$pending more for fewer students: Madison

Dave Cieslewicz:

Despite being the fastest growing large community in Wisconsin the Madison public school system is losing students. Last year the district lost almost 900 students. Why?

In a story in Isthmus last week long-time school board member Nicki Vander Meulen mused on the causes for the loss of market share to private schools and neighboring districts. She offered three theories: Madison has older facilities, larger schools are off-putting to parents, especially after COVID, and some schools in other districts are just closer to students’ homes.

Those are all plausible answers, but none of them are slam dunks and both Vander Meulen and the Isthmus reporter avoided the elephant in the classroom.

Let’s start with Vander Meulen’s theories.

It’s true that some Madison school buildings are going on a century old. But a couple of years ago voters approved a massive building referendum. All the high schools are getting big makeovers, most of the other schools are getting some upgrades and a brand spanking new elementary school has just opened. Those projects are either done or well underway and the results are visible and positive. If the building age argument ever had much juice it’s being squeezed out as we speak.

The size of the student population issue also could be real. But the decline started before COVID. Madison’s numbers are 7% lower since 2013 in a city that has grown at a steady clip of about 1.1% a year.


Abbey Machtig:

The board also discussed on Monday potential changes to the way budget amendments are suggested and reviewed. The board is preparing to vote on the final version of the district’s 2023-24 budget next month, after approving a preliminary version in June.

The changes would make it so board members need to submit a request to the district’s deputy superintendent in order to make an amendment to the budget. These requests would need to be received five business days before the board meets.

Soldner said the request would also need to acknowledge the financial effect of a proposed change. He cited the recent pay increases for teaching staff and custodians as an example, which he said collectively cost the district an additional $30 million in ongoing expenses.

“Well, it’s kind of too bad that we’ve got the smartest people at our universities, and yet we have to create a law to tell them how to teach.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

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

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.

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

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

When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?