Education Platform

Progressive Dane commits itself to working for the initiatives, democratically suggested and agreed to by its members, that are included in this platform. We believe that public education is essential for a well-functioning democracy. Progressive Dane believes that every student has the right to quality education in public schools—no exceptions. We support whole and happy students throughout their education and affirm our respect for public school staff.

As members of Progressive Dane, we dedicate to ourselves to the following principles and areas of priority for Dane County schools:

1. Transparency, Participation, and Open Government
2. Public School Funding
3. Labor Rights
4. Facilities and Infrastructure
5. Charter Schools
6. Equity and Inclusion
7. Accountability
8. Social and Emotional Development of Students
9. Community Schools
10. Curriculum and Instruction


1. TRANSPARENCY, PARTICIPATION, AND OPEN GOVERNMENT

1. Support an elected, rather than appointed, school board.

2. Push the administration to increase transparency, understandability, and accountability by adhering to principles of open government.

3. Recognize and value the separation of powers between the administration and the elected body, and the primacy of democratic governance.

4. Empower citizens committees including parents, teachers, and students, as well as other community members, to research and recommend policy.

5. Involve parents more meaningfully, with particular effort to include parents and community in the process of developing new rules and policies.

6. Expand opportunities to offer informed and timely public input to all public officials and efforts to enhance the ability of all residents to fully participate and/or provide input to the school board board, district committees, and school administration.

7. Scrutinize the impacts of private funding on school policy, procedure, budgeting, and equity impact to ensure sustainability and adherence to policies, procedures, and priorities established by the district and community.

8. Make budget information and process more transparent, timely, accessible and understandable for members of the public. Multiple budget forums should be held to give the public a voice in the budget. Pursue implementation of participatory budgeting practices to the greatest extent allowed by law. Record and make available public comments on district website.   

9. Pursue ways to make all aspects of school government responsive and accessible to the public and require any governing bodies with authority from the district to assure that public input is encouraged in a timely and equitable basis in all public proceedings; including improved timely posting of detailed agendas of all meetings and all related materials online, and print copies conspicuously posted at all schools, at least 72 hours in advance of public meeting, including all district related meetings in weekly electronic meeting schedules, limit meetings held during daytime hours, and allow public testimony at all meetings. Ensure the public has at least two weeks to review and provide input into policy proposals prior to board action.

10. Ensure all school district decisions are made through an equity lens with an intentional effort to gather input from a diverse set of voices. Ensure an equity impact tool is adopted and used in all school district decisions.

11. Invest in necessary equipment, maintenance costs, and staffing to ensure all school board meetings, including committee meetings, are video recorded and easily available to the public.


2. PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING

1. Ensure adequate public funding for public school systems by: (a) advocating for increased funding from federal, state, and local sources; and (b) discouraging all attempts to divert public funds to private schools, for-profit charter schools, and contractors.

2. Fund all schools equitably, and distribute the effects of any necessary budget cuts equitably. Equitable funding requires that additional resources be targeted towards higher needs students and schools, specifically schools serving disproportionate numbers of students of color and students from families with low incomes.

3. Fully fund staff and supportive services to ensure students with disabilities have the support and services they need to thrive.  

4. Oppose advertising in schools, including fast food and beverage contracts and Channel One.

5. Replace or supplement the residential education property tax system with an income-based tax and other progressive forms of taxation such as a wealth tax. Maintain property tax on industrial, commercial, and vacation homes as a source of revenue for education and other public services.

6. Promote local control by opposing state revenue limits.

7. Prioritize local vendors and local knowledge in contracting.

8. Create and fund alternative school settings with public funds to provide non-traditional options for students to learn and thrive.


3. LABOR RIGHTS

1. Support the right of school employees to unionize. Non-union positions should not be substituted for union staff positions.

2. Support collective bargaining for all union-represented employees.

3. Empower staff to exercise more influence on the quality of education via shared school governance, full participation in curriculum design and implementation, and a meaningful voice in the creation, review, and evaluation of district policy and plans.

4. Expand high-quality staff professional development opportunities including foreign exchanges and sabbaticals. Staff should have a voice in determining their professional development needs and opportunities.

5. Ensure that the handbook negotiation process balances power between labor unions and the district and gives employees a strong voice in determining their compensation and working conditions.

6. Maintain strong educator licensing requirements at both state and district levels. School districts should attract and retain qualified staff through competitive compensation packages and working conditions. Emergency licenses and long-term substitute positions are not solutions to teacher shortages.  

7. Balance the hiring of new staff with the retention of experienced staff members. Compensation plans and career ladders should address wage compression issues through pay increases and advancement opportunities for experienced staff.

8. Recruit and maintain a diverse staff in all roles throughout schools, including staff of color, LGBTQ+ employees, and male-identified teachers.

9. Maintain and advance staff through holistic evaluative methods over conventional methods.

10. Advance the careers of employees of color and LGBTQ+ employees by placing them in leadership roles.

11. Foster employees in the student population.

12. Ensure working conditions are safe, up-to-date, and enjoyable for all employees at all times.

13. Ensure quality employee benefits, including paid parental leave, sick and bereavement leave, personal time, quality affordable health insurance, and retirement benefits.

14. Value all district staff and support a living wage for all district employees to enable them to afford the cost of housing for a 2 bedroom rental unit according to the  National Low Income Housing Coalition Out of Reach study (e.g. in 2017, NLIHC housing wage in Dane County is $18.54).


4. FACILITIES AND INFRASTRUCTURE

1. Provide air conditioning in all district buildings.

2. Ensure ADA compliance and accessibility in all district buildings.

3. Make capital investments in sustainability to reduce carbon footprint and increase energy efficiency and costs.

4. Invest in our existing schools before, or alongside, investing in new schools.

5. Support integrated schools that provide all students with clean, safe, and welcoming facilities.

6. Monitor and mitigate water quality and toxic substances in school buildings.

7. Include gender-expansive/inclusive restrooms in all schools.

8. Provide free menstrual products in all district restrooms.


5. CHARTER SCHOOLS

1. Oppose non-instrumentality charter schools.

2. Ensure all charter schools are accessible to all students, with adequate facilities and resources to meet their needs.

3. Analyze the following factors when considering an authorization or renewal:

a. Financial and other impacts on all district schools, including students who are not in the charter school.
b. Whether the educational program has been successful in improving outcomes for students who have not been successful in traditional schools, with success clearly defined by multiple measures.
c. Community and staff support.
d. Capacity of the proposers or Governing Board.
e. Whether the school has served or can serve as a resource for expanding successful practices.
f. Whether the school will increase or has increased segregation.

4. Existing charter schools that fail to meet evaluation benchmarks established in the terms of their charters should not be renewed.

5. Charter authorizations, renewals and governance must be fully transparent.


6. EQUITY AND INCLUSION

1. Ensure equity in access to all programs for students with disabilities, including after-school programs.

2. Work to integrate every level of the school system by creating alternative schools, classrooms, programming, curriculum, and staff. Unify a diverse community throughout schools and confront disparate access to opportunity.  

3. Apply scrutiny to programs, policies, and practices to prevent increased segregation by race, gender, socioeconomic status, language, and level of ability to assure that benefits are greater than harm.

4. Fully support heterogeneous classrooms that integrate bilingual education and special needs students with other students in one classroom.

5. Ensure civic education at multiple grade levels and integrate issues of equity and social justice into core curricula.

6. Train teachers, administrators, and students to promote equity.

7. Ensure that all students, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression have full access to district-sponsored, educational opportunities free of discrimination and harassment. Create transparency in instances of ethical and legal ambiguity regarding discrimination and harassment to keep the public informed.

8. Help all teachers work effectively with culturally diverse students including racial and ethnic minorities; language minorities; students with disabilities; working class and poor families; and gay lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students and families.

9. Integrate issues of diversity into core curricula, present persons from minority backgrounds as role models, and amplify the voices of minority students without relying on them to teach others about their experiences.

10. Adopt an explicit anti-discrimination policy that includes all of the above populations.

11. Improve school services offered to our bilingual and ESL population.

12. Develop programs to stabilize homeless students and reduce movement between schools.

13. Involve the communities most affected in all efforts to eliminate the opportunity gaps and disparate academic outcomes for students who have not been equitably served by our community

14. Invest in the leadership of people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, persons with disabilities, women, and other historically-and-currently marginalized groups to recognize and respond to the ways they have been underserved by the education system in the past and to make them role models for the future.

15. End exclusionary practices, zero-tolerance policies, and in-school arrests.

16. Put a moratorium on all out-­of­-school suspensions.

17. Expand T.E.E.M. Scholars, AVID/TOPS, and after-school programs

18. Create welcoming and inclusive schools for LGBTQ+ students by preventing bias-based bullying, supporting GSA programs, and implementing gender-neutral bathrooms.

19. Public schools should routinely collect, reflect upon, and publicly report data on school disciplinary removal. Reports should include data disaggregated by race/ethnicity, gender, poverty, and disability status in terms of numbers of each group disciplined. These reports should also include the percentage of each group that experiences suspension and expulsion, as well as disaggregated incidence data on the type of infraction and the number of days of missed instruction that results from such removals. Data on seclusion and restraint of students should be included in reports.

20. Educate students and staff on issues of systemic racism and compel teachers and administrators to document their efforts to end racial inequalities in scales large and small.

21. Provide wrap-around services and uninterrupted, comprehensive care for students facing difficulties.


7. ACCOUNTABILITY

1. Emphasize meaningful teaching and learning as the key to closing gaps while limiting standardized testing that reinforces inequities and disparities.

2. Uphold the right of students and families to opt-out of standardized tests and the right of staff to freely inform families of their right to opt-out.

3. Oppose the ranking and grading of schools based on standardized test scores and participation rates. Oppose state takeover of schools and/or districts based on standardized test performance.

4. Give equal emphasis to all academic subjects, and ensure that schools dedicate adequate time and resources to subjects that are not measured by standardized testing, including science, social studies, fine arts, world languages and physical education.

5. Staff performance evaluations should encourage collaboration between teachers and classrooms and support professional growth. The evaluation process should respect the experience and professionalism of our staff and should not take significant time away from the work of educating and building relationships with students. Staff should not be punished for student performance on standardized tests.

6. Ensure program and partnership evaluations are transparent and inclusive at every stage (from design through completion), thorough, employ multiple measures, and when appropriate independent evaluators should be used.

7. Pursue student and peer-led evaluations of educators and administrators on racial inequities in policies, practices, and outcomes in classrooms and schools. Ensure consistent data, including discipline data, is collected across the district to enable fair evaluations. Standardized tests should not be the primary measure for accountability.

8. Provide free legal support and improve the processes and available forums for families filing discrimination complaints to increase access, prevent trauma, and increase accountability. Consider restorative justice practices to address discrimination.  

9. School administrators and staff must be accountable to and serve all students and be held responsible for exclusionary and discriminatory practices and outcomes.

10. Educators having regular access to rigorous cultural competency trainings for social justice that encourage deep reflection on the ways in which their own positionality impacts curriculum design, pedagogy, and outcomes for students.


8. SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF STUDENTS

1. Encourage opportunities for student leadership and organizing.

2. Serve students’ mental, physical, and emotional health in conjunction with academic advancement. Student services staff, including social workers, school counselors, nurses and psychologists, should focus on caring for students and should not have their duties diverted into roles like standardized testing.

3. Vigorously protect students’ and teachers’ rights to free speech and question dress codes that limit the free expression of students and teachers.

4. Ensure discipline policies are enforced equitably among the student population.

5. Stop contracting with Madison Police Department for educational resource officer presence in schools.  

6. End the practice of expelling students.

7. Oppose zero-tolerance policies, including, but not limited to those for the use of cell phones and other personal devices.

8. Fund legal services/right to counsel for students facing formal discipline, including suspension and expulsion.

9. Oppose military recruitment of minors in schools; increase awareness of and access to opt-outs for military recruitment on school campuses.


9. COMMUNITY SCHOOLS

1. Support a holistic approach to education that recognizes the importance of public schools as centers of the community—open all day, every day, to everyone—that house and coordinate access to a host of wraparound supports for students and their families, including child care, food access, academic mentoring, language classes, family support, physical and mental health services, public benefits, and legal services.

2. Within each school campus, create clinics that are open to students, families, and the community that provide access to pediatricians, dentists, psychologists, nurses, legal advocates, and social workers through partnerships and volunteer programs. Ensure that services are free and that individuals with or without insurance can enroll.

3. Support and expand tuition-free after-school and out-of-school time offerings through interagency collaborations and partnerships with local businesses, nonprofits, and community organizations.  

4. Support youth-centered and age-appropriate opportunities for service learning, leadership development, internships, and skill-building

5. Support after-school programming that is inclusive, developmentally appropriate, and student-centered.

6. Support school gardens that provide hands-on experience of how things grow and what plants need to thrive.

7. Prohibit the use of food as a reward or incentive for learning and testing.

8. Support parent and family-focused programs including family nights, volunteer opportunities, employment and training opportunities, and parenting support groups.

9. Provide fresh, primarily plant-based snacks, breakfasts, and lunches sourced from local farms and producers free-of-charge regardless of income level. Link nutrition and health education to school meal and snack programs.

10. Support ample recess time, including the option for indoor free time (i.e. library), of at least 90 minutes per day. Recess should never be reduced to accommodate additional time for academic subjects nor withdrawn for punitive reasons.

11. Expand and support tuition-free early childhood education, including all-day 4k and universal 3k.

12. Provide access to showers, laundry, and weather-appropriate attire.

13. Support housing stability, rent assistance, and case management through partnerships with funders and service providers.

14. Limit in-class screen time at the elementary level, and ensure that digital learning supplements, but does not replace, classroom teaching at all grade levels.

15. Support educational opportunities regarding agricultural and environmental sustainability for all students, at all grade levels. This could include outdoor education, school gardens, composting, and recycling. Protect and enhance outdoor resources owned by the district including school woods and prairies, and the Madison School Forest.

16. Support broad, honest, and robust health education that teaches beyond the nutritional and physical realms to promote students’ mental, emotional, and social well being.


10. CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION

1. Support teaching that focuses on authentic problem solving and alternative forms of assessment, as opposed to simply preparing students to perform on standardized tests.

2. Oppose all forms of high-stakes testing that systematically result in falsely labeling students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners as failing.

3. Support greater access to experiential opportunities, including collaborative, kinetic, experimental, community-based, and service learning, and integrate these diverse methods into curricula.

4. Support comprehensive and LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education in a safe and supportive environment that empowers youth to care for their sexual health. We support a robust, consent-based sex education that acknowledges the intersections of race, sexuality, orientation, expression, and ability, and how these and other facets of identity inform diverse understandings of intra- and interpersonal health. We support ending abstinence-centered paradigms.

5. Ground curricula in the lived experiences of students and their families, especially those most impacted by educational injustice, to make education engaging, challenging, culturally relevant, and integrated with the world outside school. Teaching environments, methods, and materials should reflect and build appreciation for the diversity of cultures, languages, identities, and experiences that students bring to the classroom and/or will encounter in larger society.

6. Support curricula and instructional methods that invite students to play an active role in their own education. Students should be given opportunities to control some aspect of a lesson and exercise leadership in ways that are meaningful to them.

7. Teachers organizing flexible groupings of students in low-pressure environments that provide youth with opportunities for self-guided and peer-mentored learning.

8. Partner with families and community members to help students continue their education at home and extend services and supports when families are limited in their ability to help.

9. Uplift students from the lowest common denominator of their understanding; discourage teachers from seeing students as to blame for their difficulties, and provide advancement opportunities to faster learners without detracting from other students. We support flexible curricula that meets students where they are, building off of existing interests, strengths, and prior experiences.

10. We support teachers providing equitable access and time for both the cognitive and hands-on aspects of assignments to accommodate students at different stages of learning.

11. Ensure that learning occurs in a diverse, integrated setting when beneficial for students from marginalized backgrounds.

12. Maintain the approachable and facilitative, rather than authoritative, roles of teachers.

13. Ensure that the language of all teaching materials reflects scientifically up-to-date, culturally competent, and socially progressive understandings of untold histories, gender, sex, race, religion, economy, science, and current events

14. Integrate the arts into core curricula.

15. Support minimum budget requirements for arts funding—either as a percentage of the overall school budget or allocating an amount per pupil or per art form.

16. Support expanding the high school graduation expectation so that students complete at least one arts course in high school.

17. Thoughtfully integrate technologies to enhance educational content; help students develop visual and technical fluencies to navigate our information-based society; encourage creative exploration of interests; and connect with new, foreign ideas. Learning mediated by technologies should not stand in for richer educational experiences.

18. Take into account the socio-economic realities that limit access to digital means of production for low-income students and provide all youth with a level field for learning and play, both inside and outside of school.

19. Support curricula and instruction that fosters respectful decision-making and communication skills, reinforces boundaries, cultivates empathy, and promotes the students’ own sense of autonomy and self-confidence. We believe there should be time factored into curricula for social and emotional supports and community-building activities that help students feel safe and at peace in school among peers and staff

20. Recognize the importance of building perseverance, resilience, and ingenuity by doing, teach students how to accept perceived failure as a natural and productive part of the learning process.

21. Support regular out-of-school learning opportunities such as field trips to community centers and nonprofits, art/science/historical museums, and other sites of cultural production that thoughtfully and intentionally extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom.

22. Support expanded opportunities to learn from nature—to explore and further appreciation for the natural world. We support school-wide, cross-curricular focuses on themes of sustainability and climate justice to highlight our planet’s state of emergency and to emphasize the critical importance of civic participation and social responsibility in defending a livable future for all.

23. Support an urgent and intentional curricular payback of the education debt owed to black, brown, southeast Asian, and indigenous communities, as well as LGBTQ+ and femme folk, those with disabilities, and other historically and currently marginalized groups.

24. When teaching indigenous cultures, address the complexity and fluidity of indigenous identities—acknowledging and unpacking historical inaccuracies and stereotypical representations while sharing stories that indigenous people want to tell about their own self-determination, sovereignty, health and wellness, recovery from trauma, resilience, and revitalization.

25. Support the pursuit of community control of school policy and curricula—by parents, caregivers, students, and community members—free of interference from political and corporate interests. We believe curricula should be improved and reinvented with urgency by professional educators in consideration of both the community’s needs and national and global realities to ensure all students are thriving.