Action Alert: Tell the Madison School Board to offer MMSD staff the full 2.13% cost-of-living adjustment

Thank you to everyone who wrote to the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Board last Monday in support of an across-the-board, cost-of-living adjustment for MMSD staff. The school board is meeting in closed session on Monday, May 7 to decide what level of cost-of-living adjustment they will offer our staff.

Since 2011, the cost of living has increased by over 11% while MMSD base wages have increased by only 2.6%. Under Act 10, Madison teachers can collectively bargain for a 2.13% base wage increase this year, which would make up some of this difference. However, the MMSD administration has only budgeted for a 0.5% cost-of-living increase in the 2018-19 school year. The school board has the power to offer our staff more.

Staff retention is becoming a serious problem in Madison’s schools. In the 2009-10 school year, only 50 MMSD teachers left the district prior to retirement. In 2016-17, that number ballooned to 209 teachers leaving MMSD prior to retirement. Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) believes there could be another 200 resignations before the start of the coming school year. Too many of our staff members are leaving the district for opportunities elsewhere.

MMSD needs to provide pay and working conditions that will both retain and attract excellent staff. MTI’s advocacy for a cost of living adjustment is one piece of a solution. To advocate for better learning and working conditions, MTI has created a statement on school safety and climate that lays out how MMSD can create stronger schools for our students, families and staff.

The MMSD administration has publicly stated that they are giving staff an average 2.5% pay increase this year. This statement is extremely misleading. Under the proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year, all staff are only guaranteed a 0.5% pay increase. Most of the “average” pay increase promoted by the administration is for a limited number of staff who have attained service or continuing education milestones. While these pay increases are important, the 2.13% across-the-board adjustment is the only way to address the rising cost of living for every staff member in the district.

Before Monday’s school board meeting, please take a moment to contact the school board and tell them to support the full 2.13% cost-of-living adjustment for MMSD staff. Feel free to use anything in this action alert to support your position. And please help spread the word by sharing this alert.

Thank you! When staff, parents and community members stand together, our students and schools win.

Action Alert: Tell the Madison School Board to vote NO on the ERS consulting contract

Background

In December, the MMSD administration forwarded a consulting contract with District Management Group (DMG), which has a reputation for cost-cutting measures to reduce special education staff and segregate students with more significant disabilities. Grassroots organizations, families and staff spoke out against this contract, and we won. The contract was ultimately pulled from the agenda.

The MMSD administration is now seeking approval of yet another unacceptable contract—for $100,000—with Education Resource Strategies (ERS), to create new models for allocating resources to special education and the Behavior Education Plan. ERS, like DMG, promotes corporate school reform. Their area of expertise is restructuring school district budgets so dollars follow students, which potentially destabilizes smaller schools and schools with declining enrollment. The school board should vote NO on this contract.

Action

At the school board meeting this Monday, January 29, we will be speaking in support of our educators and staff while voicing our opposition to the ERS contract. Here’s how you can help:

  • Write to the school board. Tell them to vote no on the ERS contract.
  • Attend Monday’s school board meeting and wear red in support of public education and our staff. Fill out a comment slip stating your opposition to the ERS contract and your support for our staff. Even better, share your thoughts with the board through public testimony.

Talking points:

  • ERS lacks expertise in special education. Their approach stresses capping the number of students placed in special education programs. Their proposal to MMSD doesn’t provide what we need to best serve our special education students. It emphasizes restructuring the student services budget to save or reallocate money and analyzing the Behavior Education Plan for ROI (Return on Investment). The consultants who will work with MMSD have training in business, with firms such as Bain Capital.
  • Their main work has been on behalf of corporate reforms that weaken unions, expand charters, and potentially lead to school closings. Their reforms lead to increased emphasis on standardized test scores in evaluating teachers.
  • ERS has no meaningful record of success. In Oakland, they addressed high rates of course withdrawal and failure in high schools by distorting the data. Rather than creating conditions to help students succeed, they redesigned schedules so students would take more courses and get more credits, even if they failed and withdrew from courses at the same rate. As for their record in special education, districts they have worked with for years continue to have alarming numbers of students in very restrictive environments and dismal outcomes. MMSD school board member TJ Mertz has documented their failings here.
  • ERS uses top-down analysis and recommends top-down solutions. MMSD needs a bottom-up approach that starts with, and values, the experiences of students and staff.

Please ask the entire MMSD school board to vote NO on the ERS contract. You can send email to the board plus the superintendent’s office at board@madison.k12.wi.us.

Monday’s board meeting is at 6pm at the Doyle Building, 545 W. Dayton St. Plan to arrive about 15 minutes early and sign up if you wish to speak. Individual email addresses for school board members and tips for speaking to the board are on the SCAPE website.

Please forward this action alert to your friends and networks. And don’t forget to wear red on Monday!

Together, we have the power to make a difference!

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

Action Alert: Wear red for public education at Monday’s MMSD school board meeting

MMSD parents and staff will be wearing red at Monday’s school board meeting, to show our shared commitment to excellent schools for all of Madison’s students. We continue to see attacks on public education in Wisconsin, and nationally, that are intended to divide us. By joining forces at Monday’s board meeting, we can send a clear message that families and staff in Madison stand together to support our public schools.

We hope to fill the Doyle auditorium with parents and staff wearing red. Please come to this meeting and show your support for our staff, families and public schools!

When: Monday, January 29. The meeting starts at 6pm. Please plan to arrive by 5:45pm, if possible.

Where: Doyle building, 545 W. Dayton St. Please enter and check in at the main door on the east end of the parking lot.

Wear red!

We plan to have a few people make public comments at this meeting. If you are interested in speaking, please email SCAPE: madisonscape@gmail.com.

If you can’t stay for the full school board meeting, please try to stay through the public comments.

Together, we are strong and we can make a difference for public education. We hope to see you on Monday!

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

Action Alert: Tell the Madison School Board to vote NO on District Management Group and postpone the vote on the class size policy

UPDATE: The contract with District Management Group has been pulled from tonight’s board meeting agenda. Here is the official word from the MMSD administration:

“While this work is very important to serving our children in special education, we have decided to pull the item from vote tonight. Our goal would be to bring an option back at the end of January.”

In the meantime, class size is still on the agenda. Please come to the board meeting if you can!

Tell the school board to vote NO on the contract with District Management Group to develop new staffing models for special education in MMSD.

District Management Group (DMGroup) is a controversial consulting firm that has been criticized for gutting staffing and services for special education students under the guise of inclusion, and creating “cookie cutter” solutions not tailored to individual districts. MMSD wants to pay DMGroup $165,000 for two years of consulting services even though the Frederick County, Maryland school district terminated their contract with them, and parents in Minneapolis have fought their special education “reforms.”

Tell the school board to postpone the vote on the proposed Class Size Policy until January and ensure optimal class sizes for all grade levels and subjects.

The proposed class size policy is an improvement over the current policy, but it doesn’t go far enough. Concerns are described below. The school board should take more time to work out these issues. We don’t support passing this policy as currently written.

Here are talking points and background information for these two action items. There is a lot here. Please pick a few points and keep your message brief.

District Management Group (DMGroup)

  • MMSD should not enter into a contract with DMGroup because their approach is focused on reducing costs without necessarily meeting the needs of all special education students. DMGroup’s own reports state that their approach doesn’t entirely address the needs of children with severe disabilities and autism, and English Language Learners.
  • DMGroup’s approach to “inclusion” doesn’t fit our community and district’s vision for inclusive special education. Their approach is to reduce special education staffing, add special education to the work of regular classroom teachers, and exclude high-needs students from regular classrooms and schools. As demonstrated by recent and ongoing problems in some MMSD schools, adequate staffing with licensed special education teachers and SEAs is critical for the inclusion of all children with disabilities in regular classrooms.
  • MMSD has an office dedicated to special education. Our district is also privileged with having one of the top universities in the country in regard to inclusive education. We should be tapping into our local resources, rather than bringing in organizations that lack connections to our schools and community.

Background on DMGroup (District Management Council is part of this group):

Cashing In On Special Needs Kids:
http://progressive.org/magazine/cashing-special-needs-kids/

Frederick County Public Schools ends contract with controversial special education consultant:
https://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/education/learning_and_programs/frederick-county-public-schools-ends-contract-with-controversial-special-education/article_f7d0e3fa-46a6-5298-8630-70907c32b37d.html

Class size policy

  • Since introducing the proposed class size policy on Dec. 11, the MMSD administration and school board members have made some important changes. These include stronger reporting requirements and capping teaching loads for core subjects at 135 pupils. Please thank the board for working toward a strong class size policy and making these important changes.
  • The board should postpone their vote on this policy until January so other important changes can be made. Because the proposed policy is not a radical departure from current practice in the district, there is no reason to rush the process.
  • The policy allows special and elective class sizes of 40 in middle and high schools, This is too big. The proposed policy should specify a smaller, “optimal” size for these classes.
  • The policy calls for most high school classes to be canceled if enrollment is under 15 students. (There are exceptions for special education courses, ELL and advanced learning offerings, and a few other courses.) Under this policy, some popular high school elective classes—including courses in women’s studies and social justice—could have been canceled before they got underway, because it took a few years for their popularity to build. Principals should have full discretion to offer electives with low enrollment.
  • The policy should state that staffing allocations will target “optimum” rather than maximum class sizes.
  • 4th and 5th grade classes at high poverty schools should have smaller optimum and maximum class sizes.
  • The 15-student minimum is too high for high-poverty elementary schools. Principals need discretion to have sections of 13 or 14 students to achieve optimal class sizes and stay within maximum class sizes.
  • The board should take extra time to ensure the definition of high-poverty schools in this policy will maximize the impact of class size reduction. Research shows that small class sizes particularly improve achievement for low-income and African American students.
  • Finally, please thank the board for investing in class size reduction and additional SEAs this school year.

Thank you! Together, we can make a difference.

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

Action alert: Tell the Madison school board to address inequalities by acting on class size

This Monday, November 6, the Madison School Board will discuss the MMSD Class Size Policy, and classroom and school staffing in the district. Small class sizes are an evidence-based strategy for improving student outcomes, with minority and low-income students benefiting the most from small classes.

Last June, SCAPE was part of a coalition that successfully advocated for, and won, a budget amendment that addressed growing class sizes in the district. At that time, the school board discussed the need to address this issue through policy change.

The current MMSD Class Size Policy is weak. It specifies a minimum class size of 15 students and a maximum of 30 students, regardless of grade level or the percentage of low-income students in the school. Nonetheless, the MMSD administration has recommended sticking with this policy for the time being, while they work on other priorities.

In addition to improving student outcomes, small class sizes make for a positive learning environment and encourage the development of strong student-teacher relationships that are critical for learning. Moreover, small class sizes help staff manage behavior, student feedback and grading, and make the curriculum accessible and engaging for every student. For these reasons, and more, we are asking the Madison School Board to begin work now on the class size policy.

Please write the school board and ask them to address inequalities in our district by acting on class size (email addresses here). Even better, attend the school board meeting at 5pm in the Doyle Building, and consider making public comments to the board (instructions here).

Here are some points you can make in your email or public comments:

  • Class size is one of the most studied education policies. Well-designed research shows that class size reduction can have a positive impact on student achievement. The Tennessee STAR experiment, which is considered the gold standard for class size research, found that math and reading scores improved for all students when they were assigned to smaller classes.
  • Research shows that Black students and low income students particularly benefit from smaller classes. A top priority for the district must be providing classroom environments that support our students who need it most.
  • Achievement gains from class size reduction aren’t limited to test scores. Students in smaller classes are more engaged and focused, and teachers spend more time on instruction and less time on classroom management.
  • Small class sizes can foster inclusive classrooms, good relationships between staff and students, collaboration among staff, greater staff availability for helping students, and a positive school climate.
  • The current class size policy is inadequate. Because small class sizes are proven way to boost achievement, the district should not postpone working on a strong class size policy.
  • Staff compensation and class size should both be high priorities for the district. MMSD families want experienced, excellent teachers and small classes for their children.

Thank you for speaking up for strong public schools. Together, we can make a difference.

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

 

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)

August 21: Madison School Board vote on Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School contract

The Madison School Board will vote on the Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School contract on Monday, August 21. The meeting, at the Doyle Building, begins at 5pm in closed session, followed by an open meeting where the board will discuss the contract and vote.

The agenda, draft contract and supporting documents are available on Board Docs (click on the link to the August 21 meeting).

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.

If you wish to reach out to the Madison School Board about the contract, here’s how to contact them.

Here are a couple of recent op eds from the Cap Times:

Jen Greenwald: Making Montessori a charter school unfair to other students (8/11/17)

Marj Passman: Madison School Board should nix Isthmus Montessori Charter School (7/28/17)

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, ammoffit@madison.k12.wi.us
Seat 2: Mary Burke, mburke2@madison.k12.wi.us
Seat 3: Dean Loumos, dgloumos@madison.k12.wi.us
Seat 4: James Howard, jlhoward@madison.k12.wi.us
Seat 5: TJ Mertz, tjmertz@madison.k12.wi.us
Seat 6: Kate Toews, ketoews@madison.k12.wi.us
Seat 7: Nicki Vander Meulen, nkvandermeul@madison.k12.wi.us
Student rep: Laura Nicholas, lnicholas@madison.k12.wi.us

You can reach all school board members (except the student representative) at board@madison.k12.wi.us. 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

Action Alert: Tell the Madison School Board to vote NO on the Isthmus Montessori charter contract

The Madison School Board will vote on the Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School contract at their regular meeting on Monday, July 31. This contract fails to resolve many serious issues that were identified in the review of the proposal for this charter school, including inadequate staffing and student services, a budget shortfall, and no way to ensure enrollment reflects the demographics of nearby neighborhoods or the district. Today, it is important to contact the Madison School Board and tell them to vote no on this contract.

In January, the school board moved to approve the proposal for Isthmus Montessori, contingent on resolving the issues described above. The contract not only fails to resolve these issues, it raises new ones (described below). For this reason, the school board should not approve the Isthmus Montessori contract on Monday.

A recent column in the Capital Times highlights many of the issues with this contract:
Marj Passman: Madison School Board should nix Isthmus Montessori charter school

Here’s how you can help:

  • Send an email to the school board telling them to vote NO on the contract for Isthmus Montessori Academy Charter School. Instructions are below.
  • Attend the July 31 school board meeting. The meeting is at 6pm in the Doyle Building auditorium. And, at this meeting you can…
  • Speak to the school board about this issue by making public comments. 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 and closing gaps at all of our schools.
  • It is important to stay focused on the contract. This is what the school board will vote on.
  • A goal of Isthmus Montessori is to provide a Montessori option for all MMSD students, particularly low-income Black and Latino students who are not thriving in our public schools and who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford Montessori. However, the contract specifies that students will be selected through a random, district-wide lottery. This provides no means to ensure that demographics match surrounding schools, or the district as a whole.
  • A diverse, inclusive school that accommodates English language learners and students with disabilities, and that may serve students experiencing trauma, needs to support those students with comprehensive services and adequate staffing. Isthmus Montessori would have about half the number of staff per student as nearby elementary schools (specifically, the schools in the Isthmus Montessori transportation zone). This staffing model unfairly benefits middle class children and families.
    • Only 1.5 student support staff would be hired, meaning there will be hardly any access to mental health services, nursing care, guidance counseling, social work, and behavior support.
    • The school will have no academic interventionists to help students struggling in math or literacy
    • Isthmus Montessori would have roughly half the special education staff per student expected to need special education services, compared to neighboring schools in the transportation zone
    • There would be 80 percent more students per English Learner support staff as nearby schools in the transportation zone
  • While fine arts instruction is integrated into the Montessori model, the Isthmus Montessori contract does not provide for fine arts education from specialists. Isthmus Montessori students will not have the same opportunities as other MMSD students to be challenged by trained art and music educators. They will not have the chance to work in an art studio with facilities for painting, printing, ceramics and metal work. They will not perform with a band, orchestra or choir. This is particularly problematic for students whose parents can’t afford private art and music lessons.
  • The Isthmus Montessori contract doesn’t provide resources for world language instruction. Students will enter tenth grade without having studied world languages, which most of their peers will have been offered starting in seventh grade, if not earlier. This will increase opportunity gaps in the district.
  • Within five years of opening, Isthmus Montessori anticipates a budget shortfall of half a million dollars. This deficit will only get worse, and the budget doesn’t meet the criteria established by the MMSD charter school policy. There is a real possibility that Isthmus Montessori will take financial resources out of the neighborhood public schools attended by most of our families.
  • A last-minute revision to the contract language exempts Isthmus Montessori from provisions of the MMSD employee handbook. This is a sharp departure from the school board and administration’s commitment to collectively make decisions with employees about working and learning conditions in our schools.

Here are the email addresses for individual MMSD School Board members:

Seat 1: Anna Moffit, ammoffit@madison.k12.wi.us

Seat 2: Mary Burke, mburke2@madison.k12.wi.us

Seat 3: Dean Loumos, dgloumos@madison.k12.wi.us

Seat 4: James Howard, jlhoward@madison.k12.wi.us

Seat 5: TJ Mertz, tjmertz@madison.k12.wi.us

Seat 6: Kate Toews, ketoews@madison.k12.wi.us

Seat 7: Nicki Vander Meulen, nkvandermeul@madison.k12.wi.us

Student rep: Laura Nicholas, lnicholas@madison.k12.wi.us

You can reach all school board members (except the student representative) at board@madison.k12.wi.us. Email sent to this address will also go to district administration.

Thank you for taking an active role in fighting for our public schools. We hope to see you on Monday, July 31. Together, we can make a difference.

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

Action needed on class size for June 26 Madison School Board meeting

The MMSD Board of Education will vote on the preliminary budget for the 2017-18 school year at their regular meeting on June 26. A coalition of parents, school staff and community members have been working together since April to advocate for class size reduction in this budget. A class size budget amendment is now on the table. We need your help to ensure that this amendment passes and we begin to address the serious issue of growing class sizes in our school district.

Over the past few years, MMSD has been spending millions of dollars on new initiatives and administrative positions, while simultaneously cutting over 100 teaching positions. As a result, class sizes in many of our schools are unacceptably large. Small class sizes make for a positive learning environment and encourage the development of strong student-teacher relationships that are critical for learning. Moreover, small class sizes help staff manage behavior, student feedback and grading, and make the curriculum accessible and engaging for every student.

There is ample research showing the benefits of smaller class sizes. A couple of recent columns in the Capital Times highlight research supporting the benefits of small class sizes, particularly for low-income and minority students:

Jeff Spitzer-Resnick: Small class sizes = Big results
Jennifer Wang: Madison School Board should prioritize reducing class size

Here’s how you can help;

  • This weekend, send an email to the school board supporting small class sizes and asking them to pass the class size budget amendment. Instructions for emailing the board are below.
  • Attend a rally demanding smaller class sizes at 5pm on June 26. We’ll be at the main rear entrance to the Doyle Building. We’re hoping for a strong turnout, so please join us.
  • Attend the June 26 school board meeting. The meeting is at 6pm in the Doyle Building auditorium. Please feel welcome to sit with our group – lots of us will be wearing red. And, at this meeting you can…
  • Speak to the school board about this issue by making public comments at the June 26 school board 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.

  • Include your name, role in the district (parent, staff, student, volunteer, citizen, etc.), and school(s) (if applicable.
  • Thank the school board members for taking this issue seriously and listening to the many staff, families and community members who have been speaking out for the past two months about the problem of growing class sizes in the district.
  • Tell them you are glad to see a proposed amendment to restore small class sizes in the district, and ask them to vote in favor of this amendment.
    The 2016 referendum gives the district additional budget flexibility that should be leveraged to address class size. Additionally, should the state budget include new per-pupil aid for our schools, some of this funding should be used to support smaller class sizes.
  • The proposed class size amendment includes guidelines that prioritize high-poverty elementary schools, where reduced class sizes will have the most impact. That said, small class sizes are important at all grade levels and schools.
  • The amendment also includes requirements for public reporting on how the funds for smaller class sizes are being spent, and how much progress is being made on class size reduction in the district. This reporting is important for budget transparency.
  • Small class sizes matter for many reasons including closing achievement gaps, meeting the needs of English language learners, inclusion of students with disabilities, implementation of the Behavior Education Plan, school climate, and building positive relationships in our school communities. (Feel free to include research from the Cap Times columns linked above or the Class Size Matters website.)
  • Small class sizes not only provide an optimal learning environment for children, they provide better working conditions for staff that, along with pay increases, will help our district attract and retain the best classroom teachers.
    If you have a connection with one or more MMSD schools, share a personal example that demonstrates the benefits of small classes or the challenges of large classes.

Here are the email addresses for individual MMSD School Board members:
Seat 1: Anna Moffit, ammoffit@madison.k12.wi.us
Seat 2: Mary Burke, mburke2@madison.k12.wi.us
Seat 3: Dean Loumos, dgloumos@madison.k12.wi.us
Seat 4: James Howard, jlhoward@madison.k12.wi.us
Seat 5: TJ Mertz, tjmertz@madison.k12.wi.us
Seat 6: Kate Toews, ketoews@madison.k12.wi.us
Seat 7: Nicki Vander Meulen, nkvandermeul@madison.k12.wi.us
Student rep: Laura Nicholas, lnicholas@madison.k12.wi.us

You can reach all school board members (except the student representative) at board@madison.k12.wi.us. Email sent to this address will also go to district administration.

Thanks so much for taking an active role in fighting for public education. We hope to see you on Monday, June 26. When we stand together, we win.

Madison School Community Alliance for Public Education (SCAPE)
Madison Teachers, Inc. (MTI) Action Committee