Mayors and Schools

John Nichols noted that Madison’s Mayoral challengers have not raised substantive questions of the incumbent Mayor’s (Dave Cieslewicz) record, including schools:

No. 2, he has failed to offer much in the way of a vision for how this rapidly changing city should approach the future. How green should it be? Where does mass transit fit in? How do we diversify the economy? How do we make sure that the schools remain strong and popular with all the city’s residents? The mayor thinks about all these issues. He works on them in incremental ways and, frankly, he’s done so ably. Unfortunately, he has not communicated in a particularly bold or effective manner with regard to them. Once again, the vulnerability remains.
In politics, an incumbent’s vulnerabilities are meaningless if they are not exploited by his or her challengers. Ray Allen and Peter Munoz have failed, so far, to put a dent in Cieslewicz. One of them will survive the primary, and that candidate will have a chance to mount a more serious challenge. With the first critical test just days away, however, Allen and Munoz give every sign of having boarded the wrong trolley.

I’ve been surprised at the lack of Mayoral involvement in our K-12 climate. The Madison school district’s enrollment has been flat for years, while surrounding schools have grown significantly. Continued growth of our edge cities, business migration (Epic systems move to Verona), a growing budget, safety concerns and curriculum questions provide plenty of issues relevant to the health of our community. Around the country, as Jill Tucker notes in San Francisco, many mayors are active for obvious reasons on K-12 issues.
Why have the Mayor (and challengers) been quiet on substantive school issues?
Perhaps in Madison, where a local elected official recently remarked to me that “we don’t have a democracy” (think about that), the endorsement merry go round (maybe the deal with schools is that a candidate gets ground and monetary support, or help with a holiday party, if they stay out of K-12), the “remain silent” requirements of some and the fact that political upside in K-12 is difficult leads to the present situation. Or just indifference?
What do we, as a community, give up when candidates who have cut deals and agree to remain silent on certain issues are elected? What sort of example does this leave for future generations?