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March 18, 2005

Board Scares Parents-Threatens All District Can Teach Kids for $13,000+ is Reading and Math: Yet MMSD Board Has No Budget, Keeps $2 Million for Extracurr. Sports, Increases Admin. Budget $1.5 Million in Two Years, Turned Away $10+ Million Fed. Rdg. Grant

This is not the headline of an article in The Onion. Rather, as the Astronauts on the Apollo Mission said, "Houston, we have a problem."

After 10 years of continually reducing services to our children and community . . . long past the time that we can solve our revenue cap problems by being more efficient or eliminating things that are ´┐Żnice but not necessary´┐Ż (MMSD budget cut document - not budget) More than $13,000 per student and all the Distict can do is teach math and reading. This should send a huge red flag up. It is - to those who can afford to, they are moving their kids, home schooling, paying for private tutoring and other lessons, and sending their kids to private schools. Who's losing inthis picture - underprivileged kids in education and priviledged kids by not being part of a diverse school environment. All the kids are losing - big time and the negative impact on the economics and culture of the city will follow - that's why my parents kept me out of NYC schools and I went to high school in Connecticut. That is not what I wanted for my daughter, but I need to protect her education - she's only got the next 5 years.

There is no budget governance and leadership by board members and by the Finance and Operations Committee, which Ms. Carstensen chairs - threatening statements are made to other board members and to the public, no questions are asked, no budget is visible and the state is to blame. I suggest board members hold up a mirror, and I suggest that other progressives in Madison who share my concerns and want an excellent public education system in Madison, vote for a positive change in leadership on April 5th and read the following:

Lets' examine this incorrect and misleading statement:

Budget - Don't have one

Where Does the Money Go?
Last year, the $14 million increased revenue did not go to pay for more teachers in the school budgets - in fact there was a $2 million real cut in the elementary and secondary school budgets from the year before - every other department saw increases.

Nice but not necessary things all eliminated - NO
. $2 million budget for extracurricular high school sports (20% comes from fees/ticket sales). There will be NO cuts in what kids play at the high school level. We need these sports but the board let an athletic committee work on moving small dollars to MSCR, which keeps taxes up. If you have no money, how can you ask parents to pay this amount. Why wasn't the board working with the community on this, asking the sports community for help and guidance? Why is the current board putting kids at risk?

Administrative Contract Budget - increased $1.5 million from 03-04 to next year. Board members needed to hold the admin. budget to 03-04 and direct the Superintendent to hold the line on number of staff or increases. That's the board's responsibility - did they do this? No.

Reading First Grant - Turned away $10+ million in federal Reading First Money over several years - because we do it better? Who believes that? Madison, like the rest of the state, has made great progress in reading, but the money in this federal grant would have helped tremendously training teachers, buying curriculum materials (many options, not just direct instruction to choose from) - this money would have helped the overall infrastructure of the district's reading curriculum as we moving into helping the 20% who are struggling with reading.

Why don't the kids deserve this help and why would the current board be so reckless in not a) reviewing publicly the issues surrounding this grant and taking steps to address them while pursuing the grant and getting the grant - we cannot afford not to use these funds for the kids or for the district's financial well being, b)reviewing publicly the questionable district reading recovery program that is costing $1-$2 million and showing results no better than other interventions in use, and d) putting down direct instruction and refusing to evaluate and report/discuss publicly the continued success at lapham elementary. A new teacher told to use balanced literacy and running problems into teaching children to read is turning to direct instruction at the end of the year so the kids will be able to read.

What does the Board do? Bill Keys and Art Rainwater do a public service announcement with a staged dialogue in front of cameras at the end of a public hearing. Any real public review and questions - of course not!

This school board says I'm critical of what they do and make no suggestions. Link on budget, fine arts and governance and you will read suggestions made up to one year ago. Board make any changes - no. Can we do things? Yes, more to follow.

Oh, and that only one item that board members think I focus on - elementary strings. More on that district disgrace to the 1,800 kids (600+minority, 400+ low income) and their academic achievement to follow - stay tuned. We'll be providing information - with data, which the district does not do, showing this course is THE ONLY course that will be cut if a referendum fails that affects so many kids so positively.

Posted by at March 18, 2005 7:17 AM
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