I have some explaining to do.
Mary Birmingham makes a good point in her comment on my recent post on Madison Prep: “A very thoughtful explanation of how this would hurt our current schools and students and yet you intend to vote in favor? It didn’t compute for me. Your arguments clearly call for a vote against this proposal until more information can be given as to why the high costs.”
The same point has been made by others I respect – your logic says no, but your vote says yes. What gives?
At our School Board meeting last night, I can’t say I heard anything that made me more inclined to support the current model that the Urban League proposes for Madison Prep. If anything, I have more concerns about the proposal, which I plan to describe in another post soon (and it’s going to be a long one).
Nevertheless, I joined five other members of the Board (all but Marj Passman) in voting to support Madison Prep’s application for a DPI planning grant. How come?
I can offer three reasons –
First, while I continue to think that I would vote against the Madison Prep proposal in its current form if it were coming before the Board today for final approval, I am willing to entertain the possibility – all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding – that the Madison Prep sponsors will back off from their current “we know all the answers” attitude and actually engage the school district in a give-and-take discussion about how best to implement the Madison Prep vision of greater engagement and student achievement for our underperforming students, and particularly students of color, within the structure and financial constraints under which the School District must operate.
I am not optimistic that this will actually happen – it surely has not happened yet – but I have been wrong before and on this point I hope I am wrong again. The ball is clearly in the Urban League’s court on this, though.
Second, as others pointed out last night, we should not treat this proposal any worse than we treated the Badger Rock charter school proposal. At a similar point in the process, there were Board members who had significant concerns about the financial commitment that Badger Rock would require from the school district, but that did not stop us from approving the school’s planning grant application. Similarly, we shouldn’t let whatever concerns we have at this point about Madison Prep’s proposal cause us to short-circuit the planning process. We’ll be able to vote up-or-down on the final proposal when it comes before us later in the year.
I and other Board members certainly made clear our reservations about the current proposal last night and expressed a strong desire that the final proposal be different in significant ways from what is currently before us. I hope we’re not just kicking the can down the road on this but time will tell.
Finally, as Arlene Silveira pointed out last night, right now we don’t have a third option. Like Arlene, I am not comfortable opposing the Madison Prep proposal without having some other specific proposal in the works that we think would better and more cost-effectively address the student achievement problems that we all recognize. I wasn’t inclined last night to go with a “just say no” approach.
So, despite my serious reservations, I was willing to vote in favor of the planning grant application, more for timing reasons than substantive ones. I recognize that there is plenty of room to criticize me on this. My response to such criticisms: Yep, you may be right.