Madison School Board Needs Changes

Over and over again this Madison school board sends a clear message to parents who have raised well-behaved students: we don’t care about you.

Instead, the board and the school administration are laser focussed on kids who are disrupting classes and harming the educations of the majority of good kids who just want to learn. They demonstrated that once again last night when they passed a budget that adds more resources and policies aimed at coddling disruptive students. They voted unanimously to end suspensions for elementary school children.

The reason for all this is that a disproportionate share of kids who are disciplined for bad behavior are Black or are kids with disabilities. Now, let me be clear. I have no doubt that some degree of systemic racism and unconscious bias does, in fact, exist. But it’s not that simple. Those things don’t explain 100% of the issues involved. Life, and kids, are complicated. To look at this data and conclude that we need to toss out the whole disciplinary system (as the district did a few years back) is just nuts.

This school board has little breadth of experience and virtually no diversity of opinion.

What we need is a board and an administration that is primarily focussed on providing a high quality education for students who are well-behaved and want to learn. We owe it to those students — and the taxpayers who will now be paying about 9% more as a result of the new budget — to provide the kind of calm and orderly environment where learning can happen.

As for the disruptive kids, they need to be removed from class. Then they need to get the services they need, but they should only be allowed back in class when they won’t be messing things up for others.

If that makes sense to you, then you are out of touch with this school board. There is very little diversity of experience and almost none in perspective on this board. There is, for example, not one school board member who is an employer and who might be concerned about the quality of the work force. There is no school board member who is an advocate for taxpayers or who might be considered a fiscal watch dog. There is no proponent of personal responsibility and not one who would dare question the latest fad coming out of schools of education.

Look, I’ll be honest. From what I can tell this board actually does represent where the majority of Madison voters are at. Since Trump a lot of liberals have just gone off the deep end, and Madison sure has a lot of liberals.

But I’m one of those rare liberals who I like to think has kept his head and tried to tether himself to at least some approximation of reality. And — I’m just guessing here — there might be maybe a third or so of Madisonians who agree with me about all this. Maybe not a majority, but certainly a significant minority.

So why shouldn’t the board reflect that? Why shouldn’t at least a couple of the seven members take a different point of view? Wouldn’t that be healthy for democracy, for the community and for the kids? Well, wouldn’t it?

Welcome to the 251st consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

3 thoughts on “Madison School Board Needs Changes

  1. Agree with all you said and would like to add that the conversation is always focused on the kids but/and what about the parents? There should be a two generation approach to addressing these issues. Suspension solves nothing if the home situation stays the same. Work with whoever is raising these kiddos and teach them better parenting skills and help eliminate the stress from their lives (i.e. low wage jobs, threats of eviction, poor diets, etc) … it’s a longer term problem that requires some creative thinking. BTW, keep on writing!!!


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