Saving Schools and More

A group of parents and community members has begun organizing to agitate for an operating referendum to be placed on the ballot February 19th 2008 (the Spring Primary, including presidential). The details of the referendum are still in the early planning stages. I am part of this group.

As they consider the 2007-2008 budget (including school closings), it is important to show the Board of Education that there is broad and growing support for this referendum. With the realistic possibility of a successful referendum prior to the next budget cycle the Board can be induced to take nearly irreversible cuts (such as closing schools or eliminating 5th Grade Strings) off the table for this year.

You can help with this. There is a letter that will be submitted to the Board on April 19th here. If you support this, please say so and add your name and information in the comments. There are also some talking points here. We are asking that as many people as possible attend the upcoming Board meetings (April 17th and April 19th in particular) and express support for a referendum and not cutting those things that will be difficult to restore. We are also asking that individuals and groups contact the Board and news outlets (Capital Times: tctvoice@madison.com; Wisconsin State Journal: wsjopine@madison.com) to express support.

As always, educating and agitating on the state finance system that has created these conditions is important.

Thank you

Thomas J. Mertz

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26 Comments

Filed under AMPS, Budget, Elections, Local News, Referenda, School Finance, Take Action, We Are Not Alone

26 responses to “Saving Schools and More

  1. Ed Blume

    I’ll sign on.

    You make an excellent point that the board should not cut those things that will be difficult to restore. Freezing the business services budget could save more than $2 million. If the MMSD would get a miraculous windfall from the pending state budget, some or all of the cuts could be restored. If a school closes, it’s not going to reopen no matter how much money might fall from the sky.

    However, the MMSD still needs a better budget process that doesn’t start with weeks of agonizing over school closings and then a few days to analyze the actual budget where other cost savings might be found.

    The MMSD also needs a five-year plan for what MMSD education should be and how it should be financed. The MMSD has no guarantee that state school aid financing will be any different three years from now. If it’s no different, what then? Another multi-year referendum?

    Ed

  2. Marcia Gevelinger Bastian

    Please refrain from closing schools due to the long term ill effects on neighborhoods.

  3. Karen Bassler

    Please add my name to the letter. While I feel that a referendum is not the solution to the school financing situation – more of a temporary patch – if it necessary to keep downtown Madison schools open and vibrant, I am all in favor.

  4. James & Michelle Rameker

    Please add our names to the letter. I also feel that cutting budget items that would prove very difficult to restore should only be undertaken as a last resort. There seems to be gathering momentum around a call for an upcoming referendum as well as renewed attempts to change school funding issues legislatively. Until the possibility of a referendum and/or a change in the state school funding caps in the near term is exhausted, it seems prudent to not make cuts such as closing schools, eliminating fifth grade strings or drastically increasing class sizes.

  5. JoAnn Jensen

    Closing schools and increasing population density at other schools is foolhearty. Dense packing and displacement of students is not advantageous to the educational process. Stop this cold war on education. Our children need their home community and adequate space to grow and learn.

  6. Donna Friedsam

    I am particularly concerned about increasing class size and reducing cross-cutting services such as special education and TAG. These are very important elements to a strong school district and to maintaining support for public schools and participation in the MMSD across a broad spectrum of the community.

  7. Tim Astfalk

    Please add my name to the letter.

  8. Beth Swedeen

    In addition to adding your names to the letter, I hope EACH person on this site takes the 15 minutes to write a letter to Gov. Doyle, their own state legislators and the 16 members of Joint Finance to talk personally about how the school funding formula in the state is STRANGLING our public schools.

    We all may be successful in keeping schools open this year, but we will only face another $10 million in cuts again next year if the formula doesnt change. Info on how to find the email addresses for legislators is on this site in earlier posts.
    You can send the same letter to all of them.

    Likewise, this Thursday at 10 a.m. at the State Capitol, Rep. Sondy Pope-Roberts is having a press conference on her bill to change school funding. This is in our own backyard so I hope to see many, many Madison folks there. Other districts are sending folks from far away and this is a 15-minute drive for many of us.

    Specifically in letters, ask to:

    — Continue SAGE funding at current levels…it’s a proven program to improve outcomes.
    — Increase funding to Categorical Aids to keep the Legislature’s original commitment to fund special education at a two-thirds level (The legislature has never fulfilled its commitment here and local districts have had to pay the lion’s share). This would be $45 million increase to Categorical Aids next year and $55 million additional funds the next year.
    — Remove the revenue caps and provide more equitable state funding for public education in WI.

    Let’s permanently fix the problem so we don’t have to go into crisis mode each year at the local level to preserve programs and schools we know are successful. It’s demoralizing and detracts from the day-to-day business of educating our kids and keeping our neighborhoods strong.

  9. Troy D

    Sign on to keep open schools AND take the next steps to save our schools.

    This link will help you to know who are your representatives.
    http://waml.legis.state.wi.us/
    This link will give you sample letters you can write.
    http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/budget.htm#state
    This link has the finance committee members.
    http://www.legis.state.wi.us/leginfo/CommPages/Committees.aspx?house=Senate

    Troy D

  10. Amy Williamson

    Please add my name to the letter.

  11. Julie Hay-Chapman

    Primarily as a parent of two children in the Madison School District, but also as a speech/language therapist (special education) in the near east side of Madison which has a high number of low income students, I am appalled that considering closing and/or consolidating schools in this part of town would be considered. I understand that the enrollment is lower among schools in this part of the city. However, when you consider the higher needs of these children – lower socio-economic status and a higher rate of homeless/transferring students, we need to have smaller schools, smaller class sizes, and neighborhood schools which the kids and almost more importantly parents can easily get to and access. I know there is a very diverse student population in terms of race, ethnicity, and SES – which is what makes it a great combination. If you close a school, you are forcing students to travel farther. You are in many many cases cutting off the chance for many parents to not only visit the school for conferences, but also for the chance to volunteer or participate in their students’ activities or volunteer. I am dismayed that the BOE voted against having a referendum. I am very disappointed.

    In the end I know that the ultimate solution is in a drastic change in how public school are funded. This needs to be done at the state (and federal level – special education is one of the most notoriously UNDERFUNDED mandates across the nation – federal and state level actually). However, that change is going to take a state-wide coalition and state-wide community effort. What if all school districts in the state decided to just NOT OPERATE until the state government fixed its funding? would that take school boards to go “on strike” so to speak?

    Please reconsider a referendum. Obviously the time is short for this school year, but perhaps for the fall of 2007, or Feb. 2008. Our schools are becoming lepers. They are disnigrating before our eyes.

  12. Barbara Katz

    Please add my name to the letter as well. I am a parent of students at Cherokee and at West. I believe that a reformation of school funding is essential for the long term health of our schools and am happy to work on such an effort.
    Barbara Katz

  13. Laura Chern

    I support a referendum to increase the school districts operating budget.

  14. Deb Gilbert

    Please add my name to the list.
    I live in the Leopold attendance area.

  15. Pamela Noyd

    Please add my name to your list.

  16. Melissa Sargent

    Please add my name to your letter as a supporter of education and changing the way the school districts opperating budgets are set.

  17. Felice Borisy Rudin

    Please add my name to the letter. While I strongly support advocacy of the State government to reform school financing in a way that would allow our schools to move Forward to excellence, I also recognize that these changes will not take place soon enough to save our schools unless we move to referendum to keep key educational services from being irrevocably cut. We must protect elementary strings, and even if possible restore it to fourth grade as well as fifth grade. I also disagree strongly with the move on the part of the administration to start cutting small elementary schools in favor of large elementary schools. The educational evidence strongly supports smaller school communities as being key to the success of students. Clearly the administration believes that, as West High has been divided into “small learning communities.” So why cut a successful school such as Lindbergh elementary, which has 98% occupancy, just because the school was built to be a small neighborhood school? Once we start in that direction, where do we stop?

  18. Faye Kubly

    I support and will assist a February 08 referendum which would enable our administrators and Board Members to maintain our neighborhood schools…I oppose any budget decisions that would irrevocably alter the quality of the Eastside or “any-side” school in Madison, and I specifically object and oppose closings/consolidations and the attached stressors(bus time and cost-a $250/year per M.S. student fee as it’s the middle school family responsibility to transport and approx. 30 min. ride, parental and student disconnect from existing neighborhood communities and schools, a reconnecting transition to a new school community where families will again be required to transport themselves, verses walking, via whatever means of transportation exists, or in some cases does not exist.) Adding these avoidable, enormous transitions, to the lives of some of this city’s most vulnerable socioeconomic population, as well as adding stressors to families in general is unreasonable. We all agree family life today is already strained and parenting has always been one of this world’s most rewarding but arduous tasks. Our world is struggling with larger issues of wars, pollutions and climate change and each family is struggling to maintain and find their supporting roles. We are encouraged to use “human/Hu energy” to walk or pedal…most of us will continue to want and need to walk since gas prices will rise. This proposal to close and consolidate, is both extremely short-sighted, and contrary to every principle and policy our district and citywide community has functioned and planned through. I’ve written here with hope and faith in my Madison Community and I trust that others will support a healthful referendum until state reforms are legislated.

  19. Dr. Ann Behrmann

    I support a referendum to revisit caps on school funding issues to give more financial support to teachers and counseling, shool nurses, social work, special education and support staff working to educate students learning at MMSD in light of changing demographics and needs of families in Madison.

  20. Paula and Craig Hughes

    Education is the future. We’re lost without it.

  21. Diana Greenberg

    Please add my name to the letter supporting a February 08 referendum.

  22. Candice and Dave Rowe

    Please add our names to the letter.

    We feel that SAGE should be continued to be funded as well as increased funding to Categorical Aids. Please don’t forget that that our children are our future and need our support.

  23. Count me in for both the referendum and advocacy to change the state funding formula. Strong and effective public schools are Madison’s front line in creating a fair and vital community.

  24. Peter Berryman

    Please add my name; I’m in favor of a referendum. It would also save money to block off all the side streets and have just one big avenue, but then how would you get to your branch library? Then again I suppose we could brick those up too…

  25. Paula Volpiansky

    As a concerned citizen and a parent of a recent MMSD graduate and high school freshman, I recognize the importance of a quality education. At the same time, I know how challenging providing such an education in the 21st century and to an increasingly diverse student population. Until large scale school finance change is made to allow for sufficient and equitable support of our public schools, we must do what we can to support this most precious resource. Thus, I will support any referendum that leads to a quality education for ALL children. I can’t think of a better use of public tax dollars.

  26. Jonathon Hawkins

    Please add my name in support of both referendum and to participate in advocacy. For too long the communities that make up this district have been pitted against each other in an endless cycle of budget cuts and referendums. Important services are being cut annually, new teachers are leaving the field and the state, and students are losing out.

    The state of Wisconsin is out of integrity with its children.

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