Friday, May 13, 2011

Faces and stories

Mother and son listening.
(This post is available in Spanish. Leer artículo en español.)

I know that some of you have not been able to make it to the public hearings on our proposed FY12 budget, because of family or work commitments.  That is why I want to share some of the faces and stories of those who came Tuesday night, May 10, to the Board meeting.  It was packed!  We saw one mother who sat on the floor of the auditorium with her young son for almost two hours.  More than 60 people took turns at the microphone, giving testimony.  That mother and her little boy sat quietly and listened to dozens of them.

We had parents and students in our audience, along with art and music teachers.  Each one had a story about the potential impact of our proposed cuts, and sometimes the stories were heartbreaking.  I heard more anger than I've heard in the past hearings.  It is anger directed at Madison and at the governor.  I told our Board and the audience that I had recently spoken with the governor and that he was cordial and seemed receptive.  The proof will be in the final state budget.  I can tell you that doing more with less is getting old.

Families are starting to see the real cost of this year's $81 million in proposed cuts at the state level. 
Shantrese, a 9th grader at Washington High School, spoke on Tuesday night.  She showed us a beautiful glass paperweight she made in art class, as she talked about how sad she was about our potential cuts to art teacher positions.

Jasmine Alinder is an MPS parent.  Her testimony was riveting.  She told of writing to state lawmakers about the governor's proposed cuts.  Only one legislator wrote back.  He shocked her with his response.  He told her that public education had become a social welfare agency.  Ms. Alinder quoted the state statute on equal access to education and framed our battle as a civil rights issue.  Click here for the full text of her comments.

Riley and Ella
We heard from Ella and Riley, a girl and her brother who attend Tippecanoe School. Ella said Riley was shy, and so she spoke for both of them in defense of the arts at their school.  They brought a hand-lettered sign with them.

Some children made us smile with their testimony, but others had us in tears.  We are haunted by the worries of the mother who described the fragile medical condition of her son, who needs medical support during the school day.  His school is one that will be without a nurse next year. We are fighting for restoration of state money that had supported 21 nursing positions.

This was a hearing that no local reporters attended, or wrote about for the late newscast or the morning paper.  A writer with the Los Angeles Times stayed the entire five hours, but he is mostly focused on potential impacts of the governor's budget on labor unions.

We heard you, though.  And we will listen again during the public hearing on Thursday, May 19 at 6:30 p.m. The meeting is in the Central Services Auditorium.  I hope you can come.  I hope you will not have to sit on the floor or wait for hours to testify.  But as Miguel Salas told us Tuesday night, it is important to be an advocate for public education and for MPS.  Miguel is a product of MPS and has a child in one of our schools.  "Speak truth to power," he said.  Like Miguel, I hope that the "power" in Madison is listening.