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April 26, 2007 Edition

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Action alert:
Don't cut busing for Catholic students

Back in 1981, the Madison public schools tried to cut busing for students attending Catholic schools. A coalition of school parents and concerned citizens stopped that effort.

Now they're trying it again. The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) has proposed eliminating busing for 376 students attending Catholic schools in the Madison area. Why? Because the district has a multi-million dollar budget shortfall.

General e-mail for the Board of Education is: comments@madison.k12.wi.us  Following are Board of Education members, phone and e-mails:

Carol Carstensen, 608-255-5931, ccarstensen@madison.k12.wi.us

Maya Cole, 608-259-0549, mcole@madison.k12.wi.us

Lawrie Kobza, 608-249-7519, lkobza@madison.k12.wi.us

Lucy Mathiak, 608-255-0930, lmathiak@madison.k12.wi.us

Beth Moss, 608-833-3166, bmoss@madison.k12.wi.us

Arlene Silveira, 608-270-0435, asilveira@madison.k12.wi.us

Johnny Winston Jr., 608-441-0224, jwinstonjr@madison.k12.wi.us

They're trying to save approximately $229,000 by stopping bus service for students attending Catholic schools. Instead, they will give parents a contract to drive their children to school.

Discriminates against Catholic families. Michael Lancaster, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Madison, noted that giving a parent contract is permissible by law. But eliminating busing, he said, "is inherently unfair, unjust, and discriminates against parents' right to choose the education that is best for their children."

I agree. Many of the children who ride the bus do not have a car - or their parents may not be able to drive them to school because of work commitments. These are just the children who need the option of busing. Cutting busing for these families would discriminate against lower-income families and single parents.

Some children may end up walking greater distances to school. Although our grandparents may have felt walking miles to school was good exercise, nowadays we have to be concerned about children's safety on busy city streets. Our state constitution was amended to guarantee busing for all students to help ensure their safety.

Pay property taxes. We must remember that Catholic school families pay local property taxes. Michael Lancaster estimates that Madison Catholic families contribute roughly $2 million a year to the Madison school district. Busing is one of the only benefits Catholic school students receive in return.

And remember, these students are NOT being educated in public schools. Yet their parents pay taxes - and pay for their children's education in a Catholic school. Imagine the financial impact if all of those 376 students flooded into the Madison public schools. Their so-called budget savings might evaporate pretty fast!

I encourage all concerned citizens - whether you have a student currently in a Catholic school or not - to voice your opposition to this proposal. The Madison Board of Education will be voting on this measure on April 30, so time is short.

Write, call, or e-mail each member of the board (see box above). Tell them not to eliminate busing for Catholic school students as a matter of choice, fairness, and safety. Instead, we should work together to find an equitable solution for all students.

Mary C. Uhler

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Madison, WI 53744-4985

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Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
Offices: Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, 702 S. High Point Road, Madison
Mailing address: P.O. Box 44985, Madison, WI 53744-4985
Phone: 608-821-3070     Fax: 608-821-3071     E-Mail: info@madisoncatholicherald.org