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June 1, 2010

Comments on the Madison School District's Budget

Susan Troller:

Madison's public school budget process is lurching to a preliminary close tonight -- final numbers will be available in October after the state revenue picture is clear and district enrollment will be set. Tonight there's a public meeting at 5 p.m. at the Doyle Building for last minute pleas and entreaties, 545 West Dayton St., followed by a School Board workshop session, which is likely to include some additional budget amendments from board members. Current projections suggest there will be an increase of about $225 property tax increase on the average $250,000 home.

It's been a particularly painful process this time around, as illustrated by a recent e-mail I got. It came from one of my favorite teachers and said that due to some of the recent budget amendments, the Madison school district's elementary school health offices would no longer be able to provide band-aids for teachers to use in their classrooms. Instead, children would be required to bring them from home with other supplies, like tissues or crayons.

Related: Madison Schools' 2010-2011 Budget Amendments: Task Force Spending Moratorium, Increase consulting, travel and Professional Development Spending.

A Madison School District Property Tax Increase Outlook (39% over the next 6 years) including 4 Year Old Kindergarten (4K).

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

Much more on the 2010-2011 Madison School District Budget here.

The Madison School District = General Motors?:

Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman spoke to the Madison Rotary Club on "What Wisconsin's Public Education Model Needs to Learn from General Motors Before it is too late." 7MB mp3 audio (the audio quality is not great, but you can hear the talk if you turn up the volume!).

Zimman's talk ranged far and wide. He discussed Wisconsin's K-12 funding formula (it is important to remember that school spending increases annually (from 1987 to 2005, spending grew by 5.10% annually in Wisconsin and 5.25% in the Madison School District), though perhaps not in areas some would prefer.

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

Zimman noted that the most recent State of Wisconsin Budget removed the requirement that arbitrators take into consideration revenue limits (a district's financial condition @17:30) when considering a District's ability to afford union negotiated compensation packages. The budget also added the amount of teacher preparation time to the list of items that must be negotiated..... "we need to breakthrough the concept that public schools are an expense, not an investment" and at the same time, we must stop looking at schools as a place for adults to work and start treating schools as a place for children to learn."

Posted by Jim Zellmer at June 1, 2010 7:50 AM
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