The Madison School District's administration does not support the current proposal for Madison Preparatory Academy because it would have little accountability to the School Board and would violate the district's contract with its teachers union, according to an analysis released Saturday.

The 44-page review was provided to School Board members Friday night, two weeks before they're expected to vote on the controversial charter school proposal on Dec. 19.

Superintendent Dan Nerad acknowledged the current plan, which would not use union staff, is further from receiving district support than a previous, more costly proposal that would have had unionized employees.

"I believe the use of public funds should call for the public school district's governing board to have more oversight," Nerad said in an interview Saturday. "There's room for other opinions, but I wanted to be clear that's my opinion."

Kaleem Caire, Urban League of Greater Madison president and lead proponent for Madison Prep, vowed to press forward with the current proposal.

"We've removed so many barriers over the course of the last year, and new ones continue to be put in our path," Caire said. "It's pretty clear to us that the administration is not desiring the school. We have to appeal to the community, appeal to the board of education and hope for the best."

Caire has proposed Madison Prep as two single-sex charter schools with extended school days and school years, uniforms and a college preparatory curriculum. It would be geared toward low-income, minority students with the goal of helping close the district's achievement gap.

If approved, the schools would open next fall with 120 sixth graders at the former Mount Olive Lutheran Church facility on Mineral Point Road. It would eventually serve 840 students in grades six through 12.

The current proposal would have a net cost to the district of $2.7 million over the next five years, the district estimates. Overall, the new school is projected to cost $17.5 million over that same time.

Second review

The study released Saturday is the second review of Madison Prep in the last two months. The first was based on an initial proposal suggesting unionized staff that carried a net cost to the district of $13 million over five years.

Nerad said he wouldn't support the proposal unless the net cost came down to $5 million or less over five years. In response, Madison Prep supporters submitted a new proposal using nonunion staff.

Nerad said the issue with the current proposal is less about cost and more about the legal issues related to the union contract and the question of charter school autonomy.

In anticipation of the recommendation, Caire sent out an email Friday night to School Board members with a letter responding to concerns about the union contract issue.

The problem concerns a "work preservation" clause in the Madison Teachers Inc. contract that requires all teaching duties in the district be performed by union teachers.

Exceptions to the clause have been made in the past, such as having private day-care centers offer 4-year-old kindergarten, but those resulted from agreements with the union. Such an agreement would nullify the current union contract under the state's new collective bargaining law, according to the district.

Caire said a recent law signed by Gov. Scott Walker could allow the district to amend its union contract. However, School Board member Ed Hughes, who is a lawyer, disagreed with Caire's interpretation.

Nerad said even if the union issue can be resolved, he still objects to the school seeking autonomy from all district policies except those related to health and safety of students.

Other district policies include how student information and records are handled, military and post-secondary recruitment of students, bullying, harassment and discrimination, nepotism, fee waivers, the student code of conduct and graduation and promotion requirements.

Caire said Madison Prep's specific policies could be ironed out as part of the charter contract after the School Board approves the proposal. He plans to hold a press conference Tuesday to respond to the district's review.

"The purpose of a charter school is to free you from red tape — not to adopt the same red tape that they have," Caire said. "We hope the board will stop looking at all of those details and start looking at why we are doing this in the first place."

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