Supporters Of Charter School Hope To Overcome Obstacles

Supporters of a proposed Madison charter school aimed at low-income, minority students said the school’s opponents are playing politics as usual.

A lack of school board accountability and issues with teachers union contracts could put the brakes on an idea that supporters said would close the achievement gap.

The charter school would have single-sex classrooms and offer tuition-free public facilities for Madison’s low-income, minority students.

If the Madison School Board approves the proposal in two weeks, the Madison Preparatory Academy is set to open its doors this fall.

“We have a longer school day, longer school year. Our kids need more time in learning,” said Kaleem Caire, with the Urban League of Greater Madison. “There’s less stress. It’s a four-class day rather than a seven-to-eight class day with more time.”

Caire is spearheading the concept of Madison Prep, which would open at a former church on Madison’s West Side. A lottery will be used to select 120 sixth-graders to attend the school in its first year.

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Dan Nerad said because the proposed charter school would employ non-union staff, the district could face challenges with what’s called a “work preservation clause” within its current union contracts.

“The concern is that if this should be implemented with that clause there, and there was a grievance filed, and the grievance was lost, it could range from a cease and desist order to the need to the district to pay back pay,” said Nerad.

“We come up with a now more ambitious proposal because the challenges are more daunting, and again we’re going to potentially be told no.” said Caire. “So we need people to hear it out and just give it a chance to work.”

Caire said race has become an overriding factor in the education of children in Madison.

The Madison Metropolitan School District said it has a longstanding tradition of inclusional education and it’s looking for ways to address the achievement gap within current school facilities.

Caire said he hopes support for the charter school grows heading into the school board vote on the proposal slated for Dec. 19.