Study: California Classroom spending dips as ed funding rises; A Look at Per Student Spending vs. Madison

Don Thompson:

Spending in California classrooms declined as a percentage of total education spending over a recent five-year period, even as total school funding increased, according to a Pepperdine University study released Wednesday.
More of the funding increase went to administrators, clerks and technical staff and less to teachers, textbooks, materials and teacher aides, the study found. It was partially funded by a California Chamber of Commerce foundation.
Total K-12 spending increased by $10 billion over the five-year period ending June 30, 2009, from $45.6 billion to $55.6 billion statewide. It rose at a rate greater than the increase in inflation or personal income, according to the study. Yet researchers found that classroom spending dipped from 59 percent of education funding to 57.8 percent over the five years.
Spending on teacher salaries and benefits dropped from 50 percent of statewide spending to 48 percent over the same period. Spending on administrators and supervisors, staff travel and conferences all increased faster than teachers’ pay.

Complete study: 1.1MB PDF.
This is not a big surprise, given the increasing emphasis on, ironically, in the K-12 world, adult to adult spending, often referred to as “Professional Development“. Yippy Search: “Professional Development“.
The report mentions that California’s average per student expenditure is just under $10,000 annually. Madison’s 2009/2010 per student spending was $15,241 ($370,287,471 budget / 24,295 students).

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.


  • 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”.
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:
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:
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.
(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.
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.
Determine the school course of study.
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,

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
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.

Another Madison Maintenance Referendum? District Administration Facility Assessment Report and Database

Erik Kass, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services 6.5mb pdf:

This project began when the Board of Education approved the contract with Durrant Engineering in April of2009. Durrant was hired to provide a full condition assessment of all school district buildings to identify long and short-term repair needs.
The vision of this project was to deliver to the school district a living database that would aid in the budgeting and planning process into the future.
The study focused primarily on all engineering systems and equipment, but also included an in-depth study of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) issues our school district faces. The study didn’t include roofing projects, as that work has already been completed and is continually updated on an annual basis. For the assessment, trained professional engineers visited every site within the school district, evaluating systems and conditions, while also taking actual photographs to integrate into the report. This work transitioned into a grading system that has become part of the database delivered to the school district for future planning.
All of the information gathered and organized into the database format provides a lot of functionality for the school district moving forward.
Each item has actual digital photos attached for reference, cost ranges are summarized for each item, and the ability to sort the information in various ways are examples o f the functionality of the database.
Four individuals from Durrant Engineering will be present to provide a more in-depth review of the work that was completed. This presentation will also include a demonstration ofthe database that was created to show the functionality provided to the district with this tool.
D. Describe the action requested of the BOE – Administration is looking for the Board of Education to accept the maintenance project study with the database which is the planning tool to be used for future maintenance projects.
Next Steps – It is the intent of Administration to work toward creating a multi-year project plan, along with projected funds necessary to implement this plan each year. This work will begin upon approval by the Board ofthe information and data within the database, and will become important work of the new Director for the division of Building Services. Our goal is to return to the Board in May/June 2011 to present this multi-year plan with projected sources of funding.

Bold added.
The District has apparently been unable to account for $23,000,000 spent via the 2005 “maintenance referendum”. Additional commentary here. Notes and links on the 2005 maintenance referendum (two out of three MMSD questions failed).

Several Madison schools fail to meet No Child Left Behind standards

Gena Kittner:

Six of the seven Madison schools that made the federal list of schools in need of improvement last year are on it again, including two Madison elementary schools that faced sanctions for failing to meet No Child Left Behind standards.
In addition, three out of four Madison high schools failed to make adequate yearly progress, according to state Department of Public Instruction data released Tuesday. DeForest, Middleton and Sun Prairie high schools also made the list.
Statewide, 145 schools and four districts missed one or more adequate yearly progress targets. Last year 148 schools and four districts made the list, according to DPI. This year 89 Wisconsin schools were identified for improvement, up from 79 last year.
“These reports, based off a snapshot-in-time assessment, present one view of a school’s progress and areas that need improvement,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers in a statement.

Related: the controversial WKCE annual exam.

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

Superintendent Dan Nerad 75K PDF:

Attached to this memorandum you will find the final version of the 2009-10 Citizen’s Budget. The Citizen’s Budget is intended to present financial information to the community in a format that is more easily understood. The first report groups expenditures into categories outlined as follows:

  • In-School Operations
  • Curriculum & Teacher Development & Support
  • Facilities, Other Than Debt Service
  • Transportation
  • Food Service
  • Business Services
  • Human Resources
  • General Administration
  • Debt Service
  • District-Wide
  • MSCR

The second report associates revenue sources with the specific expenditure area they are meant to support. In those areas where revenues are dedicated for a specific purpose(ie. Food Services) the actual amount is represented. In many areas of the budget, revenues had to be prorated to expenditures based on the percentage that each specific expenditure bears of the total expenditure budget. It is also important to explain that property tax funds made up the difference between expenditures and all other sources of revenues. The revenues were broken out into categories as follows:

  • Local Non-Tax Revenue
  • Equalized & Categorical State Aid
  • Direct Federal Aid
  • Direct State Aid
  • Property Taxes

Both reports combined represent the 2009-10 Citizen’s Budget.


I’m glad to see this useful document finally available for the 2009-2010 school year. Thanks to the Madison School Board members who pushed for its release.

The Proposed Madison School District Administrative Reorganization Plan

Superintendent Dan Nerad, via an Arlene Silveira email 1.4MB PDF:

Processes of the Administration
The following administrative processes are currently being utilized to provide administrative leadership within the district:

  1. Superintendent’s Management Team Comprised of the Superintendent and department administrators, this team meets weekly and serves as the major decision making body of the administration.
  2. Strategic Plan Monitoring and Support
    The Superintendent meets monthly with administrators with lead responsibility for the five priority strategies within the Strategic Plan.
  3. Superintendents-Assistant Superintendents, Chief of Staff and Executive Director, Human Resources
    The Superintendent meets weekly with the Assistant Superintendents, Chief of Staff and Executive Director of Human Resources to discuss key operational issues.
  4. Board Liaison Team
    The Board Liaison Team, consisting of designated administrators, meets three times a month to coordinate Board agenda planning and preparation. District Learning Council The District Learning Council consists of curriculum, instruction and assessment related administrators and teacher leaders. This council meets bi-weekly to discuss major instructional issues in the district and provides coordination across related departments.
  5. Department Meetings Administrators assigned to each department meet as needed.
  6. Principal Meetings Assistant Superintendents meet minimally one time per month with all principals
  7. Committee Meetings
    There are numerous administrative/staff committees that meet as specific tasks require.

General Strengths of the Current Administrative Structure
The strengths of the current administrative structure within the district are as follows:

  1. The basic structure of our district has been in place for many years. As a result, the current department structure is known by many and has predictable ways of operating.
      There exist needed checks and balances within the current system, given the relative equal status of the departments, with each department leader along with the Assistant Superintendents and Chief of Staff directly reporting to the Superintendent of Schools.

    General Weaknesses of the Current Administrative Structure
    The weaknesses of the current administrative structure within the district are as follows:

    1. The degree to which the mission-work of the district, teaching and learning, is central to the function of administration is of concern especially in the way professional development is addressed without a departmental focus.
    2. Traditional organizational structures, while having a degree of predictability, can become bureaucratically laden and can lack inventiveness and the means to encourage participation in decision making.

    Organizational Principles
    In addition to the mission, belief statements and parameters, the following organizational principles serve as a guide for reviewing and defining the administrative structure and administrative processes within the district.

    1. The district will be organized in a manner to best serve the mission of the district .and to support key district strategies to accomplish the mission.
    2. Leadership decisions will be filtered through the lens of our mission.
    3. Central service functions will be organized to support teaching and learning at the schools and should foster supportive relationships between schools and central service functions.
    4. The district’s organizational structure must have coherence on a preK-12 basis and must address the successful transition of students within the district.
    5. The district will be structured to maximize inter-division and intra-division collaboration and cooperation.
    6. The district’s organizational structure must have an orientation toward being of service to stakeholders, internally and externally.
    7. The district must be organized in a manner that allows for ongoing public engagement
      and stakeholder input.

    8. To meet the district’s mission, the district will embrace the principles of learning organizations, effective schools, participative and distributive leadership and teamwork.
    9. The district will make better use of data for decision making, analyzing issues, improving district operations, developing improvement plans and evaluating district efforts.
    10. The need for continuous improvement will be emphasized in our leadership work.
    11. Ongoing development and annual evaluation of district leaders is essential.

    Leadership Needs
    Given these organizational principles, as well as a review of the current administrative structure and administrative processes within the district, the following needs exist. In addition, in the development of this plan, input was sought from all administrators during the annual leadership retreat, individual Management Team members and individual members of the Board of Education. These needs were specifically referenced in identifying the recommended changes in our administrative structure and related administrative processes that are found in this report.

    1. There is a need to better align the administrative structure to the district’s mission and Strategic Plan and to place greater priority on the mission-work of our organization (improved achievement for all students and the elimination of achievement gaps).
    2. From an administrative perspective, the mission-work of our district is mainly delivered through teaching and learning and leadership work being done in our schools. Central service functions must act in support of this work. In addition, central service functions are needed to ensure constancy of focus and direction for the district.
    3. New processes are needed to allow for stakeholder engagement and input and to create greater inter-department and division collaboration and cooperation
    4. The mission of the district must be central to decisions made in the district.
    5. The organizational structure must support PreK -12 articulation and coordination needs within the district.
    6. Leadership work must embody principles of contemporary learning organizations, effective school practices, participative and distributive leadership and teamwork. Included in this will be a focus on the purposeful use ofteacher leadership, support for our schools and a focus on positive culture within the district.
    7. There must be an enhanced focus on the use of data in our improvement and related accountability efforts.
    8. There is a need to unifonnly implement school and department improvement plans and to change administrative supervision and evaluation plans based on research in the field and on the need for continuous improvement of all schools, departments and all individual administrators.

    In addition, as this plan was constructed there was a focus on ensuring, over the next couple of years, that the plan was sustainable from a financial point of view.

A Few Comments on Monday’s State of the Madison School District Presentation

Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad will present the “State of the Madison School District 2010” tomorrow night @ 5:30p.m. CST.
The timing and content are interesting, from my perspective because:

  • The nearby Verona School District just approved a Mandarin immersion charter school on a 4-3 vote. (Watch the discussion here). Madison lags in such expanded “adult to student” learning opportunities. Madison seems to be expanding “adult to adult” spending on “coaches” and “professional development”. I’d rather see an emphasis on hiring great teachers and eliminating the administrative overhead associated with growing “adult to adult” expenditures.
  • I read with interest Alec Russell’s recent lunch with FW de Klerk. de Klerk opened the door to South Africa’s governance revolution by freeing Nelson Mandela in 1990:

    History is moving rather fast in South Africa. In June the country hosts football’s World Cup, as if in ultimate endorsement of its post-apartheid progress. Yet on February 2 1990, when the recently inaugurated state President de Klerk stood up to deliver the annual opening address to the white-dominated parliament, such a prospect was unthinkable. The townships were in ferment; many apartheid laws were still on the books; and expectations of the balding, supposedly cautious Afrikaner were low.
    How wrong conventional wisdom was. De Klerk’s address drew a line under 350 years of white rule in Africa, a narrative that began in the 17th century with the arrival of the first settlers in the Cape. Yet only a handful of senior party members knew of his intentions.

    I sense that the Madison School Board and the Community are ready for new, substantive adult to student initiatives, while eliminating those that simply consume cash in the District’s $418,415,780 2009-2010 budget ($17,222 per student).

  • The “State of the District” document [566K PDF] includes only the “instructional” portion of the District’s budget. There are no references to the $418,415,780 total budget number provided in the October 26, 2009 “Budget Amendment and Tax Levy Adoption document [1.1MB PDF]. Given the organization’s mission and the fact that it is a taxpayer supported and governed entity, the document should include a simple “citizen’s budget” financial summary. The budget numbers remind me of current Madison School Board member Ed Hughes’ very useful 2005 quote:

    This points up one of the frustrating aspects of trying to follow school issues in Madison: the recurring feeling that a quoted speaker – and it can be someone from the administration, or MTI, or the occasional school board member – believes that the audience for an assertion is composed entirely of idiots.

    In my view, while some things within our local public schools have become a bit more transparent (open enrollment, fine arts, math, TAG), others, unfortunately, like the budget, have become much less. This is not good.

  • A new financial reality. I don’t see significant new funds for K-12 given the exploding federal deficit, state spending and debt issues and Madison’s property tax climate. Ideally, the District will operate like many organizations, families and individuals and try to most effectively use the resources it has. The recent Reading Recovery report is informative.

I think Dan Nerad sits on a wonderful opportunity. The community is incredibly supportive of our schools, spending far more per student than most school Districts (quite a bit more than his former Green Bay home) and providing a large base of volunteers. Madison enjoys access to an academic powerhouse: the University of Wisconsin and proximity to MATC and Edgewood College. Yet, District has long been quite insular (see Janet Mertz’s never ending efforts to address this issue), taking a “we know best approach” to many topics via close ties to the UW-Madison School of Education and its own curriculum creation business, the Department of Teaching and Learning.
In summary, I’m hoping for a “de Klerk” moment Monday evening. What are the odds?

The State of the Madison School District, 2010

588K PDF, Dan Nerad, Superintendent:

Dear Members of Our Community, The mission of the Madison Metropolitan School District is as follows:

Our mission is to cultivate the potential in every student to thrive as a global citizen by inspiring a love of learning and civic engagement, by challenging and supporting every student to achieve academic excellence, and by embracing the full richness and diversity of our community.

A year ago, a group of community and school staff members committed time to develop a revised Strategic Plan for the school district. As part of this, our mission statement was revised. This plan was approved by the Board of Education in September 2009 and will be reviewed and updated annually. For the foreseeable future, the plan will serve as our road map to know if we are making a difference relative to important student learning outcomes and to the future of our community. To make the most difference, we must continue to partner with you, our community. We are indeed very fortunate to be able to educate our children in a very supportive, caring community.
As a school district, our highest priority must be on our work related to teaching and learning. For our students and the community’s children to become proficient learners and caring and contributing members of society, we must remain steadfast in this commitment.
Related to our mission, we have also identified the following belief statements as a district:

  1. We believe that excellent public education is necessary for ensuring a democratic society.
  2. Webelieveintheabilitiesofeveryindividualinourcommunityandthevalueof their life experiences.
  3. We believe in an inclusive community in which all have the right to contribute.
  4. Webelievewehaveacollectiveresponsibilitytocreateandsustainasafe environment that is respectful, engaging, vibrant and culturally responsive.
  5. Webelievethateveryindividualcanlearnandwillgrowasalearner.
  6. We believe in continuous improvement in formed by critical evaluation and reflection.
  7. We believe that resources are critical to education and we are responsible for their equitable and effective use.
  8. Webelieveinculturallyrelevanteducationthatprovidestheknowledgeandskills to meet the global challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.

Purpose of this report
The purpose of this State of the District Report is to provide important information about our District to our community and to share future priorities.

This report will be presented at Monday evening’s Madison School Board meeting.

Board of Education Progress Report, December, 2009

Madison School Board President Arlene Silveira, via email:

4-Year-Old Kindergarten (4K): The Board received updates from the community-based 4K planning committee in the areas of: 1) logistics; 2) curriculum; 3) public/community relations; 4) family outreach/involvement; 5) funding. The Board voted to have the District continue to work with the community in planning for 4K with an anticipated start date of September 2010, pending the determination of the availability of the resources necessary to support the new program. A presentation on financial resources will be made to the Board in December.
Financial Audit: As required by state statute, the MMSD hires an independent audit firm to perform an audit of our annual financial statements and review our compliance with federal program requirements. The audit looks at the financial operations of the District. This audit was completed by Clifton Gunderson LLP. The Board received the audit report and a summary from Clifton Gunderson.
When asked what the summary message was that we could share with the community, the response was that the District is in a very sound financial position. Results of operations for 2009 were very positive with $10M added to fund balance. The fund balance is critical to the operation of the District and the cash-flow of the District. We were pleased with the audit outcome.
Math Task Force: The Board approved the administrative response to the 13 recommendations listed in the MMSD Math Task Force Report. The recommendations focused on middle school math specialists; district-wide curricular consistency; achievement gap; assessment; teacher collaboration; parent/community communication; balanced math approach; addressing failing grades in algebra; and algebra in 8th grade. The Board also asked for regular updates on the progress of plan implementation. The Task Force Report is located on the District’s web site.
Enrollment Data: The Board reviewed the enrollment data and projections for the District. One area that stood out was the overcrowding in some of the elementary schools in the La Follette attendance area. The Long Range Planning Committee is starting a series of meetings to study the overcrowding in this area and to develop recommendations for the Board on how to address this issue. It is anticipated that recommendations will be brought back to the Board in February. The Board will have the final say on how to deal with the overcrowding issues.
If you have any questions/comments, please let us know.
Arlene Silveira (516-8981)

Proposed Madison Superintendent Review Guidelines

Madison School District [284K PDF]:

The annual Superintendent evaluation should serve as a positive, objective process for promoting the goals, values, and progress of the district. It is based on the Superintendent’s job description and is one tool used by the Superintendent/Board Leadership Team for informed change and continued improvement of the district.
The Board will identify and approve a timeline for the formal evaluation to review the performance of the Superintendent and the Board/Superintendent Leadership Team on an annual basis. The Board will identify the following under the timeline: a date for the formal evaluation meeting, a date for the end-of-year progress report meeting, a due date for the interim progress report from the Superintendent, a date for a Board/Superintendent Leadership and a date for the end-of-year progress meeting.

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Madison Firefighter’s Union New 2 Year Contract

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz:

Yesterday a two year contract agreement with city firefighters was ratified by the union membership. It’s a good deal for both the union and the city and its taxpayers. The agreement, which still needs to be approved by the City Council, calls for what is essentially a two year pay freeze with a modest 3% increase at the end of the contract period in 2011.
Other levels of government are using furloughs (which are essentially pay cuts) and layoffs to cut their budgets, but I think the city should take a different approach. After all, the city provides many basic direct services that will have a very noticeable impact for our customers if they are cut back. We can’t shut down the fire department or the police department for one day a month. We can’t just not pick up the garbage for a week. It’s far better for our residents if we can manage our way through these tough budget years while keeping our city staff intact to the greatest extent that we can. But if we’re going to do that, then we’ll need cooperation from our unions on wage and benefit settlements.
That kind of cooperation is exactly what we got from Local 311. The firefighters gave us a responsible start to negotiations with the other dozen unions that represent city employees. I said from the start of this recession that we need to approach our challenges with the understanding that we’re all in this together. This settlement is a very strong indication that we’re moving in that direction.

The Madison School District (Board member Johnny Winston, Jr. is a firefighter) and Madison Teachers Union are still working on a new contract. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
There are at least two interesting challenges to an agreement this year:

  1. The elimination of “revenue limits and economic conditions” from collective bargaining arbitration by Wisconsin’s Democratically controlled Assembly and Senate along with Democratic Governer Jim Doyle:

    To make matters more dire, the long-term legislative proposal specifically exempts school district arbitrations from the requirement that arbitrators consider and give the greatest weight to
    revenue limits and local economic conditions. While arbitrators would continue to give these two factors paramount consideration when deciding cases for all other local governments, the importance of fiscal limits and local economic conditions would be specifically diminished for school district arbitration.

  2. The same elected officials eliminated the QEO, a 3.8% cap (in practice, a floor) on teacher salaries and wages in addition to “step” increases based on years of experience among other factors:

    As the dust settles around the new state budget, partisan disagreement continues over the boost that unions – particularly education unions – got by making it easier for them to sign up thousands of new members and by repealing the 3.8% annual limit on teachers’ pay raises.
    The provisions passed because Democrats, who got control of the Legislature for the first time in 14 years, partnered with Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle to advance changes the governor and unions had been pushing for years.
    Unions traditionally help elect Democratic politicians. The largest teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, spent about $2.1 million before last November’s elections, with much of that backing Democrats.
    Most of the labor-related provisions in the budget were added to provide people with “good, family-supporting jobs,” said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), co-chairman of the Legislature’s Finance Committee.
    “The idea that we’re shifting back to the worker, rather than just big business and management, that’s part of what Democrats are about,” Pocan said.
    It also helped that the two top Democratic legislators, Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan of Janesville and Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker of Weston, are veteran labor leaders.

The Madison School District = General Motors?

A provocative headline.
Last Wednesday, 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.”
In light of this talk, It has been fascinating to watch (and participate in) the intersection of:

Several years ago, former Madison Superintendent Art Rainwater remarked that “sometimes I think we have 25,000 school districts, one for each child”.
I found Monday evening’s school board meeting interesting, and perhaps indicative of the issues Zimman noted recently. Our public schools have an always challenging task of trying to support the growing range of wants, needs and desires for our 24,180 students, staff members, teachers, administrators, taxpayers and parents. Monday’s topics included:

I’ve not mentioned the potential addition of 4K, high school redesign or other topics that bubble up from time to time.
In my layperson’s view, taking Zimman’s talk to heart, our public schools should dramatically shrink their primary goals and focus on only the most essential topics (student achievement?). In Madison’s case, get out of the curriculum creation business and embrace online learning opportunities for those students who can excel in that space while devoting staff to the kids who need them most. I would also like to see more opportunities for our students at MATC, the UW, Edgewood College and other nearby institutions. Bellevue (WA) College has a “running start” program for the local high school.

Chart via Whitney Tilson.
Richard Zimman closed his talk with these words (@27 minutes): “Simply throwing more money at schools to continue as they are now is not the answer. We cannot afford more of the same with just a bigger price tag”.
General Motors as formerly constituted is dead. What remains is a much smaller organization beholden to Washington. We’ll see how that plays out. The Madison School District enjoys significant financial, community and parental assets. I hope the Administration does just a few things well.

Madison School Board Rejects Teaching & Learning Expansion; an Interesting Discussion

One of the most interesting things I’ve observed in my years of local school interaction is the extensive amount of pedagogical and content development that taxpayers fund within the Madison School District. I’ve always found this unusual, given the proximity of the University of Wisconsin, MATC and Edgewood College, among other, nearby Institutions of Higher Education.

The recent Math Task Force, a process set in motion by several school board elections, has succeeded in bringing more attention to the District’s math curriculum. Math rigor has long been a simmering issue, as evidenced by this April, 2004 letter from West High School Math Teachers to Isthmus:

Moreover, parents of future West High students should take notice: As you read this, our department is under pressure from the administration and the math coordinator’s office to phase out our “accelerated” course offerings beginning next year. Rather than addressing the problems of equity and closing the gap by identifying minority math talent earlier, and fostering minority participation in the accelerated programs, our administration wants to take the cheaper way out by forcing all kids into a one-size-fits-all curriculum.

It seems the administration and our school board have re-defined “success” as merely producing “fewer failures.” Astonishingly, excellence in student achievement is visited by some school district administrators with apathy at best, and with contempt at worst. But, while raising low achievers is a laudable goal, it is woefully short-sighted and, ironically, racist in the most insidious way. Somehow, limiting opportunities for excellence has become the definition of providing equity! Could there be a greater insult to the minority community?

The fact the Madison’s Teaching & Learning Department did not get what they want tonight is significant, perhaps the first time this has ever happened with respect to Math. I appreciate and am proud of the Madison School Board’s willingness to consider and discuss these important issues. Each Board member offered comments on this matter including: Lucy Mathiak, who pointed out that it would be far less expensive to simply take courses at the UW-Madison (about 1000 for three credits plus books) than spend $150K annually in Teaching & Learning. Marj Passman noted that the Math Task Force report emphasized content knowledge improvement and that is where the focus should be while Maya Cole noted that teacher participation is voluntary. Voluntary participation is a problem, as we’ve seen with the deployment of an online grading and scheduling system for teachers, students and parents.

Much more on math here, including a 2006 Forum (audio / video).

Several years ago, the late Ted Widerski introduced himself at an event. He mentioned that he learned something every week from this site and the weekly eNewsletter. I was (and am) surprised at Ted’s comments. I asked if the MMSD had an internal “Knowledge Network”, like, but oriented around curriculum for teachers? “No”.

It would seem that, given the tremendous local and online resources available today, Teaching & Learning’s sole reason for existence should be to organize and communicate information and opportunities for our teaching staff via the web, email, sms, videoconference, blogs, newsletters and the like. There is certainly no need to spend money on curriculum creation.

Men more frequently require to be reminded than informed.”

Listen to tonight’s nearly 50 minute Madison School Board math discussion via this 22MB mp3 audio file.

5th Annual AP Report to the Nation

1MB PDF The College Board:

Educators across the United States continue to enable a wider and ethnically diverse proportion of students to achieve success in AP®. Significant inequities remain, however, which can result in traditionally underserved students not receiving the sort of AP opportunities that can best prepare them for college success. The 5th Annual AP Report to the Nation uses a combination of state, national and AP Program data to provide each U.S. state with the context it can use to celebrate its successes, understand its unique challenges, and set meaningful, data-driven goals to prepare more students for success in college.

Many links here.
Wisconsin ranked 14th in the percentage of seniors scoring 3+ on an AP exam.
Related: Dane County AP Course offering comparison.
Daniel de Vise has more.
Three California schools recognized for role in boosting Latino performance on AP tests by Carla Rivera:

Three public schools in California led the nation in helping Latino students outperform their counterparts in other states on Advanced Placement exams in Spanish language, Spanish literature and world history, according to a report released Wednesday by the College Board.
Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach was cited as the public school with the largest number of Latino students from the class of 2008 earning a 3 or better in AP world history. Exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5, and many colleges and universities give students course credit for scores of 3 or higher. Advanced Placement courses offer college-level material in a variety of subjects.
Latino students at Fontana High School outpaced their peers on the AP Spanish-language exam, and San Ysidro High School in San Diego had the most Latino students who succeeded on the AP Spanish literature exam.

The “tension” between increased academic opportunities for all students as exemplified in this report versus curriculum reduction for all, in an effort by some to address the achievement gap was much discussed during last week’s Madison School District Strategic Planning Process meetings. Background here, here, here, here and here.

Proposed House “Stimulus” / Splurge Bill: Nearly $18M for the Madison School District, borrowed from our Grandkids

Click for a larger version of this very simple illustration

Mark Pitsch:

The House version of a federal economic stimulus bill would deliver more than $4.3 billion to Wisconsin over the next two years, under details of the bill released Friday.
That figure includes nearly $18 million for Madison schools and millions more for other local districts.
“I’m very pleased by this. We know this is a difficult time, but at the same time there are needs that our children have that can’t go unmet,” said Dan Nerad, Madison schools superintendent. “I’m very hopeful. I’m very optimistic and we’ll see what comes.”
Under bill descriptions released by Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and an analysis of Medicaid by a Washington, D.C. think tank, the House version would also provide:

$1.2 billion to help the state fill its $5.4 billion budget hole, with at least 61 percent being spent on schools and colleges.


  • Wistax:

    Total taxes collected from Wisconsin averaged $12,281 per person in 2007-08. The $69.4 billion in annual collections was up 3.4%. Relative to personal income, however, taxes were down slightly, from 34.9% in 2007 to 34.2% in 2008.

  • United States Government outstanding debt ($32,795 per citizen).
  • US Population
  • Major foreign holders of US Treasuries.
  • The Congressional Research Service produced the school funding information.
  • “Be Nice to the Countries That Lend You Money”. An interview with Gao Xiqing, a man who oversees many of China’s US holdings, by James Fallows (more from Fallows). Related:
    • The economic crisis hits China – Video.
    • US Senate Finance Committee Q & A with Tim Geithner 284K PDF, David Kotok comments:

      One telling example is found in the following quote that has already created international consternation. Geithner twice answered questions about currency and China. In so doing he has placed the Obama administration squarely in the middle of the tension between the United States and the largest international buyer and holder of US debt: China. This happened as the same Obama administration is unveiling a package that will add to the TARP financing needs and the cyclical deficit financing needs and cause the United States to borrow about $2 trillion this year. Two trillion dollars of newly issued Treasury debt – and this is how the question was answered. Not once but twice.
      Geithner (on page 81 and again on page 95) answered: “President Obama – backed by the conclusions of a broad range of economists – believes that China is manipulating its currency. President Obama has pledged as President to use aggressively all the diplomatic avenues open to him to seek change in China’s currency practices.”
      “Manipulation?” “Aggressively?” This is strong language. Geithner did not do this on his own authority. These are prepared answers. He is citing the new President, not once but twice.
      China’s response was fast and direct. China’s commerce ministry said in Beijing that China “has never used so-called currency manipulation to gain benefits in its international trade. Directing unsubstantiated criticism at China on the exchange-rate issue will only help US protectionism and will not help towards a real solution to the issue.”
      Are we seeing the world’s largest and third largest economies calling each other names in the middle of a global economic and financial meltdown?

      And, the $150,000,000 inauguration party.

  • Peter Peterson Foundation:

    To increase public awareness of the nature and urgency of key economic challenges threatening America’s future and accelerate action on them. To meet these challenges successfully, we work to bring Americans together to find sensible, sustainable solutions that transcend age, party lines and ideological divides in order to achieve real results.

  • Related with respect to printing money: Zimbabwe’s central banker defends policies:

    Your critics blame your monetary policies for Zimbabwe’s economic problems. I’ve been condemned by traditional economists who said that printing money is responsible for inflation. Out of the necessity to exist, to ensure my people survive, I had to find myself printing money. I found myself doing extraordinary things that aren’t in the textbooks. Then the IMF asked the U.S. to please print money. I began to see the whole world now in a mode of practicing what they have been saying I should not. I decided that God had been on my side and had come to vindicate me.

  • Clusty Search: Lobbyist

It will be interesting to see how this money, assuming it is authorized and borrowed, is spent. Will it be spent in a way that grows the District’s operating costs and therefore increases the local property tax burden once the stimulus/splurge is exhausted?
If we must borrow these funds from our grandchildren, then I would like to see it spent in a way that has long term benefits. Superintendent Nerad spoke of children whose needs are going unmet; well, those kids will be paying for these borrowed funds.
Finally, it appears that someone is spreading the love, as it were. The Congressional Research Service (whose work is not publicly available) wrote a report on stimulus/splurge funding for all US school districts. Have a look at all of the Google News references. Defense programs are known for spreading jobs around key congressional districts as a means of self preservation.

Mathmetician The Best Job in the US; Madison Math Task Force Community Meetings Tonight & Tomorrow

Sarah Needleman:

Nineteen years ago, Jennifer Courter set out on a career path that has since provided her with a steady stream of lucrative, low-stress jobs. Now, her occupation — mathematician — has landed at the top spot on a new study ranking the best and worst jobs in the U.S.
“It’s a lot more than just some boring subject that everybody has to take in school,” says Ms. Courter, a research mathematician at mental images Inc., a maker of 3D-visualization software in San Francisco. “It’s the science of problem-solving.”
The study, to be released Tuesday from, a new job site, evaluates 200 professions to determine the best and worst according to five criteria inherent to every job: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. ( is published by Adicio Inc., in which Wall Street Journal owner News Corp. holds a minority stake.)
The findings were compiled by Les Krantz, author of “Jobs Rated Almanac,” and are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, as well as studies from trade associations and Mr. Krantz’s own expertise.
According to the study, mathematicians fared best in part because they typically work in favorable conditions — indoors and in places free of toxic fumes or noise — unlike those toward the bottom of the list like sewage-plant operator, painter and bricklayer. They also aren’t expected to do any heavy lifting, crawling or crouching — attributes associated with occupations such as firefighter, auto mechanic and plumber.
The study also considers pay, which was determined by measuring each job’s median income and growth potential. Mathematicians’ annual income was pegged at $94,160, but Ms. Courter, 38, says her salary exceeds that amount.


Parents and citizens have another opportunity to provide input on this matter when Brian Sniff, Madison’s Math Coordinator and Lisa Wachtel, Director of Madison’s Teaching & Learning discuss the Math Report at a Cherokee Middle School PTO meeting on January 14, 2009 at 7:00p.m.

Madison Business Employees Help Tutor Students; Local Reading Scores


Years after graduation, he’s hearing the ring of the school bell at Sherman Middle School on Madison’s north side.
“I’ve had an effect on a number of the kids’ math scores,” said Schmidt, 44, whose background is in computer software design. “I know they’re doing better because they tell me they’re doing better.”
He said that he isn’t happy to take the credit, which is something that almost has to be pulled out of him. But the five students who he tutors weekly in math as part of the “Schools of Hope” tutoring program sing his praises when he’s out of the room.
“Monty’s awesome,” said seventh-grader Henrietta Allison.
“They know that when he comes in on Monday, he’s going to be asking, ‘Did you do your homework? What are you missing?'” said teacher Chrissy Mitlyng. “They expect that, and I think that’s a really good relationship to have.”
Teachers report that students who work with the tutors are more confident after their sessions, and are more likely to speak up in class and participate in group work. While classroom confidence might be the most notable impact, it trickles down to fill the racial achievement gap the program was designed to help close, WISC-TV reported.
In 1995, 28.5 percent of black students in the Madison Metropolitan School District tested below the minimal standard on the third grade reading test, along with 9.7 percent of Latino students, 24.2 percent of Asian students and 4.1 percent of white students.

Related: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before:

On November 7, Superintendent Art Rainwater made his annual report to the Board of Education on progress toward meeting the district’s student achievement goal in reading. As he did last fall, the superintendent made some interesting claims about the district’s success in closing the academic achievement gap “based on race”.
According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.
What the superintendent is saying is that MMSD has closed the achievement gap associated with race now that roughly the same percentage of students in each subgroup score at the minimal level (limited achievement in reading, major misconceptions or gaps in knowledge and skills of reading). That’s far from the original goal of the board. We committed to helping all students complete the 3rd grade able to read at or beyond grade level as demonstrated by all students in all subgroups scoring at proficient or advanced reading levels on the WRCT.

More here and here.

Madison School District Enrollment Data Analysis

The Madison Metropolitan School District [724K PDF]:

The following document explores enrollment trends based on four different factors: intemal transfers, private school enrollments, inter-district Open Enrollment, and home based enrollments. The most current data is provided in each case. Not all data are from the current school year. Certain data are based on DPI reports and there are lags in the dates upon which reports are published.
Most internal transfers within the MMSD are a function of two factors: programs not offered at each home school (e.g., ESL centers) and students moving between attendance areas and wishing to remain in the school they had been attending prior to the move. Notable schools in regard to transfers include Shorewood Elementary which has both a very high transfer in rate and a very low transfer out rate, Marquette which has a high transfer in rate, and Emerson which has a high transfer out rate.
Based on data reported to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), private school enrollments within the MMSD attendance area have held fairly steady for the past several years, with a slight increase in the most recent two years. The District’s percentage of private school enrollment is roughly average among two separate benchmark cohort groups: the largest Wisconsin school districts and the Dane County school districts. Using data supplied annually to the MMSD by ten area private schools it appears that for the past three year period private school elementary enrollment is declining slightly, middle school enrollment is constant, and high school enrollment has been variable. Stephens, Midvale, Leopold, and Crestwood Elementary Schools, and Cherokee and Whitehorse Middle Schools have experienced declines in private school enrollment during this period. Hawthorne and Emerson Elementary Schools, Toki and (to a lesser extent) Sherman Middle Schools, and West and Memorial High Schools have experienced increases in private school enrollments. The East attendance area has very limited private school enrollment.
Home based education has remained very steady over the past six years based on data reported to the DPI. There is no discernible trend either upward or downward. Roughly 420 to 450 students residing within the MMSD area are reported as participating in home based instruction during this period. Like private school enrollment, the MMSD’s percentage of home based enrollment is roughly average among two separate benchmark cohort groups: the largest Wisconsin school districts and the Dane County school districts.
Open Enrollment, which allows for parents to apply to enroll their Children in districts other than their home district, is by far the largest contributor to enrollment shifts relative to this list of factors. In 2008-09, there are now over 450 students leaving the MMSD to attend other districts compared with just under 170 students entering the MMSD. Transition grades appear to be critical decision points for parents. Certain schools are particularly affected by Open Enrollment decisions and these tend to be schools near locations within close proximity to surrounding school districts. Virtual school options do not appear to be increasing in popularity relative to physical school altematives.

ACE Update on the November 2008 Madison Referendum, Information Session Tonight

REMINDER: The MMSD district is holding its second of four “Information Sessions” regarding the referendum tonight (Thursday, October 16), 6:30 pm, Jefferson Middle School. You are urged to attend.
The Madison Metropolitan School District seeks approval of the district taxpayers to permanently exceed the revenue cap for operations money by $13 million a year. In the meantime, to establish that new tax base over the next three years, a total of $27 million in more revenue will have been raised for programs and services. The district has also projected there will continue to be a ‘gap’ or shortfall of revenue to meet expenses of approximately $4 million per year after the next three years, thereby expecting to seek approval for additional spending authority.
Whereas, the Board of Education has staked the future of the district on increased spending to maintain current programs and services for a “high quality education;”
Whereas, student performance on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exams has languished at the 7, 8, and 9 deciles (in comparison with the rest of the state’s schools where 1 is the highest level and 10 is the lowest) in 4th, 8th and 10th grade reading, math, science, social studies and language arts exams for the past five years. The total percentage of MMSD students performing at either “proficient” or “advanced” levels (the two highest standards) has consistently ranged in mid 60%s to mid 70%s;
Whereas, the district Drop Out Rate of 2.7% (2006-07) was the highest since 1998-99. With the exception of two years with slight declines, the rate has risen steadily since 1999.
Whereas, the Attendance Rate for all students has remained basically steady since 1998-99 in a range from 95.2% (2005-06) to a high of 96.5% (2001-02);
Whereas, the district Truancy Rate of students habitually truant has risen again in the past three years to 6.0% in 2006-07. The truancy rate has ranged from 6.3% (1999-2000) to 4.4% in 2002-03;
Whereas, the district total PreK-12 enrollment has declined from 25,087 (2000-01) to its second lowest total of 24,540 (2008-09) since that time;
Whereas, the district annual budget has increased from approximately $183 million in 1994-1995 (the first year of revenue caps) to approximately $368 million (2008-09);
Whereas, the board explains the ‘budget gap’ between revenue and expenses as created by the difference between the state mandated Qualified Economic Offer of 3.8% minimum for salary and health benefits for professional teaching staff and the 2.2% average annual increases per student in the property tax levy. The district, however, has agreed with the teachers’ union for an average 4.24% in annual increases since 2001;
Whereas, the district annual cost per pupil is the second highest in the state at $13,280 for the school year 2007-08;

Property Tax Effect – Madison School District

As the cost of running the district continues to rise, and as Madison homeowners and families find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet, it is easy to think that our property taxes are also ever rising. But that’s not the case, at least as regards the portion that goes toward our schools. Over the past 15 years, the schools’ portion of Madison property taxes has declined 6%, on average. The decrease is 9% if you adjust for today’s higher enrollment figures (1993 = 23,600; 2007 = 24,200). And it plunges to a 36% decrease if you adjust for inflation; (a dollar today is worth 30% less than it was 15 years ago).
The chart below, based on local funding of MMSD and data from the city assessor’s office, shows the recent history of school mill rates, the rate that is applied to your assessed property value to determine how much you contribute towards Madison schools (10 mills = 1.0% of the assessed property value). The reported rate has dropped from 20 mills to 10, but property values have doubled thanks to the general rise in home prices (termed “revaluations” by the assessor’s office), so the rate is more appropriately captured below by the “Net of Revaluations” line. That line is then adjusted for school enrollment (the red line), and inflation (the heavier blue line).

There are three important caveats to the above statements: 1.) school taxes are lower on average, but if your home has increased in value by more than about 110% since 1993, then you will be paying more for schools; 2.) it is the schools portion of property taxes that is lower on average; the remaining portion of property taxes that pays for the city, Dane County, Wisconsin, and MATC, has risen; 3.) other sources of Madison school funding (state and federal funds, and grants and fees) have also gone up; (I have not done the much more complicated calculation of real increase in funding there).
That the infamous schools’ portion of property taxes has declined over these past 15 years is quite a surprising result, and certainly counterintuitive to what one might expect. How is this possible? First, the school finance structure put in place by the state years ago has worked, at least as far as holding down property taxes. The current structure allows about a 2% increase in expense each year, consistent with the CPI (Consumer Price Index) at the state level. (In fact, local funding of the MMSD has increased from $150 million in 1993 to $209 million in 2007, equivalent to about a 2.4% increase each year.) Of course, the problem is that same structure allows for a 3.8% wage hike for teachers if districts wish to avoid arbitration, an aspect that has essentially set an effective floor on salary increases (with salaries & benefits representing 84% of the district budget). The difference between the revenue increases and the pay increases, about 1-2% annually, is why we face these annual painful budget quandaries that can only be met by cuts in school services, or by a referendum permitting higher school costs, and taxes.
The second reason today’s property taxes are lower than they have been historically is growth, in the form of new construction (i.e. new homes & buildings, as well as remodelings). What we each pay in school property taxes is the result of a simple fraction: the numerator is the portion of school expenses that is paid through local property taxes, while the denominator is the tax base for the entire city (actually the portion of Madison and neighboring communities where kids live within the MMSD). The more the tax base grows, the larger the denominator, and the more people and places to share the property taxes with. Since 1993, new construction in Madison has consistently grown at about 3% per year. Indeed, since 1980 no year has ever seen new construction less than 2.3% nor more than 3.9%. So every year, your property taxes are reduced about 3% thanks to all the new construction in town. I leave it to the reader to speculate how much the pace of new construction and revaluations will decline if the schools here should decline in quality.
FYI, the figure below shows how new construction and revaluations have behaved in Madison since 1984, as well as total valuations (which is the sum of the two).

Taxpayers should NOT be asked to give the Madison School Board a blank check!

Active Citizens for Education (ACE) calls for the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education to delay making specific decisions for the presentation of a recurring referendum to the taxpayers for a vote on the November election ballot.
Passage of a recurring referendum on the November 2008 ballot would allow the board and school administration to permanently exceed the state mandated revenue spending caps. Such a move to fix a so-called current “budget gap” would allow the board and administration to exceed annual spending caps permanently, every year into the future. This would virtually give the board a “blank check” from district taxpayers to plug future budget gaps or shortfalls. It could prevent the board and administration from having to carefully and thoughtfully budget, like every taxpayer must do when their household budget faces tough economic times and shortfalls.
The plans and communications presented in recent weeks by the board and administration provide greater hope for more effective decision-making now and in the future. The recommendations for changes in policy and accountability options in community services, transportation, lease contracts, fund balances and capital expansion (maintenance) will have positive impacts on reducing the so-called “budget gap.”
The Board must earn the trust of the taxpayers by clearly showing that they can be “good stewards” of taxpayer dollars. Past experience has not earned that trust! If a referendum is ultimately required to fix upcoming budgets, it should be a non-recurring referendum, thereby preventing ‘mortgaging’ the future with year-after-year, permanent increases in spending authority.
The Board and administration must correct the absence of specific processes and strategies for analysis and evaluation of business and educational services, programs, practices and policies. Urgent and substantial investments of time and work are critical for these processes to evolve into hard evidence. This evidence is absolutely necessary to show the public that serious steps are under way to provide clear, concrete data and options for identifying the most effective and efficient results-oriented management of the financial resources of the district. It must be shown that the resources will be directly applied to improvements in student learning and achievement.

Madison Referendum Climate: Local Property Tax Bite & Entitlements

Wisconsin State Journal Editorial: “Tame State’s Tax Bite on Homes”:

The poor rating should serve as yet another warning to state and local leaders not to jack up this worst-of-all tax even higher. It also should energize groups such as The Wisconsin Way, which is brainstorming for creative and fair ways to reduce our state ‘s property tax burden while growing our high-tech economy.
If anything, the Taxpayers Alliance ranking Tuesday minimized the pinch many Wisconsin homeowners feel. That ‘s because the group looked at the burden on all properties together — homes, businesses, farms and other land.
If you single out just homes, a different study last year suggested Wisconsin property taxes rank No. 1 in the nation. The National Association of Home Builders compiled property tax rates on a median-valued home in each state. Only Wisconsin and Texas (which doesn ‘t have a state income tax) exceeded $18 per $1,000 of property value.
In its report Tuesday, the Taxpayers Alliance measured the property tax bite more broadly. It ranked states based on ability to pay. It found that Wisconsin ‘s property tax burden eats up about 4.4 percent of personal income here.

Mark Perry – “A Nation of Entitlements“:

These middle class retirement programs, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, cost more than $1 trillion annually (about the same as the entire economic output of Canada, the 13th largest ecoomy in the world, see chart above), and will cause federal spending to jump by half, from 20% of the economy to 35% by 2035. This tsunami of spending is a major threat to limited government because it runs on auto-pilot with automatic increases locked in by each program’s governing laws. While other programs are constrained through annual budgets, entitlements get first call on resources. Other goals such as defense or national security must compete for an increasingly smaller share of what’s left.

Advocating a Standard Graduation Rate & Madison’s “2004 Elimination of the Racial Achievement Gap in 3rd Grade Reading Scores”

Leslie Ann Howard:

Back in 1995, when the Wisconsin State Journal and WISC-TV began a civic journalism project to study the racial achievement gaps in our schools, the statistical measures of student achievement and reading in third grade put the issue in sharp focus.
United Way and our community partners’ efforts, through a variety of strategies including the Schools of Hope tutoring program, relied on those strong, focused statistics to measure the success of our 1-on-1 and 1-on-2 tutoring.
By 2004, Superintendent Art Rainwater was able to announce the elimination of the racial achievement gap in third grade reading scores, because our community had focused on stable statistical measure for over 10 years.
A standard graduation rate formula would create the same public focus for our nation’s efforts to increase high school graduation rates.


AP Report to the Nation

College Board [1.5MB PDF]:

More than 15 percent of the public high school class of 2007 achieved at least one AP® Exam grade of 3 or higher1—the score that is predictive of college success. This achievement represents a significant and consistent improvement since the class of 2002 when less than 12 percent of public school graduates attained this goal.
Out of all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, Vermont captured the largest increase in the percentage of high school graduates who scored a 3 or higher on an AP Exam.
In its fourth annual “AP Report to the Nation,” the College Board (the not-for-profit membership association that owns and administers the AP Program), focuses on educators’ quantifiable successes in helping a wider segment of the nation’s students gain access to and achieve success in college-level work. Of the estimated 2.8 million students who graduated from U.S. public schools in 2007, almost 426,000 (15.2 percent) earned an AP Exam grade of at least a 3 on one or more AP Exams during their high school tenure, the report documents. This is up from 14.7 percent in 2006 and 11.7 percent in 2002.
Earning a 3 or higher on an AP Exam is one of “the very best predictors of college performance,”2 with AP students earning higher college grades and graduating from college at higher rates than otherwise similar peers in control groups, according to recent reports from researchers at the University of California at Berkeley,3 the National Center for Educational Accountability,4 and the University of Texas at Austin.5,6
New York, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, Massachusetts and Connecticut all saw more than 20 percent of their students graduate from high school having earned an AP Exam grade of 3 or higher. AP achievements for each state’s class of 2002, class of 2006 and class of 2007 are detailed in the report. (See “The 4th Annual AP Report to the Nation,” Table 1, page 5.)
“Educators and policymakers across the nation should be commended for their sustained commitment to helping students achieve access to and success in AP courses and exams” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “More students from varied backgrounds are accomplishing their AP goals, but we can’t afford to believe equity has been achieved until the demographics of successful AP participation and performance are identical to the demographics of the overall student population.”
Though 75 percent of U.S. high school graduates enter college,7 dropout rates and the fact that about half of all college freshmen are taking at least one remedial course indicate that secondary schools must dedicate themselves to more than college admission,8 the report asserts.
“Remedial course work in college costs taxpayers an estimated $1 billion a year,”9 Caperton said. “To shrink the gap between those who enter college and those who complete a degree, we must target the divide between high school graduation standards and the skills that all students need to be prepared for the rigors of college. The critical reasoning, subject-matter expertise and study skills students must develop to succeed on the three-hour college-level AP Exams fortify high school graduates for a successful transition into their freshman year at college. This makes providing better readiness for—and access to—AP courses absolutely essential.”

Related: Dane County, WI High School AP Course Comparison. The Madison School District received a grant in 2005 to increase the number of AP classes available to students. Madison High School AP offerings, according to the College Board: East 11, Edgewood 11, LaFollette 10, Memorial 17 and West 5.
Mitchell Landsberg digs into the report here.

Report Compares Racine to 9 Other Wisconsin School Districts, Including Madison

Pete Selkowe crunches the findings:

After ten years of exhaustive diagnostics, poking and prodding, the patient — Racine Unified School District — still is quite sick.
The Public Policy Forum’s just released 10th annual comparative analysis of RUSD (paid for by Education Racine, the not-for-profit foundation of RAMAC) — comparing the district to nine peer* districts with similar enrollments — is measured in many places, objectively reporting such things as student achievement, graduation rates, truancy and more.
But the bottom line, stated with ultimate tact — “Our data do not fit with the customer satisfaction objective.” — gives clear warning of what’s to come.
The report’s major findings, released at a Wingspread briefing tonight, conclude:
Diversity: The minority population in RUSD, the state’s fourth largest district with 21,696 students, continues to grow. Racine’s classrooms now are 48.1% minority, up from 36.9% ten years ago, thanks to an influx of Asian and Hispanic students. African-American enrollment has increased “modestly” in recent years and white enrollment has “declined somewhat.”
White students now make up 51.9% of RUSD’s enrollment; African-Americans 26.7% and Hispanics 19.6%. Statewide, 22.1% of students are minority.
Operational Efficiency: State aid to RUSD has increased 40.2% in 10 years, yet we’re now 8th out of 10. (State aid to Kenosha has risen 70.8% in the same period.) Property tax revenue is up 21.4%; Kenosha’s has gone up 41.7%. RUSD falls to 9th in the growth of federal aid: up 87.5% in 10 years, while Kenosha has gone up 146.9% and Appleton 346.9%.
The district ranked 8th out of 10 in property taxes collected per pupil. Racine was third in instructional spending per pupil, sixth in operational spending. RUSD spent $10,169 per pupil, just $119 below the state average, but well below Madison’s $12,163.

Dani McClain:

These findings are part of the Public Policy Forum’s 10th annual report on how Racine Unified stacks up among Wisconsin’s 10 largest districts – excluding Milwaukee – in student achievement, engagement and finances.
“I think you have here the largest, most comprehensive study of any district in the state of Wisconsin, and possibly the country,” Jeff Browne, president of the Milwaukee think tank, said to a gathering of advocates, school officials and business leaders Wednesday.
Racine Unified, the state’s fourth-largest district, faces serious challenges, the report shows.
Its students ranked near the bottom at all grade levels when compared with peer districts on state reading and math tests in the 2006-’07 school year. This is in keeping with recent years’ rankings, though there is some improvement at the elementary level.

Charts comparing the 10 Districts.
Complete Report: 240K PDF
Public Policy Forum Website

An Interesting Report on the Financial Condition and Position of the Milwaukee Public Schools

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce [330K PDF]: As will be seen, MPS already has many challenges: Declining student numbers and a host of viable options for K12 students and their families; Rising and, in some cases, difficult to control costs. Though MPS’s finances are similar to other large, diverse districts, … Continue reading An Interesting Report on the Financial Condition and Position of the Milwaukee Public Schools

April Board of Education Progress Report – Johnny Winston, Jr.

The month of April brings showers; however, for the Madison BOE it brings new beginnings, budget challenges and community dialogue. First, regarding new beginnings, let me congratulate Beth Moss and Maya Cole on their election onto the Madison School Board. They will be replacing the retiring Shwaw Vang and Ruth Robarts. Our community should be … Continue reading April Board of Education Progress Report – Johnny Winston, Jr.

School Crime Data in Madison

Madison Parent: How safe are our schools? This question can’t be answered without consistent collection and analysis of information about violent and disruptive incidents in our schools. While the Madison Police Department has just released its Uniform Crime Report for 2006 (the summary of crime statistics that is reported annually to the FBI), there’s no … Continue reading School Crime Data in Madison

Reading Between the Lines: Madison Was Right to Reject Compromised Program

Jason Shephard: From the beginning, Mary Watson Peterson had doubts about the motivations of those in charge of implementing federal education grants known as Reading First. As the Madison district’s coordinator of language arts and reading, she spent hundreds of hours working on Madison’s Reading First grant proposal. “Right away,” she says, “I recognized a … Continue reading Reading Between the Lines: Madison Was Right to Reject Compromised Program

Comments on BOE Progress Report for December

Madison School Board President Johnny Winston, Jr. (thanks!) posted a rather remarkable summary of recent activity today. I thought it would be useful to recall recent Board Majority inaction when reviewing Johnny’s words: It’s remarkable to consider that just a few short years ago, substantive issues were simply not discussed by the School Board, such … Continue reading Comments on BOE Progress Report for December

Human Resources Committee of Madison Board To Set Agenda

On Monday, August 21 the Human Resources Committee of the Madison School Board will have its first meeting at 7:00 p.m. in Room 103 of the Doyle Administration Building (545 West Dayton Street). Following a goal-setting meeting of the Board on June 19, the committee will address a number of important issues, beginning with alternative … Continue reading Human Resources Committee of Madison Board To Set Agenda

The Madison Community – Students, Parents, Professionals, Citizens – Can Help Elementary Strings: Here’s How

The community CAN HELP elementary strings and fine arts education in MMSD. Please write the School Board – – ask them a) to establish a community fine arts education advisory committee beginning with a small community working group to put together a plan for this, b) develop a multi-year strategic and education plan for … Continue reading The Madison Community – Students, Parents, Professionals, Citizens – Can Help Elementary Strings: Here’s How

East / West Task Force Report: Board Discussion and Public Comments

Video | MP3 Audio Monday evening’s Board meeting presented a rather animated clash of wills between, it appears, those (A majority of the Board, based on the meeting discussions) who support Fitchburg’s Swan Creek residents and their desire to remain at a larger Leopold School vs. those who favor using existing District schools that have … Continue reading East / West Task Force Report: Board Discussion and Public Comments

States Report Reading First Yielding Gains, Some Schools Getting Ousted for Quitting

Little solid evidence is available to gauge whether the federal government’s multibillion-dollar Reading First initiative is having an effect on student achievement, but many states are reporting anecdotally that they are seeing benefits for their schools. Among those benefits are extensive professional development in practices deemed to be research-based, extra instructional resources, and ongoing support … Continue reading States Report Reading First Yielding Gains, Some Schools Getting Ousted for Quitting

3/7/2005 Madison School Board Meeting Budget Comments

Board Members and citizens discussed the Madison School District Administration’s proposed budget changes (reductions in the increase, cuts and program eliminations – see this post for details. The overall budget will go up, from 317M to 327.7M as it does annually.) this past Monday evening: Don Severson & Bill Keys on special election costs, spending … Continue reading 3/7/2005 Madison School Board Meeting Budget Comments

Madison�s Accredited Early Educators Propose Solution for Four-Year Old Kindergarten

Several times in recent years, the Madison School Board has considered ways to create a four-year old kindergarten program for all Madison children. The goal of “universal” four-year old kindergarten is to assure that every child enters elementary school ready to learn. In the past, the administration’s proposals involved partnerships with private accredited daycare programs … Continue reading Madison�s Accredited Early Educators Propose Solution for Four-Year Old Kindergarten

‘Voters are tired of you’: A week after parcel tax defeat, LAUSD parents rail at district leaders during 2019-20 budget hearing

Taylor Swaak: Parents blasted L.A. Unified officials at a school board hearing this week — one even bursting into tears — offering an angry glimpse into the fractured trust between the community and the district just one week after voters overwhelmingly rejected a new parcel tax. Many of the more than 20 speakers at Tuesday’s … Continue reading ‘Voters are tired of you’: A week after parcel tax defeat, LAUSD parents rail at district leaders during 2019-20 budget hearing

Civics: Google Axes Lobbyists Amid Growing Government Scrutiny

Brody Mullins and Ted Mann: Google has fired about a half-dozen of its largest lobbying firms as part of a major overhaul of its global government affairs and policy operations amid the prospect of greater government scrutiny of its businesses. In the past few months, the company has shaken up its roster of lobbying firms, … Continue reading Civics: Google Axes Lobbyists Amid Growing Government Scrutiny

Commentary on Wisconsin Department of Instruction Superintendent Stanford Taylor

Logan Wroge: Stanford Taylor said the two-year education spending package is an “equity budget” meant to target Wisconsin’s achievement gaps between races, children with or without disabilities, low-income students and limited-English learners. “We have to be very intentional about how we’re going to go about making sure that we’re lifting all of those students up, … Continue reading Commentary on Wisconsin Department of Instruction Superintendent Stanford Taylor

Meet the ‘crazy’ moms saying one of Pa.’s top-rated school districts can’t teach reading

Avi Wolfman-Arent: The small parent rebellion forming in one of Pennsylvania’s wealthiest school districts began at a Starbucks in suburban Chester County. Over coffee, three moms — Kate Mayer, Jamie Lynch, and Wendy Brooks — swapped stories about how their kids struggled to read as they moved through the Tredyffrin/Easttown school district, located about 30 … Continue reading Meet the ‘crazy’ moms saying one of Pa.’s top-rated school districts can’t teach reading

Minnesota’s persistent literacy gap has lawmakers looking for ways to push evidence-based reading instruction

Erin Hinrichs: “Minnesota has a state of emergency regarding literacy. I’m very disappointed with where we’re at right now with the persistent reading success gap between white students and students of color,” he said Wednesday. “We are not making adequate progress, and the future of tens of thousands of our students is seriously at risk … Continue reading Minnesota’s persistent literacy gap has lawmakers looking for ways to push evidence-based reading instruction

“One issue state officials say they have detected as they monitor the effectiveness of the READ Act is that not all teachers are up to date on how best to teach reading.”

Christopher Osher: But districts are free to use their READ Act per-pupil funds on whatever curriculum they want, even on interventions researchers have found ineffective. “Typically, as with any education policy, we’re only given so much authority on what we can tell districts to do and what we monitor for,” Colsman said in an interview … Continue reading “One issue state officials say they have detected as they monitor the effectiveness of the READ Act is that not all teachers are up to date on how best to teach reading.”

School Board member James Howard not running for re-election (2019)

Negassi Tesfamichael: The three-term School Board member said he is most proud of helping further MMSD’s work on diversity and inclusion. Howard said he wished the School Board could have approved several more major initiatives that he said would have helped students of color. Howard, the only black man on the School Board, is currently … Continue reading School Board member James Howard not running for re-election (2019)

“We are 10 steps behind”: Detroit students seek fair access to literacy

CBS News: Our series, School Matters, features extended stories and investigations on education. In this installment, we’re looking at a lawsuit winding its way through the federal appeals process that questions whether access to literacy is a constitutional right. A federal judge in Michigan recently ruled it wasn’t when he dismissed a 2016 case. That … Continue reading “We are 10 steps behind”: Detroit students seek fair access to literacy

5 Uncomfortable Truths About Waste in School Spending

procure 12: 2. Higher spending does not always translate to higher achievement. Local and state spending on education is nearing $870 billion annually (for K-12 and higher education)–and it increases every year. Yet, relative achievement has flatlined. WalletHub looked at the most populous US cities, dividing test scores in 4th and 8th grade reading and … Continue reading 5 Uncomfortable Truths About Waste in School Spending

Have we made progress on achievement gaps? Looking at evidence from the new NAEP results

Michael Hansen, Elizabeth Mann Levesque, Diana Quintero, and Jon Valant : Last week, the National Assessment Governing Board and National Center for Education Statistics released results from the 2017 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). Often referred to as “the Nation’s Report Card,” these results provide a bi-annual barometer on how states and the country … Continue reading Have we made progress on achievement gaps? Looking at evidence from the new NAEP results

Fighting to stay in the middle class

Kirkus Review: The middle class is endangered on all sides,” argues journalist Quart (Republic of Outsiders: The Power of Amateurs, Dreamers, and Rebels, 2014, etc.), executive editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a nonprofit journalism group. In this highly thoughtful and compassionate account, she describes the forces that are making the traditional aspects of … Continue reading Fighting to stay in the middle class

Commentary on Charter School Financial models, Compare to K-12 Districts

School Finance: About a year ago, I released this report: In which Gary Miron and I discuss various methods by which charter school operators work largely within existing policy constraints, to achieve financial gain. While working on this report, I explored various other topics that did not make the final cut, in part because I … Continue reading Commentary on Charter School Financial models, Compare to K-12 Districts

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Over 38 million American households can’t afford their housing, an increase of 146 percent in the past 16 years

Ben Popken: Over 38 million American households can’t afford their housing, an increase of 146 percent in the past 16 years, according to a recent Harvard housing report. Under federal guidelines, households that spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs are considered “cost burdened” and will have difficulty affording basic necessities … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Over 38 million American households can’t afford their housing, an increase of 146 percent in the past 16 years

Your action requested on Wisconsin DPI’s emergency rule (Foundations of Reading/MTEL)

Wisconsin Reading Coalition, via a kind email: Citing anecdotal evidence of a shortage of fully licensed teachers for available positions, DPI has issued an emergency rule that would allow many in-state and out-of-state individuals to become licensed and act as teachers-of-record in the classroom without passing the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT). The work-around to … Continue reading Your action requested on Wisconsin DPI’s emergency rule (Foundations of Reading/MTEL)

University of Wisconsin Faculty Find Widespread Bullying

Colleen Flaherty: Some 35 percent of faculty members who completed a survey on work-life issues at the University of Wisconsin at Madison reported having been bullied by colleagues within the last three years, The Cap Times reported. “The measure of incidence of hostile and intimidating behavior is rather surprising,” reads a new report on survey … Continue reading University of Wisconsin Faculty Find Widespread Bullying

Milwaukee’s Voucher Verdict What 26 years of vouchers can teach the private-school choice movement—if only it would listen

Erin Richards: Together, Travis Academy and Holy Redeemer have received close to $100 million in taxpayer funding over the years. The sum is less than what taxpayers would have paid for those pupils in public schools, because each tuition voucher costs less than the total expense per pupil in Milwaukee Public Schools. But vouchers weren’t … Continue reading Milwaukee’s Voucher Verdict What 26 years of vouchers can teach the private-school choice movement—if only it would listen

School Resource Officer Discussion

City of Madison Education Committee Draft PDF: Heather Allen, the Legislative Policy Analyst for City of Madison, and Quentin Penn-Jointer, Community Development AASPIRE Intern, shared a summary of School Resource Officer (SRO) models around the country. SROs have become more common with 20,000 currently in schools. Nationally there are no specific training programs for SROs. … Continue reading School Resource Officer Discussion

Withheld UW System budget was finalized last week

Karen Herzog: The annual operating budget that University of Wisconsin System officials refused to release publicly until 90 minutes before the Board of Regents approved it was actually finalized last week, contrary to what a system spokesman implied while explaining the delay to reporters, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has learned. The time stamp of the … Continue reading Withheld UW System budget was finalized last week

“The real problem is that too many black students are getting a hopelessly inadequate K-12 education and by the time they get to college, their best bet is to major in a subject whose exams have no wrong answers and whose professors engage in rampant grade inflation.”

Naomi Schaefer Riley: The first comes from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, which found that black students are less likely to pursue lucrative majors than their white peers. According to the report, “African Americans account for only 8 percent of general engineering majors, 7 percent of mathematics majors, and only 5 percent … Continue reading “The real problem is that too many black students are getting a hopelessly inadequate K-12 education and by the time they get to college, their best bet is to major in a subject whose exams have no wrong answers and whose professors engage in rampant grade inflation.”

Wisconsin’s black-white achievement gap worst in nation despite decades of efforts

Abigail Becker: Test results released in October from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a set of tests known as the Nation’s Report Card, reaffirmed Wisconsin’s poor record of educating black children: The state had the worst achievement gap between black and white students in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math. This is the … Continue reading Wisconsin’s black-white achievement gap worst in nation despite decades of efforts

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The American middle class is worse off compared to others around the world

Cristina Rivero A new report by Credit Suisse Research Institute analyzed global wealth in 2015 and reported unequal distribution among populations. The very wealthy continue to reside in North America and Europe, but China’s increasing middle class outpaces other global regions. Almost half of the world’s adult population with wealth over $1 million lived in … Continue reading K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: The American middle class is worse off compared to others around the world

The typical male U.S. worker earned less in 2014 than in 1973

David Wessel: read that right: The median male worker who was employed year-round and full time earned less in 2014 than a similarly situated worker earned four decades ago. And those are the ones who had jobs. This one fact, tucked in Table A-4 of the Census Bureau’s annual report on income, is both a … Continue reading The typical male U.S. worker earned less in 2014 than in 1973

Commentary on 1.8% of Wisconsin’s $14,000,000,000 in K-12 Spending

Molly Beck: The number of students using vouchers to attend private schools grew from 22,439 during the 2011-12 school year to 29,609 last school year, according to the DPI. At the same time, 870,650 students attended public schools last year — which is about the same number that did in the 2011-12 school year. Enrollment … Continue reading Commentary on 1.8% of Wisconsin’s $14,000,000,000 in K-12 Spending

Diminishing Returns in Wisconsin K-12 Education Spending Growth

Tap to view a larger version of these images. Martin F. Lueken, Ph.D., Rick Esenberg & CJ Szafir, via a kind reader (PDF): Robustness checks: Lastly, to check if the estimates from our main analysis behave differently when we modify our models, we conduct a series of robustness checks in our analysis. We estimate models … Continue reading Diminishing Returns in Wisconsin K-12 Education Spending Growth

Comparing Teacher & Principal Salaries (Excluding Benefits?)

Tap to view larger versions.Deirdre Hargrove-Krieghoff: In support of the continued work of developing a thriving workforce, the HR team conducted a survey of the 10 largest districts in the State of Wisconsin as well as districts in Dane County to provide a picture of our current compensation standing. It is our intent to develop … Continue reading Comparing Teacher & Principal Salaries (Excluding Benefits?)

School Board Property Tax Increase Votes and State Politics

Chris Rickert

So I get why Burke was the only board member to vote against a tax-raising, 2013-2014 school district budget.
Still, just once I’d like to see a candidate throw caution to the wind and mount a data-based defense of good, if politically unwise, choices. If voters don’t buy it, well then they deserve what they get.
Burke explained her latest no vote on the budget last week by saying the district needs to consider whether salary increases for district residents are keeping up with school district tax increases.
To back up that concern, Burke provided me with a May 1 news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing that in Dane County, residents saw a 3.9 percent drop in average weekly wages between the third quarter of 2011 and the third quarter of 2012.
I did a little more digging and found that wages also dropped by 0.1 percent between the second quarter of 2011 and the second quarter of 2012, and by 0.3 percent between the first quarters of 2012 and 2013.
Nevertheless, a broader view of the most recent available data suggests her concern is largely unfounded.
The BLS reported that wages were up 7.7 percent and 5.9 percent respectively, in the first and fourth quarters of last year – essentially wiping out, and then some, the wage decreases.
Plus, over the most recent 10 years for which data are available, personal income and per-capita income in Dane County rose, on an average annual basis, by 4.29 percent and 2.92 percent, respectively, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
By contrast, next year’s school district budget raises taxes on the average homeowner by 2.5 percent, and over the past 10 years, the average annual school district tax increase has been 1.75 percent.
If anything, district tax increases aren’t keeping up with district residents’ ability to pay them.
Despite the old tax-and-spend myth frequently pinned on liberal Dane County, the school district isn’t unique, either, at least when it comes to Madison and county government.

Mr. Rickert neglects to mention the changing composition of Wisconsin K-12 tax revenue sources. Redistributed state tax dollars grew substantially during the past few decades. That growth has now largely stopped. Absent a serious look at our agrarian era school organizations and practices, property tax & spending growth are going up annually.

This Year’s SAT Scores Are Out, and They’re Grim

Pat Schneider:

isconsin State Superintendent of Instruction Tony Evers used the platform of his annual State of Education speech Thursday to respond to skeptics of Common Core standards, whose ranks Republican Gov. Scott Walker joined just a few days earlier.
“We cannot go back to a time when our standards were a mile wide and an inch deep, leaving too many kids ill prepared for the demands of college and a career. We cannot pull the rug out from under thousands of kids, parents and educators who have spent the past three years working to reach these new, higher expectations that we have set for them. To do so would have deep and far reaching consequences for our kids, and for our state,” Evers said in remarks at the State Capitol that also touched on accountability for voucher schools. “We must put our kids above our politics. And we owe it to them to stay the course.”
Evers signed on to national Common Core curriculum standards for reading and math in 2010, making Wisconsin one of the first states to adopt them. School districts across the state, including Madison Metropolitan School District, are in the process of implementing them. Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham has called Common Core standards “pretty wonderful,” and says they are about critical thinking and applying skills to practical tasks.
Walker had been pretty low-key about Common Core until a few days ago, when he issued a statement calling for separate, more rigorous state standards. Republican leaders of both houses of the state Legislature quickly announced special committees to weigh the Common Core standards, and public hearings on not-yet-adopted science and social studies standards will be held, according to one report.

Related: Wisconsin’s oft-criticized WKCE assessment and

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Pay shenanigans hurt public trust

The Wisconsin State Journal:

Don’t blame retiring Madison Area Technical College president Bettsey Barhorst or state Capitol Police Chief David Erwin for scoring a sweet payout and raise, respectively.
Blame their bosses — the MATC District Board and the Walker administration, respectively. They’re the ones who offered and agreed to these deals, which are bad for taxpayers.
The State Journal reported Sunday that Barhorst, who announced her retirement in January, will receive about $88,000 for four and a half months as an on-call consultant to her successor, Jack E. Daniels, and other top MATC officials. After the first month of her consulting gig, Barhorst doesn’t even have to be available in person. She can phone it in.
That doesn’t justify the same pay as she was making before Daniels arrived on the job Monday. Yet that’s what she’ll get, courtesy of the MATC District Board. The $88,000 for 19 weeks of on-call help is based on her regular annual salary of nearly $240,000.

Understanding School Finance in Wisconsin: A Primer

Michael Ford:

A fundamental tension between state and local control lies at the heart of Wisconsin’s school finance system. For much of Wisconsin’s history, schools boards were responsible for deciding how much to spend on education, and how much revenue to raise via the property tax levy to fund spending. However, the balance tipped in favor of the state in the 1993-’94 school year, when the state imposed revenue limits.
Revenue limits cap how much additional money school districts can raise for each pupil through a combination of state aid and property tax. Since their inception, revenue limits have increased annually at roughly the rate of inflation. The imposition of revenue limits defined one basic attribute of education finance in Wisconsin: Maintaining the status quo. Consider:
Increases in revenue limits use the previous year as a base, ensuring that the largest predictor of spending is how much a district spent in the previous year.
Revenue limits increase at roughly the rate of inflation, keeping overall school finance formula revenues, in inflation-adjusted dollars, relatively constant.
The distribution of total state and local spending by school district remained steady between 1999 and 2012.
In 1999 the 100 districts receiving the most state and local revenue per student received 117% of the state average of state and local revenue. In 2012 that number was 119%. Similarly, the 100 districts receiving the least state and local revenue received 88% of the state average of state and local revenue. In 2012 that number was 87%.
A state aid program called special adjustment aids ensures districts cannot receive less than 85% of the state aid they received in the previous year.
The enrollment number used to generate payments to schools is a three-year average. It is designed to cushion districts against sudden increases and decreases in enrollment.

Madison Schools’ Budget Updates: Board Questions, Spending Through 3.31.2013, Staffing Plan Changes
Wisconsin K-12 Tax Spending Dominates Local Transfers

Estimating the Resource Costs of Minority and Disadvantaged Student Programs

W. Lee Hansen, via a kind reader’s email:

This paper presents estimates of the full resource costs of Minority and Disadvantaged Student Programs for UW-Madison and the UW System. It shows that for 2008-09 the total resource costs of M/D programs are almost 60 percent higher than the published expenditure figures for UW-Madison and more than 75 percent higher than the published expenditure figures for the UW System. It provides several alternative estimates of the per student resource costs of these programs. Finally, it cumulates the value of the resources committed to M/D programs during Plan 2008 and in the years subsequent to 2008. These differences occur because the UW System’s Minority and Disadvantaged Student Annual Report (M/D Report) fails, without explanation, to include the full array of M/D program costs even though it openly acknowledges these omissions.
Based on the full resource costs estimates developed here, these costs range from as little as $1,000 per student to as much as $80,000 per student, depending on which groups of students receive the most benefit from these programs.
The results presented here for 2008-09 provide at best a snapshot view of the resource costs of M/D programs. Additional perspective comes from cumulating the resource costs of M/D programs for UW-Madison and for the UW System during the decade-long Plan 2008, and from estimates of these costs for the duration of Plan 2008 plus the first five years under UW’s new diversity plan called Inclusive Excellence.
The constant-dollar estimates of the resource costs incurred by UW-Madison during Plan 2008 total $280,000,000, and they approximate $500,000,000–half a billion dollars–for the 15-year period beginning in 1998-99 and continuing through 2012-13. Comparable estimates for the UW System are substantially greater, totaling $680,000,000 during Plan 2008 and approximating $1,150,000,000–more than one billion dollars–for this same 15-year period.
By understating the resource costs of its M/D programs and failing to provide evidence on the success of its M/D programs, the UW System fails to meet its commitments to transparency and accountability, and in the process compromises its institutional integrity.

5 (Milwaukee) Nicolet students achieve perfect ACT scores

Erin Richards:

ACT Inc. has a standard characterization for how many students across the country earn a perfect 36 composite score on its flagship college admissions exam: less than 0.1% of more than 1 million test takers annually.
This year, Nicolet High School is hosting an unusually large number of them.
Superintendent Rick Monroe reported Monday that two juniors, twin sisters Alexandra and Rachel Heuer, earned scores of 36 on the exam.
Junior Ben Lawton learned earlier this year that he earned a perfect ACT score.
So did seniors Nancy Gao and Annie Jen, who is 15.
Jen’s twin brother, William Jen, who has similarly fast-tracked high school to become a senior before he can drive, just missed membership in the elite club. He scored a 35 on the ACT, according to Monroe.

Nicolet high school’s annual report (2012) PDF. Nicolet high schools 2012 budget was $19,016,495 for 1310 students, or $14,516/student. Madison spends $14,242/student, including pre-k.

Does the School Board Matter? Ed Hughes argues that experience does, but what about “Governance” and “Student Achievement”?

Madison School Board Member Ed Hughes

Call me crazy, but I think a record of involvement in our schools is a prerequisite for a School Board member. Sitting at the Board table isn’t the place to be learning the names of our schools or our principals.
Wayne Strong, TJ Mertz and James Howard rise far above their opponents for those of us who value School Board members with a history of engagement in local educational issues and a demonstrated record of commitment to our Madison schools and the students we serve.

Notes and links on Ed Hughes and the 2013 Madison School Board election.
I’ve become a broken record vis a vis Madison’s disastrous reading results. The District has been largely operating on auto-pilot for decades. It is as if a 1940’s/1950’s model is sufficient. Spending increases annually (at lower rates in recent years – roughly $15k/student), yet Madison’s disastrous reading results continue, apace.
Four links for your consideration.
When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before

According to Mr. Rainwater, the place to look for evidence of a closing achievement gap is the comparison of the percentage of African American third graders who score at the lowest level of performance on statewide tests and the percentage of other racial groups scoring at that level. He says that, after accounting for income differences, there is no gap associated with race at the lowest level of achievement in reading. He made the same claim last year, telling the Wisconsin State Journal on September 24, 2004, “for those kids for whom an ability to read would prevent them from being successful, we’ve reduced that percentage very substantially, and basically, for all practical purposes, closed the gap”. Last Monday, he stated that the gap between percentages scoring at the lowest level “is the original gap” that the board set out to close.
Unfortunately, that is not the achievement gap that the board aimed to close.

60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use. This program continues, despite the results.
3rd Grade Madison School District Reading Proficiency Data (“Achievement Gap Plan”)

The other useful stat buried in the materials is on the second page 3 (= 6th page), showing that the 3rd grade proficiency rate for black students on WKCE, converted to NAEP-scale proficiency, is 6.8%, with the accountability plan targeting this percentage to increase to 23% over one school year. Not sure how this happens when the proficiency rate (by any measure) has been decreasing year over year for quite some time. Because the new DPI school report cards don’t present data on an aggregated basis district-wide nor disaggregated by income and ethnicity by grade level, the stats in the MMSD report are very useful, if one reads the fine print.

Madison Schools Distort Reading Data (2004) by Mark Seidenberg.
How many School Board elections, meetings, votes have taken place since 2005 (a number of candidates were elected unopposed)? How many Superintendents have been hired, retired or moved? Yet, the core structure remains. This, in my view is why we have seen the move to a more diffused governance model in many communities with charters, vouchers and online options.
Change is surely coming. Ideally, Madison should drive this rather than State or Federal requirements. I suspect it will be the latter, in the end, that opens up our monolithic, we know best approach to public education.

Wisconsin Governor Walker’s education reforms include voucher expansion and more

Matthew DeFour

Walker’s reform proposals include:

  • Expanding private school vouchers to school districts with at least 4,000 students and at least two schools receiving school report card grades of “fails to meet expectations” or “meets few expectations.” The expansion, which would include Madison schools, would be capped at 500 students statewide next year and 1,000 students the following year.
  • Creating a statewide charter school oversight board, which would approve local nonreligious, nonprofit organizations to create and oversee independent charter schools. Only students from districts that qualify for vouchers could attend the charter schools. Authorizers would have to provide annual performance reports about the schools.
  • Expanding the Youth Options program, which allows public school students to access courses offered by other public schools, virtual schools, the UW System, technical colleges and other organizations approved by the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Granting special education students a private school voucher.
  • Eliminating grade and residency restrictions for home-schooled students who take some courses in a public school district. School districts would receive additional state funding for home-schooled students who access public school courses or attend virtual schools.

Additionally, Walker’s spokesman confirmed plans to make no additional funding available for public schools in the budget he plans to propose Wednesday.

Related links:

Finally, perhaps everyone might focus on the big goals: world class schools.

Why are people leaving Wisconsin? State ranked in top 10 for out-migration

Mike Ivey:

Wisconsin is among the top 10 states for people moving out, according to the annual survey from United Van Lines. Forbes reported the story recently and it has been widely circulated — although probably not by many chambers of commerce.
The moving company United Van Lines has been doing the survey for 36 years and analyzed some 125,000 residential moves in the continental U.S. last year. While not scientific, it does provide a nice snapshot of migration patterns, along with fodder for social media chatter.
“I think people see Wisconsin as a dead end,” says George Dreckmann, longtime city of Madison recycling coordinator. “The paper industry is near death, the auto industry is gone. Our flagship university is closed to most of the state’s kids. The government under both Walker and (former Gov. Jim) Doyle showed no initiative or imagination. If I wasn’t 62, I’d be leaving, too.”
At No. 10 with 55 percent of 2,405 United Van Lines moves considered “outbound,” Wisconsin isn’t alone as a Great Lakes state seeing residents flee. Illinois is No. 2 and Michigan is No. 6. New Jersey was No. 1 with 62 percent of moves outbound. The top 10 also includes West Virginia (No. 3), New York (No. 4); New Mexico (No. 5); Connecticut (No. 7); Maine (No. 8) and Kentucky (No. 9).

MTEL Arrives in Wisconsin: Teacher Licensing Content Requirement, from 1.1.2014

2011 WISCONSIN ACT 166, via a kind reader:

Section 21. 118.19 (14) of the statutes is created to read:
118.19 (14) (a) The department may not issue an initial teaching license that authorizes the holder to teach in grades kindergarten to 5 or in special education, an initial license as a reading teacher, or an initial license as a reading specialist, unless the applicant has passed an examination identical to the Foundations of Reading test administered in 2012 as part of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure [blekko]. The department shall set the passing cut score on the examination at a level no lower than the level recommended by the developer of the test, based on this state’s standards.
(c) Any teacher who passes the examination under par. (a) shall notify the department, which shall add a notation to the teacher’s license indicating that he or she passed the examination.
115.28 (7g) Evaluation of teacher preparatory programs.
(a) The department shall, in consultation with the governor’s office, the chairpersons of the committees in the assembly and senate whose subject matter is elementary and secondary education and ranking members of those committees, the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, do all of the following:
1. Determine how the performance of individuals who have recently completed a teacher preparatory program described in s. 115.28 (7) (a) and located in this state or a teacher education program described in s. 115.28 (7) (e) 2. and located in this state will be used to evaluate the teacher preparatory and education programs. The determination under this subdivision shall, at minimum, define “recently completed” and identify measures to assess an individual’s performance, including the performance assessment made prior to making a recommendation for licensure.
2. Determine how the measures of performance of individuals who have recently completed a teacher preparatory or education program identified as required under subd. 1. will be made accessible to the public.
3. Develop a system to publicly report the measures of performance identified as required under subd. 1. for each teacher preparatory and education program identified in subd. 1.
(b) Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, the department shall use the system developed under par. (a) 3. to annually report for each program identified in par. (a) 1. the passage rate on first attempt of students and graduates of the program on examinations administered for licensure under s. 115.28 (7) and any other information required to be reported under par. (a) 1.
(c) Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, each teacher preparatory and education program shall prominently display and annually update the passage rate on first attempt of recent graduates of the program on examinations administered for licensure under s. 115.28 (7) and any other information required to be reported under par. (a) 1. on the program’s Web site and provide this information to persons receiving admissions materials to the program.
Section 18. 115.28 (12) (ag) of the statutes is created to read:
115.28 (12) (ag) Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, each school district using the system under par. (a) shall include in the system the following information for each teacher teaching in the school district who completed a teacher preparatory program described in sub. (7) (a) and located in this state or a teacher education program described in sub. (7) (e) 2. and located in this state on or after January 1, 2012:
1. The name of the teacher preparatory program or teacher education program the teacher attended and completed.
2. The term or semester and year in which the teacher completed the program described in subd. 1.


This is a sea change for Wisconsin students, the most substantive in decades. Of course, what is entered into the statutes can be changed or eliminated. The MTEL requirement begins with licenses after 1.1.2014.

Costs drop 5 percent for Nashua School District’s special education out-of-district placements; District spends $7,854/student, or $12,145/student

Cameron Kittle & Maryalice Gill:

While the overall cost of out-of-district placements for special education students is expected to drop next year, some individual placements continue to run the district $100,000 and beyond.
The most expensive placement this year is for a student at the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, Vt. The estimated tuition cost for this year is $158,096.
There are also two other placements costing upward of $100,000 this year, including one student at Crotched Mountain in Greenfield for $136,934 and another student at the Nashoba Learning Group in Bedford, Mass., for $104,570.

Nashua School District’s 2011 budget is $93,425,591 for 11,895 students ($7,854 per student).
TJ Mertz sent a kind email noting that another Nashua document describes spending as follows: FY 2012 operating budget: $144,475,503 for 11,895 students = $12,145/student.
Locally, Madison will spend $14,858.40 per student this year, nearly double Nashua’s spending based on this document, or perhaps 18% more based on the 2012 document noted above
Global Report Card comparison:

Budget & Wisconsin School Accountability

Mike Ford:

The perils of another strategy, finding lower-cost ways to deliver state services, shows up in another Journal Sentinel story this morning on the notable absence of a common school accountability system for all schools receiving public revenue in a new piece of education legislation. Erin Richards writes of the bill:

What is not mentioned in the story is that an identical public, private, and charter school accountability system is functionally impossible, and undesirable. The presence of religion in private choice schools for example requires that the schools spend (and document the purpose of) every dollar they receive annually through the choice program so as not to have a surplus that could be seen as aiding religion. In comparison, having and carrying over a surplus in a public school district may actually be a sign of responsible budgeting. And the heart of the charter school concept is a third party authorizer that serves as the accountability agent. A common accountability system undermines the very idea of a charter school.
More important, if choice and charter face identical public school rules and regulations, there is every reason to expect them to be nothing more than poorly funded public schools that may save the state money, but not increase educational quality. What is needed is a way to ensure all of our schools are accountable and transparent, not identical regulation.

Related: notes and links on Madison’s multi-million dollar Infinite Campus expedition… I’m not sure that a state-wide system makes sense. Rather, the state might create a set of data reporting “standards” that allows local Districts to collect and manage information in the way that they prefer.
More from Erin Richards Wisconsin Accountability article, here:

Its elements include:
A proposal to create a fund to which private donors could contribute money to fund successful literacy and early-childhood development programs.
A proposal to require schools to annually assess all kindergartners for reading readiness.
A proposal to require new elementary and special education teachers to pass a more rigorous reading test.
A proposal for education schools to submit to DPI a list of graduates and their graduation dates, so that the state can better link practicing teachers back to their institution of training.
A proposal to evaluate the performance of all public school teachers and principals.

EdWeek Ranks Wisconsin’s education system 18th in U.S.

Matthew DeFour:

Wisconsin’s education system ranks 18th in the nation, according to an annual analysis published by Education Week.
The analysis draws on a variety of data, some of which are a couple of years old, so it doesn’t reflect changes in the past year under Gov. Scott Walker.
The report rated Wisconsin in six categories: chance for success; K-12 achievement; standards, assessments and accountability; teachers; school finance; and transitions and alignment.
The state scored highest in school finance, ranking ninth nationally. The lowest marks came in standards, assessment and accountability, where Wisconsin ranked 46th.

Much more at

Campus Connection: Student-athletes nationally graduating at record levels

Todd Finkelmeyer:

More than four out of every five student-athletes who play sports at the NCAA’s highest level now graduate within six years, according to an annual report released this past week by the college sports oversight body.
A formula used by the association indicates a record 82 percent of NCAA Division I student-athletes who entered school in 2004 earned a degree within six years. That figure is three percentage points higher than last year and eight points above the graduation success rates (GSR) first collected by the NCAA with the entering freshman class of 1995.
Of the student-athletes who entered UW-Madison in 2004, the NCAA reports 81 percent graduated within six years. Not all the news at UW-Madison is so rosy, however, but more on that later. (To check out how your favorite school did or to view a sport-by-sport breakdown for each institution, check out this NCAA database.)
“There is a stereotype about college athletes that they’re here to play sports and not to be academically successful, but as you can see from the report the overwhelming majority of student-athletes are getting through school,” says Adam Gamoran, a professor of sociology and educational policy studies who chairs the UW Athletic Board’s academics and compliance committee. “We select great students and only enroll those who we are confident can be academically successful here.”

Minority Student Achievement Network Plan of Action

Madison School District Superintendent Daniel A. Nerad 215K PDF Presentation

During the annual conference the team of students engaged in.
1. College planning including a tour of Missouri University
2. Participated in Achievement Gap Readings including discussions and student action planning
3. Shared their ideas about how to motivate students to succeed and how their school could be made a meaningful and interesting place
4. Developed plans of action to implement these strategies for change and report these valuable messages to the academic leaders of their schools and districts (See Attached- MSAN Students Conference Agenda)

Average Milwaukee Public Schools Teacher Salary Plus Benefits Tops $100,000; Ramifications

MacIver Institute:

For the first time in history, the average annual compensation for a teacher in the Milwaukee Public School system will exceed $100,000.
That staggering figure was revealed last night at a meeting of the MPS School Board.
The average salary for an MPS teacher is $56,500. When fringe benefits are factored in, the annual compensation will be $100,005 in 2011.
MacIver’s Bill Osmulski has more in this video report.

Related Links:

Finally, the economic and political issue in a nutshell: Wisconsin’s taxbase is not keeping up with other states:

Nevade School District School District preparing to face difficult decisions

Robert Perea:

Cuts in its 2011-12 fiscal year budget figure to be painful for the Lyon County School District, but District officials hope to make sure those cuts have as little effect on students as possible.
District officials began brainstorming sessions last week, with the input from the members of the Board of Trustees’ Budget Committee, to begin to identify and list priorities for which programs they are willing to cut.
LCSD Director of Finance Wade Johnson said the District’s administration and the Board of Trustees will work to create a priority list of cuts and how much each cut could potentially save the District.
Then, when the District receives its actual budget figures, it will make whatever cuts have been prioritized to get down to the actual budget figure (listed for expenditures).
“Making concrete plans is premature, but we do need to start planning,” Johnson said.

The Lyon County School District supports 8,730 students with an annual budget of $92,147,208 ($10,555,24/student). Locally, the 2011 State of the Madison School District reports $379,058,945 in planned 2010-2011 spending for 24,471 students. Madison’s per student spending this year is $15,490.13.

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 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.

Value Added Models& Student Information Systems

147K PDF via a Dan Dempsey email:

The following abstract and conclusion is taken from:
Volume 4, Issue 4 – Fall 2009 – Special Issue: Key Issues in Value-Added Modeling
Would Accountability Based on Teacher Value Added Be Smart Policy? An Examination of the Statistical Properties and Policy Alternatives
Douglas N. Harris of University of Wisconsin Madison
Education Finance and Policy Fall 2009, Vol. 4, No. 4: 319-350.
Available here:
Annual student testing may make it possible to measure the contributions to student achievement made by individual teachers. But would these “teacher value added” measures help to improve student achievement? I consider the statistical validity, purposes, and costs of teacher value-added policies. Many of the key assumptions of teacher value added are rejected by empirical evidence. However, the assumption violations may not be severe, and value-added measures still seem to contain useful information. I also compare teacher value-added accountability with three main policy alternatives: teacher credentials, school value-added accountability, and formative uses of test data. I argue that using teacher value-added measures is likely to increase student achievement more efficiently than a teacher credentials-only strategy but may not be the most cost-effective policy overall. Resolving this issue will require a new research and policy agenda that goes beyond analysis of assumptions and statistical properties and focuses on the effects of actual policy alternatives.
A great deal of attention has been paid recently to the statistical assumptions of VAMs, and many of the most important papers are contained in the present volume. The assumptions about the role of past achievement in affecting current achievement (Assumption No. 2) and the lack of variation in teacher effects across student types (Assumption No. 4) seem least problematic. However, unobserved differences are likely to be important, and it is unclear whether the student fixed effects models, or any other models, really account for them (Assumption No. 3). The test scale is also a problem and will likely remain so because the assumptions underlying the scales are untestable. There is relatively little evidence on how administration and teamwork affect teachers (Assumption No. 1).

Related: Value Added Assessment, Standards Based Report Cards and Los Angeles’s Value Added Teacher Data.
Many notes and links on the Madison School District’s student information system: Infinite Campus are here.

Does spending more money per student make a school better?

Tawnell Hobbs

So do school districts that spend more money per pupil perform better? I checked out the financial figures for the 2007-08* school year in Texas and found that more money per pupil doesn’t necessarily make a school better. Of the top 10 school districts and charter schools that spent more money in operating expenses per student, one held the state’s highest rating, “exemplary;” three were “recognized;” and the remaining six were “academically acceptable.” (Go to the jump for a list of these schools).
Carroll ISD, an exemplary school district, spent $8,301 per student, compared to $9,446 per student in the academically-acceptable Dallas ISD.

Related: The report mentions that California’s average per student expenditure is just under $10,000 annually. Madison’s 2009/2010 per student spending was $15,241 ($370,287,471 budget / 24,295 students).

A Look at Wisconsin Teacher Compensation Increases

Matthew DeFour:

Statewide increases in teacher compensation contracts are on track to be the lowest in more than a decade following last year’s changes in state school district financing.
Based on 160 settled contracts out of 425 school districts, the average increase in compensation packages — including salary and benefits — is 3.75 percent, according to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
Annual increases last dipped below 4 percent in 1999 and have averaged 4.13 percent since 1993, when the state first imposed revenue limits and introduced the so-called qualified economic offer (QEO) provision, which allowed districts to offer a 3.8 percent package increase instead of going to arbitration. The QEO was repealed in the state biennial budget approved last year, though revenue limits remain in place to keep property tax increases in check.
By another measure, the Wisconsin Educators Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union, reported teacher salaries are on pace to increase about 2 percent. That doesn’t include benefits and certain assumptions about longevity raises. The increase is slightly less than the 2.3 percent annual average since 1993 and would be the lowest since 2003.

Related: 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”. A searchable database of Wisconsin Teacher Salaries is available here.

Eating away at education: Math doesn’t add up when teacher salaries and budget cuts collide

Katy Murphy:

The math is simple: California schools have less money than most other states, but their teachers are the most highly paid in the nation.
Per pupil spending, on the other hand, trails the national average by about $2,500.
Until the financially troubled state government finds more money to invest in its public schools, which make up more than half of its general fund spending, something has to give.
School budgeting has become a zero-sum game.
California school districts spend more than half of their dollars on teacher pay and benefits. In better times, when education funding rose each year to keep pace with the cost of living, so did salaries. But the state now gives schools less money for each student than it did

Related: Study: California Classroom spending dips as ed funding rises; A Look at Per Student Spending vs. Madison

Spending in California classrooms declined as a percentage of total education spending over a recent five-year period, even as total school funding increased, according to a Pepperdine University study released Wednesday.
More of the funding increase went to administrators, clerks and technical staff and less to teachers, textbooks, materials and teacher aides, the study found. It was partially funded by a California Chamber of Commerce foundation.
Total K-12 spending increased by $10 billion over the five-year period ending June 30, 2009, from $45.6 billion to $55.6 billion statewide. It rose at a rate greater than the increase in inflation or personal income, according to the study. Yet researchers found that classroom spending dipped from 59 percent of education funding to 57.8 percent over the five years.

The report mentions that California’s average per student expenditure is just under $10,000 annually. Madison’s 2009/2010 per student spending was $15,241 ($370,287,471 budget / 24,295 students).

Moody’s downgrades Waukesha School District credit rating

Amy Hetzner:

For the second time in two years, Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the credit rating of the Waukesha School District, the latest time after the School Board voted to not allocate any money toward a $47.5 million debt owed to a European bank.
According to a Moody’s report, the amount owed represents about 35% of the district’s annual operating budget.
As a rule, lower credit ratings translate into higher interest rates for borrowing. However, Waukesha School Board President Daniel Warren said Monday that the credit rating drop should not have an immediate effect.
“When Moody’s does a downgrade, it primarily affects long-term borrowing, and we don’t have any long-term borrowing on our horizon,” he said.
The A1 rating given to the district, which has a substantial tax base and relatively wealthy residents, is the lowest rating given by the service to school districts in the state, according to information from Moody’s Investors Service.
Warren said his board decided not to allocate any money toward resolving the debt to DEPFA Bank because “the school district was not in a position to afford an additional $48 million in next year’s budget.”

Madison’s current Assistant Superintendent for Business Services, Erik Kass, previously worked for the Waukesha School District.

Hysteria Around School Turnarounds

Tom Vander Ark:

The NYTimes ran a story with this misleading headline and byline:

A Vote to Fire All Teachers at a Failing High School
CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — A plan to dismiss the entire faculty and staff of the only public high school in this small city just west of the Massachusetts border was approved Tuesday night at an emotional public meeting of the school board.

When the teachers failed to adopt a ‘transformation’ plan that included a modest lengthening of the day, the superintendent shifted to Plan B, what federal School Improvement Grants (SIG) call Turnaround, which requires that at least 50% of the staff be replaced. Under Rhode Island law, teachers must be notified of the potential for nonrenewal by March 20, hence the board vote and notices. All the teachers will have the opportunity to reapply, up to half will be rehired.
The hysteria is now reverberating on CNN and papers around the country. Central Falls may be an early example but there are thousands to come. As I began reporting in October, SIG will cause widespread urban disruption. But we’ll all need to be cautious to use language carefully and differentiate between ‘firing all the teachers’ and notifying them of the requirement to reapply for their positions.

Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman’s speech to the Madison Rotary:

Last Wednesday, 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).