MMSD Student Senate Raises Questions with Budget

Published in The Cap Times, June 9th, 2014

Students in the Madison Metropolitan School District are urging school board members to cut funding to initiatives introduced by Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham and put more money towards maintaining school buildings and covering health care insurance for teachers

Members of the MMSD Student Senate also think taxpayers should chip in more to ease the burden on families of proposed hikes in student lunch prices and student fees.

Megan Wilcots, president of the Student Senate, and Luke Gangler, vice president, delivered the group’s recommendations to school board members Sunday as they prepare for a public hearing on the proposed 2014-2015 budget at 6 p.m. Monday at LaFollette High School, Room C17, 702 Pflaum Road.

Gangler is also the student representative to the school board.

The budget calls for a 2.1 percent hike on the property tax levy on a total $402 million in spending. That translates to a $58 increase in the taxes on the average Madison home, to a $2,798 total levy for the school district.


Here are the students’ recommendations at a glance:

1. Spend $1.18 million more than budgeted to maintain school buildings, and take the money from planned “School Learning Spaces” classroom equipment expenditures. Proposed as part of the district’s Technology Plan to incorporate the use of electronic devices in daily instruction, the “new fangled technology purchases” cannot be justified while poorly maintained schools distract students from learning, senate members write. They contend that the tech purchases they want cut are “not grounded in an understanding of the day-to-day experiences of students,” and the cuts will not endanger the tech plan’s core goal of putting electronic devices into students’ hands.

2. Allocate $1.3 million more to cover increases in employee health insurance costs, with $88,000 reallocated from the proposed purchase of the controversial TeacherMatch screening system and a $1.26 million increase in the property tax levy.

“Students do not believe that teacher candidates should be evaluated by TeacherMatch or a similar tool that claims to predict student test score increases,” they wrote. “Students do not believe that high stakes testing is a valid reflection on staff quality and reject the premise that the goal of teachers is to increase these scores.”

3. Drop plans to hike the average charge for student lunches to $2.77 — already above the Dane County average of $2.52 — as part of a plan to make Food Services self-sustaining. Raise the tax levy by what students calculate as $1.86 for the average property owner, instead of charging students or their families an average $36 to $72 more for lunch next year.

4. Drop proposed student fee increases of 14 percent in elementary school, 24 percent in middle school and nearly 21 percent in high school to totals of $40, $77 and $87, respectively. Instead raise property taxes by what students calculate to be $1.31 for the average home owner, compared to family cost increases of $20 to $40 for the year, students recommend.

Students wrote that their recommended levy increase "responsibly balances the needs of students with the need for fiscal responsibility," and note that a steep decrease in the tax levy of Madison College will mean that taxpayers still get a break next year.

Written by Pat Schneider, in the Cap Times. "Madison Students ask School Board to Cut 'new fangled technology' from Budget"