Simkin For Our Schools

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.

Laura Simkin is a pragmatic progressive. Her voice is much needed on the Madison School Board.

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.

Can’t get enough YSDA? Well, now there’s YSDA: The Book. That’s right. You can order Light Blue: How center-left moderates can build an enduring Democratic majority on Amazon right here.


Published by dave cieslewicz

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

4 thoughts on “Simkin For Our Schools

  1. Words words words words words.

    “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. ”

    What is that? How do you think you will accomplish this goal? These are just words that any person on the street can say. What policy change do you advocate? Talk talk talk all talk no plan.


    1. I don’t know, Rollie. Seems pretty clear to me. We’ve created a culture where it’s acceptable for parents to defend their kids even when the kid gets into a fight or throws a punch at a security guard. The simple idea here is that we should expect more of both students and parents and not expect schools to solve problems that begin at home.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Exactly. So I still don’t know what policies you are advocating. How do you want to hold the kids and/or parents accountable? It’s easy to say stuff like this but hard to make an actual policy. Do you want CPS to take kids away from parents? Do you want corporal punishment administered by principals? Do you want more suspensions or expulsions, and for what offenses? Do we need a different type of juvenile jail that has different standards for being put in?

    Too many people saying what they aspire to and not laying out the map for getting there.


    1. I’m saying government doesn’t have every answer. Government can’t fix families. If the root of the problem is unruly kids who are the product of dysfunctional families, I don’t know that there’s a policy to fix that. But the situation we have here in Madison is that we have a school board that is ignoring the vast majority of students who just want to learn in favor of an obsession over the kids who are disruptive. The only policy response I’m looking for is to get the disruptive kids out of the classrooms and deal with them in some way so that they don’t return until they learn to behave.

      Liked by 1 person

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