Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

Re-arranging the deck chairs

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Change is happening in the Waukesha School District. Superintendent Schmidt is leaving. Erik Kass, the director of business services, is taking a position in Madison. And now the school board has dumped Baumgart in favor of Dan Warren. But none of these changes mean a thing unless the school board and the district leadership change the direction of where they are headed.

Under Schmidt, Baumgart and Kass, the school district missed opportunities to create savings for the school district. They did not reverse a compression of the teacher salary tables despite the devastating effects of accelerating growth in teacher compensation. They did not close half-empty schools, dismissing the savings as not meaningful. They did not consider redistricting to reduce transportation costs even as the Milwaukee school district is taking the historic step of ending forced busing to reduce its costs.

Instead what Superintendent Schmidt and others have proposed is going to referendum to ask for more money. Before it can be even considered, the public’s trust has to be restored. If it is not, then any referendum, regardless of the size, is doomed to failure. Rightfully so.

I wrote previously that picking the right superintendent would be a good first step in restoring the public trust. Now Warren has been presented an opportunity to take an earlier step. As school board president, Warren should ask the state Legislature to audit the OPEB trust funds.

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