There has been much talk on the campaign trail about the need for a “cost benefit” analysis and the lack of forward planning. I find it disturbing that some of our candidates seem unaware of the 2002 Functional Analysis that MMSD commissioned from Virchow, Krause & Company, LLP. At that time, the district realized that the flawed state finance system would force cuts in the years ahead and wanted to be prepared. Because we have the analysis, we are prepared (nearly as well) as we can be for the challenges of the yearly budgeting.
I’m glad that this was commissioned and we have it to use. However, we all need to be careful and understand that all educational research and data is contingent, contextual and only provides guidance for decision-making. The factors that make a student achieve or fail are so complex and interactive that attributing causality is at best a matter of likelihood, not certainty. Some of the most important things, like the smile on a teacher’s face, defy quantification. Additionally, all the measures we use are to one degree or another subjective and flawed (see Fair Test for one set of examples). It isn’t science and applying the positivism of science and related reliance on “expertise” to education can be dangerous.
I value data and research as tools to inform educational policy, but I know that human judgment is the final and most important quality that we need on the Board of Education. This is one reason why I am supporting Beth Moss, Marjorie Passman and Johnny Winston Jr. in the April 3d Election. They are knowledgeable about our district and community, open to using data and research and have displayed the kind of judgement we need to keep our schools strong and getting stronger.
Thomas J. Mertz