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March 22, 2006

MMSD Staffing Resources/Cuts Go To Schools April 3rd – Where's the School Board, Where's the Board Governance?

It’s nearly the end of March, and there’s a strange quiet at the Madison School Board. Every March for the past five plus years has meant public School Board discussions and meetings about next year’s budget, budget cuts and referendum. Earlier this year, Superintendent Rainwater informed the School Board there would be budget discussions throughout the month of March. Yet, here we are at the end of March – silence on a $320+ million budget, but cuts are being planned just out of the public’s eye while pets in the classroom take front and center stage.

Funny – isn’t there a school board election on April 4th?

On Monday, April 3rd, on the eve of the 2006 spring school board election, MMSD school principals will receive their staffing allocations for the 2006-2007 school year according to the District's published budget timeline (updated March 15, 2006). The administration will provide school principals with the number of staff they will have for next year, and the principals will need to provide the Human Resources Department of MMSD with information on April 10th about how they will use the staff – number of teachers, social workers, psychologists, etc. For the most part principals have little say about how their staffing is allocated, especially in the elementary school. These dates are driven in part by teacher contract requirements for surplus notices and layoff notices that are due in late May.

Earlier this year, the Superintendent advised the School Board that $8 million in cuts will be needed next year. That means the staffing allocations going out on April 3rd will need to include these cuts. There are also plans afoot to avoid a referendum to add an addition to Leopold and borrow the money in a way that does not require a referendum. However, this approach will negatively affect the operating budget. The estimated additional cost will mean $350,000 in cuts on top of the $8 million in cuts estimated for next year. Where will those $350,000 in additional cuts come from – you can expect more cuts in teachers in the classroom, districtwide classes such as elementary strings, social workers, TAG resources, books, larger class sizes.

In opinion, this is one of the worst, closed budget processes I have seen in years. On March 9th, I blogged about five points that I feel are important considerations in a budget process, especially when we are in a financial crisis. Our School Board majority is missing most, if not all of them and will not even discuss budget items in March! Parents and the community ought to be alarmed. Madison will have to pass referendums to keep our schools strong in these punative financial times that Madison and all WI schools are facing. Conducting Board budget business in this way - behind closed doors, will not build community confidence and will not pass referendums!

I asked Superintendent Rainwater where was the cut list and what budget was he using to determine the allocations. He said this year the Board would be discussing cuts in the context of the entire budget? Huh? Decisions about cuts and reductions in allocations are being made now – what budget is being used? Why isn’t the School Board publicly discussing the budget? Who’s making the decisions and governing the school district – not the current School Board majority. We need a School Board majority that will do the business the public entrusted them with and who will do their work in public.

Posted by at March 22, 2006 8:59 PM
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