I have been strongly critical of the current Madison School Board and the direction it has taken us in the last few years. There has been a breakdown in basic safety and order. Staff and teachers feel like this Board doesn’t have their backs. The Board seems focussed on kids who are disruptive and under-achieving while ignoring the best interests of the vast majority of kids who just want to learn. Too many parents are questioning the rigor of classrooms and choosing to vote with their feet. It’s a mess.
And it’s a mess that goes right to the heart of this community because nothing is more important to the health of our city than the health of our public schools. We need change. We need a sense of urgency about the safety issue. We need to assure parents of good kids that we’re prioritizing them. We need to send a message to parents of disruptive kids that they need to get their children in line and that personal responsibility is a basic requirement. We need rigor for high achieving kids, a sound basic education for average students and help for those who are falling behind. We need to acknowledge the role of race without making it an excuse or the central feature of every policy.
Board member Christina Gomez Schmidt is one potential voice of reason there, but she’s only one of seven. She doesn’t speak up enough because she needs an ally. That ally could be Laura Simkin, who is running for an open seat.
Simkin is no conservative. She’s most certainly a progressive, but she is also grounded in reality. She gets the need for urgency on the safety issue — and she would return School Resource Officers to the high schools — but she looks at that comprehensively. She has to because it’s likely that even if she won and even if Gomez Schmidt joined her, any motion to return SRO’s would go down on a 2-5 vote.
Simkin has had a three-decade career in early childhood education. A focus on that would be welcome, as it’s easiest to establish good habits among young kids that will benefit them for a lifetime. She also has a child in Madison schools, so whatever esoteric ideas she might harbor are leavened with the reality she hears about every day.
I’ve had the chance to talk with Simkin and I found her likable, grounded, progressive yet practical and, maybe most importantly, confident enough in her views that she will be able to succeed in an environment where she may be in the minority for awhile. She seems to possess that most allusive and necessary trait in a public official: good judgement.
You can learn more about Simkin here. You can vote for her now and through election day on April 5th. For the sake of our schools, our kids and our entire community I urge you to do just that.
And on another matter... Sen. Joe Manchin announced today that he would vote for Ketanji Brown Jackson. This underscores an important point. Manchin has supported all of Pres. Biden’s judicial nominees. This is a point that the hard-left misses when they criticize Manchin. Because he wins in a state that went for Trump by 39 points, Biden is getting to remake the Federal judiciary.
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