Testify

Eleventh Dream Day, “Testify” (live) — click to listen or download.

Via Progressive Dane (I am Co-Chair and education Task Force Chair, so this is via me too):

6/1 — Call for Action, MMSD School Budget Hearing

At the General membership Meeting last night PD voted support for the call for action below. Although the odds of great changes this school budget cycle are low, it is important that the voices of school supporters — those who think that some of the $13 million slated for property tax relief be used to make out schools better — be heard. As one person who testified earlier put it, the Board of Education needs to be reminded that they were elected to be the “guardians of the schools…not the guardians of the taxpayers.”

Please join me Tuesday. The meeting begins at 5:00, so you can stop by on your way to the Immigration Rally.

Distribute Widely!

Madison School Budget Hearing
Call to Action
June 1, 2010, 5:00 PM
Doyle Administration Building Auditorium

On June 1, the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Board of Education will hold their fourth and final hearing on the 2010-11 Budget. After the hearing they will finalize and vote on a preliminary budget (the final budget comes in October, after student counts and state aid are certified). This is your last chance to stand up for schools and education and make your voice heard.

The Talking Points

General

  • Tax increases are better than cuts to school budgets; Invest in Education, Raise My Taxes.
  • School Budgets have been cut for 16 years; it is time to stop this trend.
  • The trend in taxes paid by property owners for schools has been down for the last 15 years; levying to the full authority would return the mil rate to about the 2004-5 level.
  • The 2008 Operating Referendum passed with 69% of the vote.
  • Madison schools are very good, but there is much that needs improvement.
  • For the benefit of all students, the Strategic Plan needs to be implemented, not “narrowed.”
  • The achievement gaps of over 30% points between low income and other students on standardized tests in every subject and in every tested grade are not going to be helped by budget cuts.

It is doubtful that any of the cuts that have already been initially approved will be rescinded, but there are places where some of the savings might be reallocated.

  • Specifics
  • I’ve proposed two budget amendments, one on information for decision making and the other on Equity.
    • Budget $250,000 for improved data collection analysis and reporting as required in the Strategic Plan, TAG Plan, and Equity Policy, Literacy Education Evaluation and elsewhere. This should include the creation of a position working with the Board of Education to determine and meet their informational needs.
    • Budget $2.0 million in Supplemental Allocations to high need schools via the Equity Resource Formula (or similar criteria) and aligned with purposes identified in School Improvement Plans and consistent with the Strategic Plan and Equity Policy. Since SAGE and Title I do provide resources to high need elementary schools, it may be advisable to disproportionately target secondary schools with these funds.
    • You can read more about these on the MadisonAmps blog.
  • Create a fund for Strategic Plan Initiatives that can be approved by the Board throughout the year.
  • Create a fund for Equity Initiatives that can be approved by the Board throughout the year.
  • Fund much-needed Facilities Maintenance.
  • Rescind the decision to seek pay freezes for some of the lowest paid employees.

Background

Due to Wisconsin’s broken school funding system and cuts in state aid to schools, at the start of the budget process maintaining educational offering and quality would have required an estimated $28.2 million increase in locally generated revenue. This comes after over a decade when the trend ahs been reduced school property taxes for homeowners. After examining and voting on over 200 options for cuts and efficiencies, the Board has reduced this amount by about $13.5 million.

In 2008 over 68% of the voters approved a referendum to avoid cuts and bring about improvements. At that time the anticipated budget cuts for 2010-11 without a referenda were $9 million; now they are cutting $13.5 million from the levy despite the successful referendum.

Efficiencies are almost always good and most of the cuts will not have a significant effect on the breadth or quality of educational offerings. In many ways the Board has done a good job under difficult circumstances.

What they haven’t done is looked for ways that they could use some or all of that $13.5 million to improve our schools. Instead it has been designated for property tax relief.

There is much room for improvement. 17 years of cuts due to the state finance system have limited opportunities and support for all students. The achievement gaps remain a source of shame. On the most recent WKCE tests the gaps between low income and non low income students scoring proficient was over 30% in every grade for every subject.. African American and Hispanic students are more likely to drop out than participate in programs for the “talented and gifted.”

A big part of the 2008 referendum was the promise of a strategic plan to improve education in Madison. A plan is in place, but these self-imposed cuts have placed the improvements in jeopardy. Superintendent Dan Nerad recently cited “resource constraints” as the source of a “need” to “narrow the priorities within the [strategic] plan.” They have the resources to make big improvements, but would rather give tax breaks.

If you think, improving education and the futures of our children and community are more important than tax breaks, come to the June 1 hearing and show support or write the Board of Education at board@madison.k12.wi.us.

For more information on the Madison Budget, visit the district Budget Page: http://drupal.madison.k12.wi.us/node/6001

To get involved in fixing things at the state level, join the Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools (www.excellentschools.org) and sign the Penny for Kids petition (www.apennyforkids.org).

I’d really like for the Board to hear from at least a dozen or two school supporters on June 1.  If they don’t hear from you, they can pretend you don’t exist.

Thomas J. Mertz

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Filed under "education finance", Best Practices, Budget, Contracts, education, Equity, finance, Local News, Pennies for Kids, Referenda, referendum, School Finance, Take Action, Uncategorized

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