Primary Election Roundup

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Some quick results and very few thoughts this morning.

Turnout was pathetic.  During the Presidential campaign season we heard a lot about a new political engagement, especially among the young.   February primaries lack the glamor (and resources) of Presidential votes, but going from about 2.9 million statewide voters in November 2008 to about 250,000 statewide voters in February of 2009 does not bode well for our political culture.  Locally, in Madison District 8 — one of the campus districts — the vote total in November 2008 was about 7,500; yesterday it was 528.   One data point does not make a trend, but this can’t be good for our democracy.

Tony Evers and Rose Fernandez survived the Sate Superintendent primary.  Here are the totals:

Schools Superintendent REPORTING 97%
Tony Evers

88,734

35%
Rose Fernandez

78,830

31%
Van Mobley 34,534 14%
Todd Price 28,641 11%
Lowell Holtz 22,163 9%

I want to thank Todd Price for his effort and his successes in raising awareness of the continuing crises in school funding, testing and other school matters. Tony Evers now has my full support (and I hope to see more evidence of the aggressive advocacy he has claimed).

All nine referenda failed!

The Appleton referenda lost by a 5 to 4 margin.  According to the Post Crescent this will mean “as many as 30 fewer teachers and larger class sizes next fall, plus delaying safety measures for several school buildings.”

The Clinton referendum asking to fund investments in a geothermal HVAC system failed again, this time by a large margin of 968-576.  This is exactly the sort of infrastructure investments we should be making, but under our current state school finance system they are difficult (more here, here and here).

The Highland request for recurring authority to limit program cuts lost 298 to 158.

Class sizes will be going up in Salem.  There is confusion about the margin.  DPI reports that it was 964 to 654.  The Kenosha News says 664 to 654.  More form that source on what this will mean to the quality of education in Salem:

The increase, officials said, was needed to cover expenses for the upcoming school year. School Board President Patricia Merrill said the result means 19 employees would be laid off for the 2009-10 school year, with layoff notices likely to be announced at Thursday’s School Board meeting.

Also on the chopping block are extra-curricular and after-school programs, starting this fall. Other programs scheduled for elimination include the gifted-and-talented program and technical education. Cuts are expected for music, arts, gym and Spanish. Merrill also said technology upgrades could be halted and staff workshops and travel will be reduced.

Superintendent Dave Milz said class sizes will likely increase.

“I’m not sure how any of these things can be beneficial for the kids,” Milz said. “This will certainly prove to be a challenging experience for the board and community to overcome.”

Referenda were narrowly defeated in Salem last June and September.

The vote in Siren was very close, 156 to 167 (turnout is important!).  There is talk of going back to the voters, but programing cuts are likely.

The votes on the three asks in Waupun were also relatively close.  Out of about 2,700 votes cast, they ranged from 698 in the “ongoing operational expenses vote,” to 26 votes in the “textbooks” and “materials” measure.  There will likely be school closures, and many cuts.

Closing the two outlying schools is a ticket item that would address about half of the budget deficit. No other suggestions presented could put a dent into it as closing Alto and Fox Lake elementary schools.

School board president Cathy Loomans said, “The business we’re in is about putting teachers in front of students. So the majority of our budget is staffing, and unfortunately, when you make these kinds of cuts, they have to come from staffing and that’s going to directly affect class size. There’s no way anymore to insulate the students from making these kinds of cuts.”

“Looking at what cuts we’re going to do, we have to look at what’s best for all the students to give the students across the district an equitable education,” Anne Kraintz, school board member, said.

For more information on the situation in Waupun (from one perspective), check out this site.

All around, not a great day for the future of education in Wisconsin.

Thomas J. Mertz

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Filed under "education finance", Best Practices, Budget, education, Elections, Equity, finance, Local News, Referenda, referendum, School Finance, Uncategorized, We Are Not Alone

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