Budget Hearing – Elementary Strings Update

At the May 13th MMSD Budget Hearing parents and community representatives spoke against the proposed elementary string fee, calling it outrageous and equivalent to cutting the program.
“We are not a good-things-come-to-those-who pay town,” said parent Maureen Rickman, adding that the proposed fee would “cut out a big chunk of the students [in the middle income range].”
This coming Monday, May 17, the Board will begin the process of voting on the budget amendments. It is expected that they will start with those amendments that involve personnel because layoff notices need to go out before the end of the school year.

Last night there was a public hearing on the proposed 04-05 MMSD Budget. In addition to a number of speakers advocating direct instruction for reading and middle school counselors, several speakers spoke on behalf of the elementary strings program – the largest number of people to speak on any single issue. Comments included: string fee is outrageous at 130% of the cost of the program/student, fee was not developed using input from the community or fine arts coordinator, district needs to form a fine arts council to look at the needs/status of fine arts in the Madison public schools so that curriculum does not continue to be downgraded as the City of Madison’s emphasis on and commitment to the fine arts grows.
Calls, letters, and emails to the School Board do matter and have made a difference. They have been instrumental in showing Board members the community’s support for the program. As Ruth Robarts mentioned on the news last night (May 13, 2004), even when Board members appear to have decided on an issue, ongoing input from the public can and does make the Board members reconsider their decisions.
This coming Monday, May 17, the Board will begin the process of voting on Board member amendments to the budget. It is expected that they will start with those budget amendments that involve personnel, because layoff notices need to go out before the end of the school year. It is possible that the Board will put off consideration of the other non-personnel amendments (e.g., the $70,000 worth of TAG support money) to another meeting, though we can’t be sure.
Where the fee for elementary strings fits into this picture is somewhat unclear. There is little support from other members on the Board for the proposed $460 fee. There is support for reinstating custodians and maintenance but not by useing this fee. What makes the elementary strings fee proposal iffy is that the Board does not appear to require that discussions with profesionals in the field and parents take place before imposing fees of this magnitude – or any fee for that matter. The Board has not discussed what categories fees are appropriate for and what other funding mechanisms other than fees might be appropriate.
Bring parents, coaches, businesses together to review and develop the extra-curricular sports budgets. In other word involve the community earlier in the budget process – like June 2004 for next year. In the meantime perhaps the board members need to stick with changes to the budget that do not directly impact the children -parking fees at Doyle is one proposal.
We only have a little time left to act. Even if you have already done so, please consider taking a few minutes to tell the BOE why you believe they should not consider the proposal to charge a $460 fee for elementary strings. Perhapsyou have some ideas for where that money could come from? Perhaps you’d like to tell Board members that we’ve reached the point where what happens during the day in the classroom must first take priority over District funding of extra-curricula activities? Whatever your reasons, please let them hear from you.