Group of Black leaders opposing $350M Madison schools referendums

Logan Wroge:

An advocacy group of Black leaders is opposing the Madison School District’s $350 million ask of taxpayers this fall, arguing the proposals are under-developed and the district hasn’t done enough to support African American children to get their endorsement on the two November ballot referendums.

In a statement sent to some media members Tuesday, Blacks for Political and Social Action of Dane County said it’s concerned with the progress on closing wide racial achievement gaps; the cost of the referendums could be burdensome on fixed-income residents; and educational priorities in the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted since the referendums were first proposed more than a year ago.

“We have not been presented with evidence that links additional public expenditures with increasing the academic performance of African American students,” the organization said in the statement. “More of the same for African American students is unacceptable.”

Last month, the Madison School Board approved two referendums for the Nov. 3 ballot: A $317 million facilities referendum largely focused on renovating the high schools and a $33 million operating referendum that could permanently raise the budget by that amount within four years.

With only about 10% of Black elementary and middle school students scoring proficient or higher in reading and math on a state test, Blacks for Political and Social Action said “taxpayers have not received a fair return on investment.”

Let’s compare: Middleton and Madison Property taxes

Madison property taxes are 22% more than Middleton’s for a comparable home, based on this comparison of 2017 sales.

Fall 2020 Administration Referendum slides.

(Note: “Madison spends just 1% of its budget on maintenance while Milwaukee, with far more students, spends 2%” – Madison’s CFO at a fall 2019 referendum presentation.)

MMSD Budget Facts: from 2014-15 to 2020-21 [July, 2020]

Property taxes up 37% from 2012 – 2021.

MMSD Budget Facts: from 2014-15 to 2020-21
1. 4K-12 enrollment: -1.6% (decrease) from 2014-15 to projected 2020-21
2. Total district staffing FTE: -2.9% (decrease) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
3. Total expenditures (excluding construction fund): +15.9% +17.0% (increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
4. Total expenditures per pupil: +17.8% +19.0%(increase) from 2014-15 to proposed 2020-21
5. CPI change: +10.0% (increase) from January 2014 to January 202
6. Bond rating (Moody’s): two downgrades (from Aaa to Aa2) from 2014 to 2020
1. DPI WISEdash for 2014-15 enrollment; district budget book for projected 2020-21 enrollment
2. & 3.: District budget books
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics (

– via a kind reader (July 9, 2020 update).

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration