In a 6-1 vote on Monday, the School Board for the Madison Metropolitan School District approved two budgets for the upcoming school year. The first budget uses known revenue if the upcoming referenda fail, while a second “passing budget” uses money if they succeed and add $350 million for the school board to use.
The budgets differ in the amount of services and repairs the MMSD will commit to, as well as how much taxpayers are expected to owe.
The base budget will still allow the expansion of services like more mental health funding and early literature programs. According to Chief Financial Officer Kelly Ruppel, the average home will pay $54 less.
The passing budget will provide building improvements to Madison high schools, redesign Hoyt School, and add an elementary school next to Badger Rock Middle School. It also will add significantly more services for closing equity gaps between students, remodeling of facilities, and expanding universal 4K. Ruppel expects a $125 increase for average home owners.
While the board was near unanimous, Nicki Vander Meulen voted against the measures. While she did not speak to it at the meeting, a Facebook post made later that night said, “One cannot be pro-student and anti-teacher funding. Our teachers were not asking for a raise. They were asking for the money they were due.”
The passing referendum budget will give teachers a 0.5% increase in base wages. That’s less than a third of the maximum raise allowed by state law of 1.8%.
Other board members like Cris Carusi voiced that while they wish they could have provided more, the board had to be cautious in the face of lower property value, low enrollment, and other factors that could decrease funding.
“This is not a budget that I love,” said Carusi, “but it’s a budget we’re forced to have as the result of circumstances outside of our control.”
Edward Sadlowski is the Executive Director of Madison Teachers Inc. The group has been asking the School Board to increase the base salary to the state allowed maximum. He believes the School Board has the funding, with or without referendum, and that not promising higher wages will prevent the MMSD from providing high quality educators that reflect the student body.
“We believe it is wrong and it is inappropriate to tie any economic increase in base wages to the operations referendum,” said Sadlowski. “They’ve got adequate resources right now to meet the union’s demands. They’re lacking the priority to do so.”
But Sadlowski praised the School Board for voting unanimously to ask the Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness System for a waiver exemption from a teaching evaluation state requirement.
Board members mentioned they received numerous e-mails from teachers asking for the measure. In the public comments section, teacher Julie Young spoke how the challenges of teaching during Covid-19 pandemic means the Educator Effectiveness is simply not up to today’s standards.
“It’s not that I don’t want to be evaluated or observed by my principles. In fact I am proud of the way I am teaching online,” said Young. “I’m concerned because the rules and expectations for teaching have changed. However the rules for Educator Effectiveness have not changed. It doesn’t fit in this virtual world.”
Superintendent Dr. Carlton Jenkins also asked the board for the waiver for how it addresses this particular moment
“During a pandemic, during the racial injustice, [with] so many things teachers are having to do, our students our having to do, we have come to the conclusion that the tool for Educator Effectiveness just doesn’t align with where we are right now,” said Jenkins.
Even with the school board’s decision on wages, Sadlowski said MTI is asking for people to vote yes on the referenda. He believes they are crucial to providing better facilities and more equity in Madison’s public schools.
“If you haven’t done so already, this is a critical ask,” said Sadlowski.