This post was originally published in the Wisconsin State Journal on September 17, 2022.
Today’s Public Schools Face Unprecedented Challenges.
By: Kathy Costello
Community. In a nutshell, that’s what our public schools are all about. Our schools and our students are the heartbeat of our community and ground us to what’s most important: our kids, connection, education, and future possibilities.
It was my joy to serve as a Madison School District principal for nearly a decade, so I have witnessed firsthand the many ways public schools have the power to create community and connect so many people. I continue to see these vibrant community connections today. That’s why I now serve on the board of directors for Madison’s education foundation, the Madison Public Schools Foundation, where I also chair its community partnerships committee.
Today’s public schools face unprecedented challenges. The state used to ensure an inflation-level adjustment to funding, but that benchmark has not been met for 14 years. The deficit created by not keeping up with inflation is $3,200 per student — or $82 million just this school year — and a jaw-dropping $657 million over that 14-year time horizon. Support from organizations such as the Madison Public Schools Foundation has never been more important to try to fill the resulting millions of dollars in funding gaps.
Our schools, educators and staff, students, and the communities they create need our support more than ever. The needs can feel overwhelming. But the Madison Public Schools Foundation has developed a unique program that delivers critical resources to all 52 of our schools: the Teacher Support Network.
This program allows schools to shop online with a local business, EZ Office Products, to buy exactly what they need, when they need it, with the foundation covering the cost. I have used this program myself and have seen the way it enables the Madison Public Schools Foundation to quickly fill supply gaps, providing everything from markers and notebooks to winter outerwear and playground equipment to art supplies and snacks.
Each school community is unique and has different needs, at different times, throughout the year. This program is incredibly efficient, effective, and entrepreneurial. It ensures schools get exactly what they need when they need it. Our goal is to keep teachers from spending out of pocket for supplies or having to rely on back-to-school supply drives to get the specific items they need.
The Teacher Support Network is only possible with community support. Donations allow schools to access resources when state funding falls short. I know so many people want to support our schools, but it can be hard to know where to start.
A donation to the Teacher Support Network is a straightforward way to provide direct, immediate help in the form of supplies and resources that our students and teachers rely on every day for classroom success. Your support shows that Madison does indeed believe that schools are central to our community and that we value our educators and creating opportunities for our young people.
Every time we help a school or a student, we strengthen the broader community. And that’s the sort of community I want to be part of.
Kathy Costello is a retired Madison principal, a board member for the Madison Public Schools Foundation, and chair of its community partnerships committee.