less than Madison.
A few useful links over the past decade:

Old, crumbling schools are, sadly, a Wisconsin tradition

Paul Fanlund:

Last week I walked into West High School for the first time since our daughter, Kate, graduated in 2001.
I’d been warned I might be taken aback by how much the place had changed in a decade. But in fact, I had the opposite reaction. Based on my few hours there, it doesn’t seem to have changed much at all.
It had the same delightful, eclectic, intellectual vibe and ethnic diversity one would expect at the public high school located nearest the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Its student body of 2,100 — largest of the city’s four high schools — hails from 55 countries. It routinely has more semifinalists for National Merit Scholarships, 26 last year, than any school in Wisconsin.

Related: Madison School District maintenance referendums.

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

Lucy Mathiak, via a kind email:

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

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

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Transparency

Sunlight Foundation:

We’ve taken data from other federal reporting systems and compared it with the data found in USASpending.gov across three categories: Consistency, Completeness and Timeliness. How close are the reported dollar amounts to the yearly estimates? How many of the required fields are filled out in each record? And how long did it take the agency to report the money once it was allocated to a project?

The inability to keep track and report on public expenditures does not inspire confidence. Related: Madison district got $23M from taxpayers for aging schools; where did it go?. More here. I’ve not seen any additional information on the potential audit of Madison’s most recent maintenance referendum.
The College Station School District publishes all annual expenditures via their check registers.

Governance, or Potted Plant? Seattle School Board To Become More Involved In District Operations and a view from Madison

Phyllis Fletcher:

The Washington State Auditor told the district this week it has problems managing its money. They’re the same problems he’s told them about before. The school board oversees the district. And auditors for the state say it’s time for board members to get more involved.
Carr: “To the State Auditors’ point, we have work to do. And they’re right: we do.”
Sherry Carr chairs the audit and finance committee of the Seattle School Board. She says the board needs to do more to make sure problems that are found in audits don’t pop up again.
Carr: “We haven’t always had the check in prior to the start of the next audit. So, I think that’s the key.”

Washington State Auditor’s Office:

The Washington State Auditor’s Office released an audit report this week about the Seattle School District’s accountability with public resources, laws and regulations.
We found the School Board and the District’s executive management:
* Must improve oversight of District operations.
* Are not as familiar with state and federal law as the public would expect.
We identified instances of misappropriation and areas that are susceptible to misappropriation. We also found the School Board delegated authority to the Superintendent to create specific procedures to govern day-to-day District operations.
The Board does not evaluate these procedures to determine if they are effective and appropriate. Consequently, we identified 12 findings in this report and in our federal single audit and financial statement report.

Documents:

  • Complete Report: 700K PDF
  • Complete Report: 700K PDF
  • Washington State Auditor’s Office Accountability Audit Report 190K PDF
  • The Seattle School District’s response 37K PDF:

    Seattle Public Schools establishes rigorous process for addressing financial year 2008-09 audit findings.
    As part of the Washington State Auditor’s Office annual audit process, an Accountability Audit of Seattle Public Schools was issued on July 6, 2010. The audit’s emphasis on the need for continued improvement of internal controls and District policies for accountability is consistent with multi-year efforts under way at Seattle Public Schools to strengthen financial management.
    “Because we are deeply committed to being good stewards of the public’s resources, we take the information in this audit very seriously,” said Superintendent Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Ph.D. “We acknowledge the need to take specific corrective actions noted in the report. It is a key priority to implement appropriate control and accountability measures, with specific consequences, for situations in which policies are not followed.”
    The School Board will work closely with the Superintendent to ensure corrections are made. “We understand and accept the State Auditor’s findings,” said School Board Director Sherry Carr, chair of the Board’s Audit and Finance Committee. “We accept responsibility to ensure needed internal controls are established to improve accountability in Seattle Public Schools, and we will hold ourselves accountable to the public as the work progresses.”

Much more on the Seattle School Board.
After reading this item, I sent this email to Madison Board of Education members a few days ago:

I hope this message finds you well.
The Seattle School Board is going to become more involved in District operations due to “problems managing its money”.
http://kuow.org/program.php?id=20741
I’m going to post something on this in the next few days.
I recall a BOE discussion where Ed argued that there are things that should be left to the Administration (inferring limits on the BOE’s oversight and ability to ask questions). I am writing to obtain your thoughts on this, particularly in light of:
a) ongoing budget and accounting issues (how many years has this been discussed?), and
b) the lack of substantive program review to date (is 6 years really appropriate, given reading and math requirements of many Madison students?).
I’d like to post your responses, particularly in light of the proposed Administrative re-org and how that may or may not address these and other matters.

I received the following from Lucy Mathiak:

A GENERAL NOTE: There is a cottage industry ginning up books and articles on board “best practices.” The current wisdom, mostly generated by retired superintendents, is that boards should not trouble themselves with little things like financial management, human resources, or operations. Rather, they should focus on “student achievement.” But what that means, and the assumption that financial, HR, and other decisions have NO impact on achievement, remain highly problematical.
At the end of the day, much of the “best practices” looks a lot like the role proposed for the Milwaukee School Board when the state proposed mayoral control last year. Under that scenario, the board would focus on public relations and, a distant second, expulsions. But that would be a violation of state statute on the roles and responsibilities of boards of education.
There are some resources that have interesting info on national trends in school board training here:
http://www.asbj.com/MainMenuCategory/Archive/2010/July/The-Importance-of-School-Board-Training.aspx
I tend to take my guidance from board policy, which refers back to state statute without providing details; I am a detail person so went back to the full text. When we are sworn into office, we swear to uphold these policies and statutes:
Board policy:
“The BOARD shall have the possession, care, control, and management of the property and affairs of the school district with the responsibilities and duties as detailed in Wisconsin Statutes 118.001, 120.12, 120.13, 120.14, 120.15, 120.16, 120.17, 120.18, 120.21, 120.40, 120.41, 120.42, 120.43, and 120.44.”
Because board policy does not elaborate what is IN those statutes, the details can be lost unless one takes a look at “the rules.” Here are some of the more interesting (to me) sections from WI Statute 120:
120.12 School board duties.
The school board of a common or union high school district shall:
(1)MANAGEMENT OF SCHOOL DISTRICT.
Subject to the authority vested in the annual meeting and to the authority and possession specifically given to other school district officers, have thepossession, care, control and management of the property andaffairs of the school district, except for property of the school dis-trict used for public library purposes under s. 43.52.
(2)GENERAL SUPERVISION. Visit and examine the schools ofthe school district, advise the school teachers and administrative staff regarding the instruction, government and progress of the pupils and exercise general supervision over such schools.
(3)TAX FOR OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE.
(a) On or before November 1, determine the amount necessary to be raised to operate and maintain the schools of the school district and public library facilities operated by the school district under s. 43.52, if the annual meeting has not voted a tax sufficient for such purposes for the school year.
(5)REPAIR OF SCHOOL BUILDINGS.
Keep the school buildings and grounds in good repair, suitably equipped and in safe and sanitary condition at all times. The school board shall establish an annual building maintenance schedule.
(14)COURSE OF STUDY.
Determine the school course of study.
(17)UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN SYSTEM TUITION.
Pay the tuition of any pupil enrolled in the school district and attending an institution within the University of Wisconsin System if the pupil is not participating in the program under s. 118.55, the course the pupil is attending at the university is not offered in the school district and the pupil will receive high school credit for the course.

Ed Hughes:

Thanks for contacting us. Can you be a bit more specific about what you are looking for? A general statement about the appropriate line between administration and Board responsibilities? Something more specific about budgeting and accounting, or specific program reviews? And if so, what? I confess that I haven’t followed whatever is going on with the Seatte school board.

My followup:

I am looking for your views on BOE responsibilities vis a vis the Administration, staff and the community.
Two timely specifics, certainly are:
a) ongoing budget problems, such as the maintenance referendum spending, and
b) curricular matters such as reading programs, which, despite decades of annual multi-million dollar expenditures have failed to “move the needle”.
The Seattle District’s “problems managing its money” matter apparently prompted more Board involvement.
Finally, I do recall a BOE discussion where you argued in favor of limits on Administrative oversight. Does my memory serve?
Best wishes,
Jim

Marj Passman:

Here is the answer to your question on Evaluation which also touches on the Board’s ultimate role as the final arbiter on District Policy.
Part of the Strategic Plan, and, one of the Superintendants goals that he gave the Board last year, was the need to develop a “District Evaluation Protocol”. The Board actually initiated this by asking for a Study of our Reading Program last February. This protocol was sent to the Board this week and seems to be a timely and much needed document.
Each curricular area would rotate through a seven year cycle of examination. In addition, the Board of Education would review annually a list of proposed evaluations. There will be routine reports and updates to the Board while the process continues and, of course, a final report. At any time the Board can make suggestions as to what should be evaluated and can make changes in the process as they see fit. In other words, the Board will certainly be working within its powers as Overseer of MMSD.
This Protocol should be on the MMSD web site and I recommend reading it in
depth.
I am particularly pleased with the inclusion of “perception” – interviews, surveys with parents and teachers. I have been leery of just masses of data analysis predetermining the success or failure of children. Our children must not be reduced to dots on a chart. Tests must be given but many of our students are succeeding in spite of their test scores.
I have a problem with a 7 year cycle and would prefer a shorter one. We need to know sooner rather than later if a program is working or failing. I will bring this up at Monday’s Board meeting.
I will be voting for this Protocol but will spend more time this weekend studying it before my final vote.
Marj

Madison district got $23M from taxpayers for aging schools; where did it go?

Susan Troller:

A maintenance referendum may well be a tougher sell this time around than it was when back-to-back, five-year maintenance referendums were approved in 1999 and 2005. Not only do voters feel pinched by the ongoing recession, but taxpayers are facing a likely $225 hike in property taxes this year as part of the effort to balance the Madison schools budget, which took a heavy hit in reduced state aid.
Community support could also be compromised because a growing number of Madison School Board members have become frustrated by what they say is the district’s reluctance to adequately account for how maintenance dollars have been spent.
As chair of the School Board’s finance and operations committee, Lucy Mathiak has persistently asked for a complete accounting of maintenance jobs funded through the 2005 referendum. The minutes from a March 2009 committee meeting confirm that district administrators said they were working on such a report but Mathiak says the information she’s received so far has been less than clear.
“Trying to get this information through two administrations, and then trying to figure it out, is exhausting. The whole thing is a mess. I’m not, by any means, the first board member to ask these kind of questions regarding accountability,” Mathiak says. “You ask for straightforward documentation and you don’t get it, or when it comes it’s a data dump that’s almost impossible to understand.”
That lack of transparency might make it more difficult for other School Board members to get on board with another referendum.
“We have a responsibility to provide an accurate record of what happened with the funding,” says board member Arlene Silveira, who has supported all other school referendums. “I think people understand that other projects may come up and there may be changes from the original plan, but you do need to tell them what was done and what wasn’t done and why. It affects (the district’s) credibility in the community.”

Much more on the 2005 referendum and the District’s 2010-2011 budget (including what appears to be a 10% property tax increase here.
Related: “Accountability is important, now more than ever“.