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Monday, December 22, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 34.0° F  Fog/Mist
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Cole and Passman make their final pitch for the Madison school board
Take Home Test 2007: Finals, Seat 5

After ten rounds of weekly questions about the Madison schools, the six school-board candidates face one last volley concerning 4-year-old kindergarten, a new spending referendum and their own suitability for the board.

Here are the responses for the candidates for Seat 5: Maya Cole and Marj Passman.

Isthmus reported this week on the Madison school district's decision in 2003 to reject a plan to partner with Madison's early-childhood providers to offer citywide 4-year-old kindergarten. Would you support such a proposal if it were revived?

Maya Cole
All children need access to quality early learning experiences. I would support a proposal to offer 4-year-old kindergarten if it were revived. Research shows the benefit for children and their families that have access to early childhood education. My family certainly benefited from this type of programming and I would not want to deny access to other families.

Children with quality preschool experience achieve greater success during their school years. They show higher scores in reading and math tests and reduced special education placements and grade retentions. They also achieve greater success later in life by showing higher rates of high school graduation and employment, and lower rates of juvenile arrests. Studies show that for every dollar invested, $7.00 is saved in future spending.

Children who are ready for kindergarten adjust more easily to and do better in school from the get go. In evaluating such a proposal, I would welcome all stakeholders to the table to work on options that are in the best interest of children's education.

I am working closely with early childhood educators to get their input on how to better facilitate such a process. Our state has 257 districts already participating in K4. Our school district needs to follow the successful public/private partnership models we have already started in the community such as the Foundation for Madison's Public Schools, the Lussier Community Education Center and the Schools of Hope. We can build on our past successes and begin to implement K4 in our district.

Marj Passman
I will absolutely commit myself to a four-year old to kindergarten program for all families in Madison.

I am particularly concerned about the disparity of preparedness of our young children entering kindergarten. The achievement gap is already evident at that point between children living in poverty and those who are not. All children in Madison should be provided with high quality early childhood experiences.

Approximately 2,100 children will be entering Madison Schools in the fall of 2007. About 42% of these entering kindergarteners will be living in poverty (about 900 children). About one-third (300) are being served by Head Start, while the other two-thirds (600) are primarily in non-accredited centers or in non-regulated family, friend and neighbor care.

I will publicly support and advocate for a collaborative play-based four-year-old program that provides high quality early childhood care and education for all four year olds, but particularly for those from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

It is my understanding that we will need several million dollars in the first two years of the 4-K Program until the state formula fully funds it in the third year. With the major reductions that the district faces, it is not possible to initiate 4-K without providing for another funding source.

Would you support a referendum to authorize spending to avoid school consolidation on the east side and to fund smaller class sizes and such programs as elementary school strings and talented and gifted education?

Maya Cole
I do support school referendums, but I will not get a budget cut list from the superintendent and think the next step is "go to referendum." Rather, I will work hard with my colleagues on the board to develop a multi-year strategic budget plan that addresses both capital and operational needs of the district and is worked on and updated regularly, so that each budget year we are not surprised by what is on the cut list, and we have spent the year working on options we might have to pursue to ensure that our neediest children have adequate resources and all children are challenged academically.

The last thing I want to do is to close neighborhood schools. We need to be honest and open about the budget. Our board needs to step up and be more active in its statewide efforts to lobby with the Wisconsin Association of School Boards -- I have already met with them and am ready to work with them the day after I am elected.

We need to seek new sources of revenue and uses for neighborhood schools that may not be at optimum capacity. This would include putting in place a process that is welcoming of ideas for more charter schools, and working in partnership with parents and the community-at-large to put these ideas into place.

The community has plenty of ideas on how we can help the schools. As a board, we should listen and encourage the administration to pursue these opportunities.

Marj Passman

Yes, I would support a referendum. My advocacy for this is based on the following: we could keep all schools open, retain small class size, elementary school strings and talented and gifted education. In addition, if passed, this referendum would provide us with a three-year cushion to execute and succeed at an intense community and statewide effort to end the revenue caps. This cushion would let us keep our school programs intact and give us the time needed to focus on putting together a powerful lobbying group that could "Say No to Revenue Caps!"

I strongly believe that given the pride our community has in its schools, we could unify with only one goal in mind and that is to save our schools.

Here's your last pitch: In 50 or less words, tell us why the Madison school board would be improved by your presence.

Maya Cole
Innovation, energy, and creativity are my strengths. I'll work hard to ensure that every child has access to excellent and challenging curriculum. I'm a parent of kids attending our schools now. I'm in this for the long haul. The community will be a welcomed partner with our public schools.

Marj Passman
My entire professional life was spent developing an expert ability to adapt relevant materials to meet the needs of my challenging students. I have experienced first-hand the changes in Madison's demographics and in educational pedagogy, and I have developed a finely honed instinct for what works and what doesn't.

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