The Madison School District’s Fall $23.5M Referendum Question will be in front of voters 3 months from today. The question asks voters to fund 3 iniatives with a single yes or no vote:
- Build a new far west side school
- Expand the Leopold Elementary school (a plan to nearly double the size of Leopold failed during the May, 2005 referendum)
- Refinance district debt to reduce costs.
What K-12 issues might be on voter’s minds November 7?
- There are some early signs of positive governance change on the Madison School Board. Ed Blume noted recently that the bullying Jason Shepherd mentioned in his recent “Fate of the Schools” has gone missing.
- The question is on the ballot of a “high turnout” election (including the Governor’s race), rather than the recent practice of holding special $100K+ elections.
- A budget process that recently distributed allocations to schools before any board discussion of the 2006/2007 numbers.
- The equity task force (the District’s enrollment is basically flat or slightly declining and many current facilities have needs: some elementary schools don’t have cafeterias for example).
- A recent reduction in the amount of information included in report cards.
- Ongoing discussions about the significant increase in Fund 80 spending (community services, including MSCR).
- Curriculum concerns, particularly math [much more on math, here], reading and West High School’s full speed ahead with one size fits all English 10 – despite Bruce King’s recent report on English 9.
- Local population growth, student numbers and budget implications.
- Slowing housing starts (Marv Balousek has more) across Dane County [Dave Stark publishes a quarterly look at the local housing market – pdf].
- The board, lead by a Johnny Winston, Jr. initiative, recently passed a new advertising policy. This initiative will, over time, generate new revenue sources for the district (I wonder if this policy would have ever seen the light of day under previous board majorities?).
The community has long supported Madison’s public schools via above average taxes and spending (while enrollment has largely remained flat) and initiatives such as the Schools of Hope and the Foundation for Madison Public schools, among many others. The November 7, 2006 question will simply be one of public confidence in the governance and education strategy of the MMSD and the willingness to spend more on the part of local property taxpayers.