Pro-referendum leader doesn’t care about parents of TAG students

From the list serve of the pro-referendum group, Communities and Schools Together (CAST):

We have at least three people willing to translate into Spanish (anyone for Hmong?). I think that the “newsletter blurb” and the FAQ are musts. Do we want anything else? I’ll get these started with the volunteers on Wednesday or Thursday.
At the Wright PSO meeting one of the things that really got me was a father who talked at length about “so little money for the children.” I thought about how many of these families have made such great sacrifices for their children’s futures, leaving their homes, coming to strange country, struggling with language… that to them it is a no brainer to spend a bit more for the schools. We hear about “Bright Flight,” but when it comes down to it I care a lot more about giving these immigrants what they came for than I do about catering to those who threaten to move out or go to private schools. I think I share their values more and know I want what they have to offer for our shared future.
Sorry for getting on the soapbox, but it was very moving to hear how simple the referendum question appeared to them. Like anyone else they wanted the figures and the details, but when they heard them there was no question where they stood. Hell, it seems simple to me too. (emphasis added)

It’s a sad comment from a leader of a group which supposedly advocates for quality education for all kids. (No one on the CAST listserve called him on his statement. Does his thinking represent all of the leadership?)
I won’t invade the writer’s privacy by revealing his name; however, if he has any courage in his convictions, he’ll post his thinking behind his comment.
I’m voting NO on the referendum.

26 thoughts on “Pro-referendum leader doesn’t care about parents of TAG students”

  1. I agree with what that person wrote. TAG has nothing to do with private school flight. We have 3 kids who just moved BACK to our neighborhood schools from private schools, all TAG kids. Mom and dad felt they got better services in MMSD. More kids leave MMSD for private schools because of religious and social reasons than they do for lack of rigorous coursework. When it comes down to brass tacks, I’m much more behind those who stay than those who leave(or threaten to leave). Sure, they pay taxes, but they don’t contribute to my kids’ schools, so why should I worry about those who bail? Nowhere did the author say he doesn’t care about parents of TAG students. You made an inference, Ed. An incorrect inference at that. Shame on you for putting words in that person’s mouth. No wonder folks view SIS in a negative light:( How about we keep things real and not play pitty patty politics by inferencing. Yeah, I know, all the usual suspects will now castigate me. Take a number, gang.

  2. I’m voting YES on the referendum AND will support ALL students and their unique needs (for assistance, challenge; whatever is helpful) in any way possible. Thanks. Marcia

  3. You’re right, David. When I read the statement, I immediately made the association with TAG. I may be mistaken. I hope that the author of the quote clarifies his thinking.
    I’m sorry that you also don’t care about parents whose children leave the MMSD. Losing students loses state aids and, as you correctly point out, loses the valuable input they might give to the MMSD.
    We should all worry about why parents leave the MMSD.
    I’m sorry that CAST leaders don’t care.

  4. David,
    As a member of the MMSD’s task force on equity, do you care that some families with children of color send them to Edgewood because they believe Edgewood ignores the color of their skin?
    From what you said above, I’d guess that you don’t care.
    I hope that I’m wrong.

  5. But this is your classic MO, Ed. Take a pot shot, back away, make the broad touchy feely statement. I’ve known you for a few years and I know you are intelligent and care about education. There has to be a better way then just attention-getting headlines, or camping out on the CAST yahoo group to out some perceived wrong here on SIS. Seriously, principals and staff have stopped reading about legitimate gripes here because of the BS. That’s not good. We NEED them engaged in alternative thinking so they can stand and be counted within the district and administration. Stuff like this divides and serves no purpose. Why not post to the CAST list and query the author directly? Stuff like this is the old Bill Keys rhetoric (vote no, hate children)!

  6. I would suggest that it is shortsighted to write off any parent who chooses to remove their child from public school regardless of the reason. Children leaving school affects state aid formulas and enrollment projections for starters. And, assuming that the family remains in the district, household voters have a say in whether referenda pass. I’d rather that parents of school age children be happy with the district – rather than alienated – when they cast their votes. It’s as pragmatic as all politics are local.

  7. Ironically, David, you’re one of the gang who always tells me that I’m wrong about whatever I post. I can always count on you more than anyone else.
    I wish that you were less negative about people, not just me, and their suggestions on how the MMSD could be much, much more than it is.
    So, as you say, take a number, David, Tom, Neal, Marisue, and all you other MMSD defenders. Take a good blast at me once again. I’m just an idiot with more than 30 years of experience in education policy and financing at both the state and local levels.

  8. Marcia,
    Do you believe that the MMSD should challenge TAG students?
    Laurie Frost and I have tried to have this discussion at least twice before. Who should the MMSD serve? Only struggling students? Only TAG students? Just the average students? Just white students? Only students of color? Only special ed kids?
    As I said previously, I believe the MMSD should challenge all kids to rise academically — even kids whose parents might be thinking of pulling their kids out of the MMSD.

  9. Hi Ed,
    Why have you decided to vote no on the referendum? I did not get the connection between the CAST post, your comment about that post and your final comment about voting no on the upcoming referendum to fund a new school and to refinance existing and planned debt for an addition.

  10. Ed
    Earlier today you “threatened” never respond to anything I write. Later you post something I shared with referendum supporters. I realize that you are and have been a member of the CAST list serve. Are you a supporter of the referendum?
    I am. Many people support the referendum. We have diverse views on many things concerning the schools, but we all agree that the passing the referendum is the right thing to do.
    Some time ago I suggested that we try to discuss what is on the ballot and not unrelated issues. I can think of nothing more unrelated to the building and finance questions than whether my educational priorities tilt toward struggling immigrants or the demanding upper and middle classes. If you want to attack me, attack me. If you want to attack the referendum, attack what is on the ballot. WHY NOT DO THAT? What you have done is sleazy.
    I closing, I would like to ask you or Jim to change the subject line of this post. Post away, but don’t put words in my mouth. I did not write or mean anything about TAG. “Bright Flight” (in quotation marks) is a derivative of White Flight, an ugly, racist phenomenon. The language was changed by those who sought a better image for public school leavers both as a means of obscuring the racist roots and connection (and NO I AM NOT SAYING THAT ALL OR EVEN MOST OF THOSE WHO LEAVE DIVERSE PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE RACIST) and in recognition that some middle class people of color have also left the public schools. In these days of limited resources schools are faced with demands from many sides. One unfortunate development has been that people have (for many reasons, including TAG programming) threatened to leave the public schools. It is the threats as a lobbying tactic that alienates me. I’m with the public schools, my children do and will attend public schools, we will work to make them better. That is why I feel more in common with the wonderful immigrants I have the honor of serving on the Wright PSO with than those who threaten “Bright Flight,” why I care more about their hopes and dreams and needs.

  11. Ed, I appreciate your direct question, giving me a reason to repeat my view that MMSD serve ALL students. You identified some “categories”, all whom need to be served with an effective program and high level of service: Struggling students, those students who need a high level of academic challenge, ALL kids, of ALL colors, abilities and backgrounds. Marcia

  12. Good question, Barb.
    I want the MMSD to serve all kids. I don’t want, as Lucy said, to write off any kids or any group of parents.
    I believe that the leaders of the referendum, leaders of the board, and the superintendent are not committed to serving all kids. They sure don’t want to serve all students at West if all students have to take English 10, for example. They don’t want to serve all kids if students can’t get credit for courses taken at MATC, the UW, or other schools, as another example.
    I’m not going to give money to a district until I know that its leaders are committed to serving all kids with curriculum and opportunities that challenge all of them to rise academically.
    This is not a referendum on bricks and mortar. It’s a referendum on the future directions of the district, and I don’t like the direction it’s going.

  13. It isn’t necessarily the case that parents who pull their children out of public school will vote against the referendum. Although I had to move my daughter out of MMSD, I still plan to vote YES. When my children are grown, I will still vote YES on issues like this. MMSD wasn’t able to meet my daughter’s needs, but they are meeting the needs of many other children and at least partly meeting the needs of many more. Punishing the district by reducing the resources available to it won’t make it any easier for them to serve TAG kids and others. I do hate Everyday Math and CMP, but a NO vote seems like cutting off my nose…

  14. Ed,
    I don’t understand why you oppose this referendum if you care about the children (all the children, including TAG kids) in the district. The money is tight – if the referendum fails, it only gets worse. The reality is that the formula that limits the amount the district can spend is profoundly flawed, and doesn’t reflect the real increases in costs for education. I encourage all parents who care about public education to support the referendum. Taxes are what we should pay happily to support the infrastructure that makes this city worth living in.

  15. I support the MMSD when they do thing right. I criticize them when they do things wrong. I’ve strongly criticized their current stance on equity, to the point to where I have been cursed out by a former BoE president in front of my own kids’ school. I’ve also addressed the BoE to praise every single teacher, therapist, principal and aide who helped my autistic son get through elementary school. 34 of them to be exact. It’s pretty simple: I’m not an ideologue.
    And i feel strongly that folks who “threaten to leave” are just playing a game. I certainly respect those who want to woo those folks.
    As much as things get testy here in SISville, I can honestly say that I still respect and am personally fond of everyone here…even when we agree to disagree. Maybe it’s because I’m a Virgo;)?

  16. Maybe the reason that a discussion hasn’t taken off about “who the schools should serve” is because (based on the comments I’ve read over the last couple of months) you aren’t going to find anyone arguing that they shouldn’t serve everyone. Disagreeing about HOW kids should be served is quite different than disagreeing about WHETHER they should be served. Personally, I did respond to the initial attempt to start that discussion–and had no response. It does seem sometimes on this list that if someone isn’t willing to take a combative position that someone else can slam, the conversation just….dies. I, for one, wish that there was less attention to one upmanship, and more attention to actually bridging diverse viewpoints.

  17. Don, thanks for asking why I’m going to vote NO.
    It’s unclear to me where any “freed up” money will be used. Barb Schrank has followed this issue more closely than any of us, and she raises important issues in the thread at
    In particular, she said:
    “To me, when the School Board approved the budget, they were approving the expenditure of funds in Business Services to pay for the debt service. However, if (when) the referendum passes, there will not be the expenditures necessary for the debt service, because the debt would transfer to another fund and funding source. I’m sure Business Services would find ways to spend that money and would argue that the School Board approved $x million for Business Services; however, the School Board did make cuts to the schools, and I would like too see our School Board revisit their list of cuts for the 06-07 budget and publicly discuss how the “saved” dollars would be used for the coming year. If we were talking about $50,000, I wouldn’t think much about that necessary, except it is one teacher. However, upwards of $500,000 represents a considerable sum of money (to me) that could, if the Board majority decided, be put to use in the schools.”
    I’m not certain that any of the “freed up” money will aid any student, and I sure don’t want more spent in business services, which the board majority previously refused to audit or evaluate. (You can find a video of that discussion on the blog.)
    Even if the administration intends to use the money for programs in the schools (and again that’s not at all clear), I don’t want more money going to keep kids inappropriately in English 10 or to fund ineffective Reading Recovery, to name just two examples.
    Based on the comments of referendum leaders, I’d expect those leaders to lobby against use of the funds for ALL students. They will have the backing of the administration and a share of the board members, I’d guess. (Remember it will take five votes, not a simple majority, to reallocate any funds, so a minority of three can block use of funds in the schools.)
    In short, I don’t know how a large chunk of referendum money will be used, and I don’t support more money for the administration to use in programs that hurt students.

  18. TeacherL,
    The attempt at initiating a discussion on the students who should be served by the district was, from my point of view, an honest attempt at “bridging diverse viewpoints.” I was disappointed as you were that no one responded. I think that we could have had a civil and productive discussion.

  19. Why I don’t know, but I want to clarify one thing.
    There is the implication here that I am inclined to write off or don’t respect people who have removed their children from public schools. As I’ve said many times (even on this site I believe), parents who do what they feel is best for their children should be respected. These can be difficult and should be private decisions. What I was writing about in the quoted passage is something different, it is those who use the threat of leaving as an extortion tactic. This is neither private, nor difficult.
    And please note, I did not say I didn’t care about people who do this, I said I care more about other people. I believe that all of us care more about some people than others — our families, our friends, coworkers, those who we share bonds with of all sorts with. This doesn’t mean we don’t care about the others (another distortion care of Ed Blume).
    And again, whoever you care about more or most, please understand that whatever your educational priorities the referendum is about building and finance, not me, not threats to leave the schools, not immigrant families, not Ed Blume’s obsessions…building and finance.

  20. Here are the follow-up questions I’ve asked Art Rainwater, who sent them to Roger Price for more detail. What I know so far is the savings from refinancing the Leopold debt will be put into the District’s contingency fund minus the costs of debt financing that debt up until that time. Supt. Rainwater estimates this amount to be $276,000.
    I did have additional questions about the financing costs of refinancing the non-Leopold debt and if any costs spent to date on planning for the new school would be reimbursed to the operating fund when the referendum passes.
    I feel it is reasonable for the public to know the financial answers to these questions, which could be summarized in a straightforward manner in one table. I think the School Board diminished their credibility with the public when they voted to put the $276,000 into a contingency fund (to be spent on who knows what at a later time when there are five votes). As Lucy Mathiak pointed out in her blog comment, neither she nor Ruth Robarts were at the meeting where this was discussed and was decided. Lucy had wanted to look at the financial information, look at the cuts made last year, develop priorities for available resources, determine where opportunities might exist to get money back into the schools and give direction to the Administration. This approach seems common sense to me.
    This is a critical referendum for our kids. The information needs to be clear, complete and informative. Putting money in the Contingency Fund does not send the right signal to the community. Think about it. The public hears there are millions of cuts each year to our schools – last year my daughter’s principal was counting sheets of paper! In my humble opinion, it’s the School Board’s responsibility, at a minimum, to tell the public how the funds made available in the raised revenue cap will be prioritized and spent in the 06-07 school year.
    If the School Board does not do this, I think they are putting the success of this referendum at risk unnecessarily for all our school children and that is not fair to these kids.

  21. Thanks for digging, Barb. While $276K is quite small in the scope of a $332M+ budget, you raise some important points with respect to an informed electorate.

  22. While $276,000 is indeed a small number in terms of $332 million budget, it represents the equivalent of approximately 5 teacher FTEs. For schools that are worrying about tenths of teaching/resource FTEs, it makes a difference.

  23. In a separate blog, Lawrie Kobza pointed out the benefits of the resolution the School Board approved 5-0 on August 28th –
    “WHEREAS, the School Board of the MadisonMetropolitan School District(hereinafter the Board) authorized the Administration to proceed with constructing and equipping an addition and remodeling of the LeopoldSchoolproject (hereinafter, the project); and
    WHEREAS, the Board placed $291,983.75 in the MadisonMetropolitanSchool District’s (hereinafter the District) 2006-2007 budget to fund the project; and
    WHEREAS, if the November 7, 2006, referendum passes, the District will not need to use all of the $291,983.75 that the Board placed in the District’s 2006-2007 budget to fund the project;
    THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that if the referendum passes, the Board, through a budget amendment, intends to place in the District’s contingency fund of the 2006-2007 District budget, the $291,983.75 that is in the 2006-2007 district budget to finance the project less the expenses the District incurs relative to the initial financing of the project.”
    She feels this is the best place for these funds at this time and puts future use of the money this year in the hands of the School Board with a 5-vote majority needed. I support her reasoning, but I would like to see the School Board be as clear as possible for all the monies, including future savings that are currently committed even if the referendum passes.

  24. Mr. Blume –
    How unfortunate that you remain so fixated by West High’s new English 10 course that you use it to bash MMSD on the upcoming referendum. At the risk of repeating myself from earlier threads, kids with academic talent are well served by West High. This is confirmed every year by the announcement of National Merit Semi-Finalists, the nation’s top 1% of college-bound juniors. An impressive 6.6% of West High juniors (2005-06) recently qualified as Semi-Finalists, a slightly higher proportion than Memorial (5.0%) and more than double any other public or private high school in Dane County (e.g., Edgewood 2.5%, Country Day 1.7%). [see “90 Area Students Named National Merit Scholar Semifinalists,” Sept. 13]
    That you take other posters to task for negative reaction to your relentless MMSD-bashing really takes the cake.

  25. Mr Gleason,
    Ed Blume is more than capable of defending himself from your ad hominems. (I can’t help but notice, however, the use of this tactic to defuse or confuse the merits of a discussion.) Instead, I write to challenge your assertion that all is well because of the number of this year’s National Merit semi-finalists, none of whom has ever had to experience the curricular changes West’s English 10 represents. Moreover, I wouldn’t expect these numbers to change dramatically absent families voting with their feet en masse. Rather, I remain concerned that these advanced students are being challenged appropriately. A PSAT score doesn’t answer that question.
    Specifically as to the referenda, I would love to see the district address directly not only new school openings and additions, but also closures, consolidations or other changes that could flow in response to referenda proposals. I haven’t seen that yet, but perhaps I’ve missed it.

  26. I was made aware by another reader that I’m one yet to respond….
    I believe in the discussions held by our community task forces and by our current MMSD Board of Education. Therefore I trust in their research and decision.
    I believe it is important to understand ‘why’ families choose another option.
    I believe it is important to understand our school funding includes a formula on enrollment. “Losing students loses state aids” and gaining students increases state aid.
    I’m not a defender. I’m an advocate; and I support the referendum on November 7, 2006. I will be voting YES.
    I invite the public to view the FAQ section of the CAST website. It’s a good list of questions and responses for community voters.

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