I’m almost afraid to say it, but the Madison Metropolitan School District is not in brutal cost-cutting mode this year. That is entirely thanks to our own community, our school board, and the City of Madison that we are in a stable financial position this year—one that enables us to do more for our students and staff than we’ve been able to in years.

As I’ve often said over the last four years, school districts need stability to make positive change. The path to success is not easy, but we need to clear it from unnecessary distractions.

On Monday, we submitted to the Board of Education the Draft Preliminary Budget for the 2017-18 school year. We’ve been working on it together in open public session since the fall (right after the referendum passed). From now until June, the Board will deliberate, make revisions, and then approve the Preliminary Budget in late June. I hope you’ll share with us your insight here or at a public board meeting.

Our proposal includes investments in:
Foundational work that will help us continue the progress we are making by increasing enrollment for students of color in advanced coursework, improving bilingual, ESL and special education support, providing behavioral health services in schools, pathways implementation, and the expansion of Grow our Own to help diversify our teacher workforce
Accelerated work that will help us accelerate progress in key areas like early reading and keeping ninth graders on track to graduate
Innovative work to enhance our efforts to provide a high-quality education in unique settings like our early childhood programs, charters, magnets and alternative schools
Employee compensation in key areas like creating a $15 living wage, increasing summer school pay to ensure the highest quality summer programming, and raising beginning teacher pay to make our district more competitive

It is also important to note that, since the start of our strategic framework, many of our investments have been cumulative. These are not just one-time programs, but ongoing commitments to making sustainable improvement over time. Together, we’re building stronger schools and graduating more prepared students through:
◆ professional learning of principals and school based leadership teams,
◆ establishment of a coherent curriculum in literacy and mathematics k-12,
◆ the expansion and improvement of services for English Learners,
◆ a more consistent approach to classroom management, positive student behavior and restorative practice,
◆ stronger family engagement practices,
◆ systems for screening, selection, and induction of new teachers and principals,
◆ integration of instructional technology, and
◆ Targeted support for schools that need it the most

That doesn’t mean this budget is without its challenges—take the governor’s insistence on a 12% employee premium contribution in exchange for a much-needed $200 increase in per pupil aid. My sincere hope is that the legislature will fund schools appropriately without taking away local ability to control costs.

That also doesn’t mean that we have more money than we need. We purposefully created a referendum proposal to exceed revenue limits that leave healthy tension in the system. That tension ensures that we continue to repurpose dollars for use where they are most needed and continually identify efficiencies.

But this year, instead of listing all of the things we have to cut, slow down, or pause, I am excited to share with you what we think we can accomplish for the children of Madison.