Ed Hughes is running for Seat 7 on the Madison Board of Education.
The next Madison School Board election is ten long months away, but the first candidate to replace retiring board member Carol Carstensen has already emerged.
Attorney Ed Hughes, 54, an east-side parent activist, says he will seek Carstensen's seat in the spring 2008 election.
"My interest in the school board started with my frustration over its budgeting process," he says. "Several years ago, I remember attending a strings concert and wondering why cutting strings kept coming up year after year as a budget option."
Hughes shares the common perception that the Madison schools are hurt by the state's current formula for funding education. But be also thinks the school board undercuts public understanding of the district's plight by not being fully transparent in its budget-making. Hughes feels the board can do a better job of explaining its spending decisions to the public.
"The budgetary issues are paramount," he says. "The quality of the schools won't be maintained if we have to cut from $5-to$7 million dollars every year. We'll have to go referendum, but referendums aren't easy to pass."
Hughes and his wife Ann Brickson emerged as parent leaders at East High in recent years after controversies concerning the school's previous principal and more recently a plan to drop talented and gifted programming.
The couple has a freshman daughter at East; their son is a 2003 East graduate. Hughes is a lawyer at the Stafford Rosenbaum firm. He earlier worked for the federal and state justice departments. He's lived in Madison since 1982.
Carstensen, who will have served 18 years when she leaves the board next April, says she will probably not endorse a successor. "My preference is to not get involved."
But she was impressed at how Hughes dealt with the plan to drop TAG programming at East. "He turned what could haven a very destructive situation into something that has been pretty positive and productive," she says.
Similarly, on budget matters, Carstensen likes that Hughes took the time to review the numbers and change his opinion based on what he found.
"Ed is one of the few people who has followed through and looked at the data on teacher salaries and health benefits, I which found very impressive," says Carstensen.
Madison Teachers Inc., however, may not be as impressed with Hughes' approach. He says he won't seek the endorsement of MTI's political arm.
"Nothing against MTI, but it's always seemed odd to me that MTI would be endorsing school board candidates," he says. "There are large areas of school board responsibilities [such as negotiating teacher wages and benefits] where the board and MTI necessarily have adverse interests."
The union wants more, while the board has to control expenditures, he says.
"The trouble with saying this is that you could get labeled as an MTI opponent and an MTI basher," Hughes admits. "But my position simply reflects the way that collective bargaining is set up to work."