Action Alert: Tell the Madison School Board that proposed changes to the district’s Charter School Policy will hurt our neighborhood schools

On Monday, August 14, the Madison School Board will discuss proposed changes to the district’s Charter School Policy. The board is scheduled to vote on these changes at their regular meeting on August 28. Some of these changes could hurt our neighborhood schools. Because of this tight timeline, the public needs to reach out to the school board now.

The most concerning change in this policy is how MMSD charter schools will be funded in the future. MMSD charter schools receive the open enrollment funding per student, or $6,639 per student. The revised policy will increase this funding to the district’s average per-pupil cost (with no formula provided for calculating this cost). A January article in the Wisconsin State Journal said that the Madison School District spends about $12,500 per student. This level of per-pupil funding would provide an 88 percent increase in funding for MMSD charter school students. Additionally, the district would be obligated to provide support for special education students, English language learners and students eligible for Title I support.

How would this impact our neighborhood schools?

  • Even though this money would remain in our district, the additional funds diverted to charter schools would no longer be available to the vast majority of students who attend our neighborhood schools.
  • Charter schools will siphon students and funding out of public neighborhood schools across the district without changing the fixed costs of running those schools, or necessarily reducing the need for staffing and services in those schools.
  • Savings from students leaving our neighborhood schools for charter schools won’t offset the higher costs of charter schools.

If the revised policy is approved, MMSD charter schools could receive more funding per pupil than any other “school choice” option in the state. In comparison, here is the 2016-17 per-pupil funding for other Wisconsin school choice options:

  • Private school vouchers: $7,323 (grades K-8); $7,969 (grades 9-12)
  • “Special needs” private school vouchers: $12,000
  • Independent charter schools: $8,188
  • Open enrollment: $6,639

Furthermore, the revised policy would no longer reduce district funding when private fundraising by MMSD charter schools brings the total revenue per student above 110 percent of the district’s average per-student cost. Also, the policy changes the charter school application review process so that most of the review committee members are hand-picked by the superintendent. As the recommendations made by these review committees strongly influence school board decisions about charter school approval, this change concentrates charter school decision-making power in the superintendent’s office, without increasing transparency, accountability or oversight by the school board.

Here’s how you can help:

  • Send an email to the school board telling them you have serious concerns about the proposed revisions to the MMSD Charter School Policy. Talking points and board email addresses are below.
  • Attend the August 14 school board meeting. The meeting is at 5pm in the Doyle Building auditorium. The charter school policy is the only agenda item. And, at this meeting you can…
  • Speak to the school board about this issue by making public comments at this meeting. Instructions for making public comments are on the SCAPE website.

Here are some points you can include in your email or public comments to the school board. Please pick whatever points resonate for you, and keep your message brief.

  • Thank the members of the Madison School Board for their commitment to public education.
  • The revised Charter School Policy continues to limit the board to considering instrumentality charter schools that are ultimately governed by the school board and staffed by district employees. This is good, and it is extremely important that our district continue to only allow these kinds of charter schools.
  • The board should not increase per-pupil MMSD charter school funding to the district average. Given that the MMSD provides charter schools with administrative services on top of per-pupil funding, it makes sense to give our district charter schools less than the $8,188 per pupil that the state provides for independent charter schools.
  • Charter schools should not be given the power of unlimited private fundraising without a corresponding reduction in district support. We should continue the current limits on private fundraising by district charter schools.
  • The superintendent should not have the discretion to hand-pick the members of charter school review committees. The policy should specify the composition of these committees.

Finally, the board is scheduled to vote on the Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School contract this Wednesday, August 16, without providing an opportunity for public comments. The draft presented for vote at the July 31 board meeting had many problems and did not comply with the current charter school policy. A new draft has not been provided to the public or school board. Please let the school board know that public transparency is critical in all major decisions, including decisions about charter schools. If you wish to make public comments about Isthmus Montessori, we recommend you do this at the August 14 meeting.

Here are the email addresses for individual MMSD School Board members:
Seat 1: Anna Moffit,
Seat 2: Mary Burke,
Seat 3: Dean Loumos,
Seat 4: James Howard,
Seat 5: TJ Mertz,
Seat 6: Kate Toews,
Seat 7: Nicki Vander Meulen,
Student rep: Laura Nicholas,

You can reach all school board members (except the student representative) at Email sent to this address will also go to district administration.

Thank you for reaching out to the Madison School Board, and for supporting public education. When we speak together, we are strong.

School Community Alliance for Public Education (SCAPE)
Madison Education Collective