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Mayor Supports Referenda For Madison Schools

By: Dana Brueck
By: Dana Brueck

People on either side of the referenda debate agree ... Madison schools rank among the best. But how much does high quality cost?

Madison students excel at the SAT, scoring above the state and national averages last year.

"I think the most important thing is to try to look at all of the indicators of quality education, not just test scores," UW's dean for the school of education says.
Charles Read is Dean of the UW school of education.
He's not taking sides in the debate officially but says quality education gets kids engaged in school.

"One of the things you look at is the support services, extracurricular activities ... clubs, sports activities, arts, theatre ..." Read says.

But with three referenda questions on next week's ballot ... voters also look at funding.

"Simply putting in more money into a school district doesn't necessarily result in improved education," Read says.

But supporters of Madison's referenda questions want exactly that ... more money.

"I would argue cost of not doing that ... long term costs to community far outweigh short term costs of property tax increases," Mayor Dave Cieslewicz says.

A number of Madison's former mayors came out today in support of the referenda, saying healthy schools fuel a healthy city.

"One of things that fuels sprawl is families fleeing cities because of quality of school districts in cities," the mayor says.

And the better the schools, the higher the value of property in Madison.
Cieslewicz says, "I would bet that for whatever increase in tax, we will reap that back several times over in resale value of our homes."

Rick Berg of Vote No For Change doesn't buy it. "When you look at day to day cost of living ... it's of little consolation ... to say we're going to demand more tribute, but the good news is when sell house ... do better," Berg says.

He says the district can do better. Berg says, "yes, we have good schools. Yes, there are specific needs ... that's why we're spending almost 25 percent higher than statewide average. We can't afford to go any higher."

Referenda supporters also say schools in a more diverse community like Madison cost more to run. Opponents agree but say the district already is spending plenty to meet the need.

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