Newly elected Madison School Board member Lawrie Kobza was wise to move to use $240,000 in money made available by insurance savings to revive Lincoln Elementary School’s Open Classroom Program and to restore “specials” – music, art and gym classes at the elementary schools – to their regular sizes. And the board majority was right to back her move to maintain broadly accepted standards of quality in the city’s public schools.
Kobza’s proposal was challenged by Superintendent Art Rainwater, who argued that the money should remain unspent. He said he was uncertain about the precise amount of the insurance savings that will result from recent contract negotiations with employee unions, and warned that the district could lose another $3.1 million in state funding if the anti-education budget proposed by legislative Republicans is adopted.
Rainwater was expressing legitimate concerns. But the School Board cannot base decisions about the programs and the opportunities that are made available to the community’s children on fears about what particular legislators will do.
These are hard times for the schools. The defeat of last month’s referendums, the threats from the Legislature and the general uncertainty about funding have put a great deal of pressure on the board.
But the board majority has signaled its determination to continue to err on the side of what is best for the kids.
June 23, 2005