Madison voters will soon be put to a test, perhaps one of the more important ones they’ve faced in recent years. On April 6, they’ll get to decide who will fill an open seat on the Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education during its biggest financial crisis.
It’s apt, then, that the opposing candidates — James Howard and Tom Farley — also be put to the test. We gave them a series of essay questions on a range of pertinent topics, from how they’d cut the school budget to challenges they’ve faced with their own children in Madison schools.
Their answers, lightly edited for length and style, follow.
Isthmus: What are two specific programs you would suggest cutting or policies you would suggest changing due to ongoing budget challenges, and why?
Howard: In Wisconsin, for 17 years, since 1993, we have had a school funding plan that caps a school district’s annual revenue increase at 2.1%, although the actual cost to run a school district has averaged 4% during those years. Secondly, the state of Wisconsin is supposed to pay two-thirds of the cost of schools. This has never happened. So I’d suggest lifting the revenue caps and legislating complete state funding of public education.
Farley: Certainly, the state’s funding formulas and current economic cycles have had a major effect on this current budget crisis. However, budget challenges will be “ongoing” until the district addresses our own systemic issues. Policies regarding talented and gifted students should be based on national best practices. We should also address length of school year and school day, which are far too limiting and lag other countries.