The Madison School District

There is a small amount of good news in the state of Wisconsin where education is concerned: The Madison School District, contrary to the remainder of the state of Wisconsin made more progress than “any other urban area in the country in shrinking the racial achievement gap and managed to raise the performance levels of all racial groups over the past decade. ” (Wisconsin State 2006).

Madison significantly reduced the gap while maintaining the scores of white students. Madison was able to increase the shares of students of all racial groups who scored at the top levels, and significantly improve graduation rates for students in each racial group. The Leaders of the Madison group have vowed to work at least until 2011 to fight the still-existing ethnic gaps in the educational system. (Wisconsin State 2006).

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We can only hope that other school districts in the State of Wisconsin will follow Madison’s lead and do their best to create a level educational playing field for all students, regardless of race, religion or economic background. If more schools would make a vow such as that of Madison, perhaps by the year 2011 substantial inroads could be made in solving Michigan’s schooling problems. In the 1970’s the issue of school integration was seriously addressed by both the Legislature and the federal courts.

The U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin found that “the Milwaukee School Board had administered the school system with segregative intent and ordered that a desegregation plan be developed. ” (Kava 2005). A settlement agreement was reached and the Milwaukee Public Schools were required to ensure that a minimum of 75% of all students within the district would be enrolled in racially balanced schools—between 25 and 60 percent black enrollment at the middle and elementary school level.

(Kava 2005). Largely because of this case, the integration aid program known as Chapter 220 was enacted in 1975, going into effect in the 1976-77 school years. The stated purpose of Chapter 220 is “to facilitate the transfer of students between schools and school districts to promote cultural and racial integration in education where students and their parents desire such transfer and where schools and school districts determine such transfers serve educational interests. ” (Kava 2005).

Rather a lengthy explanation for a fairly simple concept which was to achieve racial balance on a voluntary basis at no cost to the taxpaying citizen. The theory is that the state provides extra funding as an “incentive” for schools to desegregate. The program’s history shows an initial payment of $8. 3 million dollars for the program in 1976-77, and jumped to a high of $84. 3 million in 2000-2001, while payments in 2004-2005 are expected to be approximately $81. 6 million. (Kava 2005).

In 1984, the Milwaukee Public School Board was once again before the federal courts when they filed a lawsuit against 24 suburban school districts charging these schools were segregated. A settlement agreement in the case was reached in 1987, and the agreement was dependent upon the Chapter 220 program to both “finance and facilitate increases in the number of voluntary pupil transfers between MPS and suburban Milwaukee school districts. ” (Kava 2005). So the question is, what are the basic criteria for the schools to receive this state aid?

The key is obviously monetary gain for the school system, and the basic criteria is that state monies will be provided for each minority group pupil who is transferred from an attendance area where minority group pupils comprise 30% or more of the population to an attendance area which has less than a 30% minority pupil population. By the same token, that same state aid is provided to the school that convinces any non-minority group pupil who transfers from their non-minority attendance area (again, less than 30% minority) to a minority attendance area (30% or more minority.) (Kava 2005).

These pupils who are being transferred from school to school must be four years old on or before September 1 of the year they enter school. While there is little information on just how these student transfers are accomplished, one of Wisconsin’s other programs known as Open Enrollment states that the parents must apply to the nonresident district by February 24th for the fall semester. By April 7th the School district sends out notices of approval or denial, and the parents are eligible to appeal the denial within thirty days of receipt.

The students who are accepted into the non-district school are notified by May 12th, and by June 9th the parents of those accepted children must notify the nonresident districts whether their child will actually enroll in the school. If notification is not made, the student becomes ineligible. (Open 2006). The process for choosing which students are accepted as nonresident transfer students is that the students who are already enrolled as non-residents get preference over the new transfers.

Next, preference is given to siblings of those students already attending nonresident schools. After these preferences are granted, the remaining spaces are randomly filled. Some school districts do have waiting lists, while others do not. A student attending a non-resident school under open enrollment is allowed to return to his or her resident school at any time, however they are then not allowed to return to the non-resident school until the next year when they may reapply. (Open 2006).