Madison Metropolitan School District
Madison, Wisconsin

Art Rainwater, Superintendent
Minutes for Communications
January 16, 2007
Doyle Administration Building
545 West Dayton Street, Auditorium
Madison, Wisconsin

Communications Committee meeting was called to order by Chair Arlene Silveira at 6:40 p.m.

MEMBERS PRESENT: Board Members Arlene Silveira, Ruth Robarts

Citizen Members Deb Gurke, Tim Saterfield

MEMBERS ABSENT: Board Member Lucy Mathiak and Citizen Member Wayne Strong



STAFF PRESENT: Sue Abplanalp, Pam Nash, Joe Quick, Art Rainwater, Marcia Standiford, Ken Syke, Ann Wilson-Recording Secretary

1. Approval of Minutes

It was moved by Ruth Robarts and seconded by Tim Saterfield to approve the minutes of the Communications Committee meeting dated January 9, 2007. Motion unanimously carried by those present.

2. Public Appearances

There were no public appearances.

3. Announcements

There were no announcements.

4. Progress on Development of a New Web Page for Citizens Wanting to Become Involved

Ken Syke presented, as a follow-up to a suggestion made at the December meeting, work that has been done on a web site for people who want to become involved with the school district. It is currently located under Hot Topics on the district's website ( and is called Let Us Help You. Links to this site are located in several areas on the district homepage. Currently, two items are posted but there are ideas for more such as information about public hearings where input is being sought, ideas about legislative involvement, places that are seeking donations (site not to be used for solicitation of dollars, however), and information about where services from businesses would be helpful. Posted items should be district-wide in nature (as opposed to a school-specific need). Forms can be used to gather information. The recent questions to the community posed by the Equity Task Force were cited as an example of the type of posting that would work well on this site.

Mr. Syke noted information about the site will be announced to administrators and other staff members. It was suggested there be broader circulation of information about the site, e.g., through school newsletters.

5. 2007-2009 Legislative Agenda

The proposed legislative agenda, as presented on the agenda, follows. Arlene Silveira noted that it was discussed at the last Communications Committee meeting with the district's legislators who were able to be present, but had never been approved as the district's formal agenda for legislative change. It was agreed at that meeting, on January 9, that the Committee would further discuss the items.

a. Work to create a school finance system that defines that resources are necessary to provide students with a "sound basic education." Using Wisconsin's Academic Standards (which is the standard for achievement set by the Legislature), coupled with proven research that lays out what is necessary to achieve those standards, will more clearly define what program sand services are required for students to attain success.

b. Support thorough legislative review of Wisconsin's tax system; examining all taxing.

c. Provide revenue limit relief to school districts for uncontrollable costs (utilities, transportation).

d. Allow a local board of education to exceed the revenue limits by up to 2% of the district's total budget without having to go to referendum.

e. Allow school districts to exceed the revenue limits for security-related expenses by up to $100 per pupil enrolled in the district.

f. Modify the school aid formula so negative tertiary school district (Madison) taxpayers aren't penalized when the district borrows. (Madison Schools' taxpayers have to pay $1.61 for every dollar borrowed.)

g. Improve Medicaid reimbursement from state to school districts (current law allows the state to "skim" 40% of the federal Medicaid reimbursement dollars for school-based services).

h. Support state aid reimbursement for 4-year-old kindergarten programs, similar to the reimbursement for 4-year-old kindergarten in Milwaukee choice and charter schools.

i. Support increasing state aid for public school transportation costs.

j. Support allowing a declining enrollment school district to use the highest enrollment in a 5-year period for purposes of calculating its revenue limit.

k. Support additional resources for mandated special education and English as a Second Language programs, currently reimbursed at 28% and 12% respectively (when revenue limits began, the reimbursement was 45% and 33% respectively).

l. Maintain current law for disbursement of resources from the Common School Fund for public school libraries.

m. Support increase in per meal reimbursement for school breakfast programs.

Ruth Robarts suggested clustering the items. The first two, (a. and b.) could represent the "big picture," or the major goals. She would add to b). the need for taxes supporting schools to be more progressive and that there should be less reliance on property taxes. The next three (c., d., and e.) could represent "short term fixes," a "fall back" plan in the event the first two are not realized. In the absence of success on the first two items, these next three would offer some relief. The rest are other goals that the district would like legislators to continue to work on. They could be viewed as proactive. She noted the need to focus on the main goal - to not be so specific on secondary goals that it takes the focus from what is most important.


Administration has generally worked with legislators, working within goals or priorities set by the Board. When issues have arisen that are not identified, administration would work together to formulate a position. Usually in a defensive position - trying to keep something from happening.

Purpose of agenda is to give direction, identify issues important to school districts.

Could focus citizen attention on the first two goals.

Disagreement with suggestion to include the third item with the first two as major goals. Third item provides only one year relief; the goal is for a long-term solution.

It was moved by Tim Saterfield and seconded by Ruth Robarts to direct staff to incorporate changes to the format and content of the legislative agenda as recommended in committee and bring them to the Board of Education as the Communications Committee's recommended legislative agenda for 2007-2009. Motion unanimously carried by those present.

There was discussion about how to communicate information to the community and empower citizens to support legislation of benefit to the district.


Legislators pay attention to letters. Educate community about problems and encourage letter writing.

Use the services of people who want to help to visit schools and educate others about ways to help.

State-wide organizations/groups need to organize campaigns outside of the MMSD to reach legislators throughout the state - phone a friend, letter writing, post cards from friends and family.

Make the process easy - already addressed post cards, script that can be personalized.

Groups need to present a unified message to all legislators (special education support groups, superintendents, etc.). Not at the point of unified message yet - maybe in the summer when Odden report is out.

Legislature focus will be on the budget from March - July. Target correspondence to Joint Finance legislators.

Starting point could be citizen members of committee sending legislative agenda to newspapers as op ed piece. Include letter writing information, but wait until budget is out.

Arlene Silveira summarized the next steps for the committee.

Staff will rewrite the legislative agenda and forward to the full board for review.

Look at ways to communicate with the community about how people can be educated and participate in resolving issues.

When budget process is complete, begin project to contact people throughout the state to write to legislators.

6. Other Business

There was no other business.

7. Adjournment

It was moved by Tim Saterfield and seconded by Deb Gurke to adjourn the meeting at 7:30 p.m. Motion unanimously carried by those present.