Tell the Madison School Board to add SEAs to our schools

On Monday, October 30, the Madison School Board is voting on the final budget for the 2017-18 school year. (They will also vote on Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School proposal – more on that below.)

The Madison Metropolitan School District received more state aid — to the tune of about $3.7 million dollars — than they budgeted for in June. This is great news for our district. The administration has proposed using all of these resources to reduce the school district’s tax levy. While we agree that keeping taxes in check is important, some of this funding should be used to meet unmet needs in our schools.

Adequate staffing continues to be an issue in many MMSD classrooms. You may recall that we advocated for, and won, funding for class size reduction in the 2017-18 budget. However, because the state budget wasn’t passed until after the start of the school year, the district was unable to use increased state aid to hire more classroom teachers. As a result, many of our classrooms do not have the staffing necessary to meet the needs of all learners.

We are hearing from MMSD parents and staff members that there are not enough SEAs (Special Education Assistants) to support special education students. SEAs play a central role in ensuring the well-being and safety of all of our students and staff. Please take a few minutes to write to the school board and ask them to add between $750,000 and one million dollars to the 2017-18 budget to support 15-20 more SEAs in our classrooms.

If you have a personal story to share that will support the need for more SEAs in our classrooms, please do. Your stories and experiences are the most powerful argument for hiring more SEAs to support children with special needs.

Here are some talking points you can include in your email to the board:

  • The district has eliminated 53 SEA positions since the 2015-16 school year. (While they added 29.5 special education teaching positions during this time, it’s unclear how many of these teachers are in classrooms and how many are working at the Doyle Building.)
  • SEAs facilitate inclusion in our district by supporting children with special needs in regular classrooms. They play a central role in implementing the Behavior Education Plan by helping all students feel welcome in our classrooms.
  • By ensuring the well-being of special education students, SEAs support learning for all MMSD students.
  • The district experienced high turnover (20%) of special education teachers last year. SEAs support these teachers, and all of our staff, so they can do their jobs and avoid burnout.
  • Relationships are critical to successful learning, and building relationships at our schools is an emphasis in the district this year. Hiring more SEAs now, rather than on an emergency basis later in the school year, will foster supportive relationships between staff and students, and prevent conditions in our classrooms from deteriorating.

In addition to the budget, the board will vote on the Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School proposal on Monday. Last winter, the board approved the proposal for this charter school. However, they did not pass a contract for the school for a number of reasons, including inadequate staffing for special education students and English language learners at the school.

The administration has recommended that the board rescind their approval of the IMA proposal. Because this school would not have adequate staffing to meet the needs of all students, and for numerous other reasons detailed in past SCAPE action alerts, we support the administration’s recommendation. Please thank the school board for doing the right thing and reversing their decision on a weak charter school proposal.

You can find contact information for the Madison School Board here.

There will be a limited time period for public comments before the meeting. If you wish to make public comments, we recommend arriving early and filling out the form ahead of time.

Thank you standing up for our public schools. Together, we can make a difference.

School Community Alliance for Public Education (SCAPE)