It’s a contentious fact that has run through so many Madison School Board races and referendums in recent years:
Madison schools spend a lot — $12,111 per student during the 2005-06 school year.
If the district is spending that much, how can it be in crisis?
The answer is complex and a bit murky. Yet a few things are clear.
Liberal Madison has long spent more than most K-12 districts in Wisconsin. This was true before the state adopted school revenue limits in the 1990s, and the caps only reinforced this today.
“When revenue caps went in, everyone was basically frozen in place,” Madison School Superintendent Art Rainwater said Friday. “We do spend more than the state average. But that has been the expectation of our community.”
So why does Madison spend more? Berry points to Madison’s higher number of staff who aren’t teachers. Madison hires a lot of social workers, psychologists, nurses and administrators.
Madison spends more per pupil than Racine, Green Bay and Kenosha — as well as the state average — on student and staff services, administration and building and grounds. And Madison’s non- instructional costs are rising as a percentage of its spending.
“Madison is actually de- emphasizing instruction,” Berry contends.
In addition, Berry suspects Madison is over-identifying students for learning disabilities.