The MMSD School Board agenda for Monday, June 25 is packed, and there are several agenda items that warrant public input. First, the board will vote on the draft preliminary budget for the 2018-19 school year. (The final budget will be approved in the fall.) On Friday, the district unveiled the version of the budget that is up for vote, giving the public a mere 72 hours to review this complex, 191-page document. The proposed budget has changed substantially since the draft preliminary budget was first introduced in April.
In addition to the budget vote, the board will consider a controversial contract, and they will vote to create a new ad hoc committee on school discipline that will be charged with rewriting the Behavior Education Plan.
Below are details about the positive changes to the budget, as well as concerns with the budget and other agenda items. Please take a moment to contact the board by 5pm on June 25 and encourage them to address these concerns.
Positive changes in the budget
Thank the board for supporting our teachers and staff:
- The budget includes a 2.13 percent cost-of-living-adjustment for all MMSD staff, which is a critical piece of retaining experienced staff and addressing staff morale.
- Additionally, the budget includes salary increases for experienced Special Education Assistants (SEAs), so they can earn more than new employees being hired at a $15 minimum wage.
SCAPE members spoke up about both of these changes, and your voices were heard. Thank you!
Please encourage the board to address these concerns. (You can focus on the concerns that are most important to you, or include all of them, when writing to the board.)
Contract with Achievement Network (ANet): This is in the consent agenda for the meeting (not the budget). MMSD is asking for $50,000 to hire ANet to accelerate student learning through access to their proprietary formative assessments and support for teacher teams. However, ANet has a dubious track record. A 2016 Harvard evaluation found that ANet had no impact on student achievement in math or reading (see page xiii of the linked report). Tell the school board to vote no on this contract.
Ad hoc committee on school discipline: This non-budget agenda item would form an ad hoc committee charged with rewriting the Behavior Education Plan. The committee would include three school board members (Gloria Reyes, James Howard and Kate Toews) and four MMSD staff members appointed by the superintendent. There are numerous problems with this proposal: no explicit representation from the special education community, no board approval of the members appointed by the superintendent, no explanation of how this committee would work with the MTI Joint Safety Committee and the MMSD Guiding Coalition on Restorative and Equitable School Discipline Practices, and more. Ask the board to delay this vote until these concerns can be addressed.
Back pay for custodial and food service workers: This is a budget concern. The employee handbook approved this spring included $32,000 to fix a back-pay issue for long-term custodial and food service workers. This funding is not in the latest draft of the budget. Tell the board to restore this relatively small, but critically important, investment in our staff.
Staffing for special education and behavior: The 2018-19 budget proposes fewer Special Education and Behavioral Education Assistants than the 2017-18 budget. Last October, the Board voted unanimously to spend an additional $1 million to address shortages in special education staff. The district spent less, and they spent it from a different fund. Ask the board what happened to that extra funding for special education, and tell them why this staffing is important (if you have a personal story to share, please do!).
Safety and security investments: The budget includes a $6 million investment—$1 million from a state grant and $5 million from the district’s general fund—in school security upgrades. These include video surveillance of every exterior door on school buildings, upgraded video monitoring systems in schools, and electronic interior door locks integrated into staff ID cards. Safety in our school buildings is paramount. However, $6 million is a LOT of money. To put this in perspective, the $5 million investment from the MMSD general fund could pay salary and benefits for ten counselors, social workers and psychologists for five years. The district could save about $3 million simply by switching to keyed locks, rather than electronic locks, that would allow interior doors to be locked from the inside.
Thank you for reaching out to the school board. Together, we can make a difference!