Ali Muldrow, the co-executive director of the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools and a former Madison School Board candidate, is running again in the spring election for Seat 4, which is currently held by James Howard.
“I am running for School Board because I want schools to be a place where kids love learning,” Muldrow said. “I want young people to have access to the things they need to access the greatest part of themselves."
Muldrow cited the Madison Metropolitan School District’s persistent achievement gap and issues related to LGBTQ inclusion as top issues she wants to focus on in her campaign and on the School Board if elected.
“I think that we have issues within our education system that define who we are as a community, and the achievement gap defines us as a community right now,” Muldrow said. “And I don’t think it should.”
Muldrow ran for Seat 6 on the seven-person School Board in April 2017, where she lost to current member Kate Toews. Muldrow received 44.1 percent of the vote in that contest despite finishing first in the three-person primary two months prior.
“I learned a lot from the first time I ran,” Muldrow said. “I think the stakes are really high right now, and the stakes continue to get higher. There’s the urgent need to address injustice in our communities.”
Muldrow plans to file paperwork with the city clerk’s office on Friday. She’s the third candidate to announce a run for School Board in the past week, and also the third former candidate to decide to run again.
Cris Carusi is running for Seat 3, which is currently held by Dean Loumos, and Ananda Mirilli is running for Seat 5, currently held by TJ Mertz.
The last time these three seats were up, Loumos, Howard and Mertz ran unopposed.
"All I can say at this point is that I'm still trying to decide and I will make a decision next week," Howard said in an email in response to whether he will run for re-election this cycle.
When he ran in 2016, Howard said his current term would likely be his last. Dec. 21 is the deadline for incumbents not seeking re-election to file a notice with the city clerk’s office.
Mirilli and Muldrow have endorsed each other’s campaigns and are running parallel to each other, with a fundraiser planned for next week.
Part of their decision to run together at the same time had to do with how many seats were up for re-election this cycle, and a recognition of needing people of color on the School Board.
“It’s exciting to be on the campaign trail with another person of color,” Muldrow said. “Last year, it wasn’t just that I was the only candidate of color. I would go into forums where there would be 300 people and I would still be the only person of color. It’s intense and there’s an element of isolation to it.”
Muldrow also supported School Board member Gloria Reyes’ campaign last year. Reyes defeated incumbent Anna Moffit to become the School Board’s first Latina member.
Muldrow said it was also important to work alongside Mirilli as they have to rely heavily on fundraising to fund their campaigns, which she said some School Board candidates in the past haven’t had to focus on as much.
“No one vote can do anything on the School Board. You need four votes,” Muldrow said. “It’s about working together on a shared mission of motivating and inspiring our young people. Our School Board needs to look like the people that are in our schools.”
Muldrow was first person of color to serve as an executive in GSAFE’s 22-year history.
With experience in LGBTQ inclusion and racial justice work, Muldrow said she wants to help MMSD move away from decades of stagnation, especially in its achievement gap.
“The school district sort of tends to produce the same outcomes,” Muldrow, who graduated from MMSD. “Even though we’ve gotten referendums and other things, we still have gotten a lot more of the same.”
Muldrow’s two children attend Isthmus Montessori Academy, which operates as a public charter for students in 4K through ninth grade.
Candidates were able to circulate nominations papers starting Dec. 1. The deadline to file to run for School Board is Jan. 2, 2019.