Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Art Rainwater put the state’s school-funding system in stark perspective recently when he said, “Prioritization of services has become making sure that we provide the best education possible for the most children, not the best education possible for all children.”
Rainwater wrote last month in his column “MMSD Today,” which is published on the district’s website. He was talking about the recently-entered school budget season that, he says, “creates intense concern among staff and parents and makes adversaries among friends.”
The answer, the superintendent said, is to decide “how important it is to meet the academic standards enacted by our Legislature” and then “provide the resources to make that possible.”
He also highlighted an important point, often overlooked in the current discussion: “There is no question that our school systems should be operated efficiently. In the early years of the revenue cap, all Wisconsin school districts had to examine very carefully what was necessary to efficiently operate in ways that allowed us to fulfill our legal and fiduciary responsibilities and yet make as many resources available for our children as possible. We are long past the point of gaining more efficiency.”
One response to “Rainwater says school-funding system makes “adversaries among friends””
I don’t know what the superintendent means by “efficiency,” but the MMSD certainly has done little or nothing to find less expensive, more effective curricula or adopt curricula that should save money in other program areas.
In particular, the superintendent refuses (and the board acquiesces) to explore alternatives to MMSD’s only early reading intervention program for students who aren’t learning to read. The district insists on using a curriculum called Reading Recovery, which succeeds for less than half of the kids in the 2003-04 school year, at a cost of $1.2 million, according to the MMSD’s own analysis. No national review of reading programs rates Reading Recovery as effective.
In the higher grades the MMSD once trumpted a program called Read 180, with start-up costs of about $30,000 per school. But again the board and superintendent have never even discussed expansion of the program, which would help older kids succeed in school and possibly reduce the number of drop-outs and students referred for special ed and end student frustation that leads to disruptive behavior.
I hope that AMPS pushes the board to consider Read 180 as a best practice, as well as pushing for one of the only two elementary reading programs rated as effective — Success for All and Reading Mastery (Direct Instruction).