Supporters of a controversial charter school proposal geared toward low-income, minority students said Tuesday they will continue to fight to establish it next fall — including possibly as a private school.
Their comments came Tuesday after the Madison School Board voted 5-2 early that day to reject a proposal for Madison Preparatory Academy, which would offer single-sex classrooms and a college preparatory curriculum.
The board didn't vote on an alternate proposal to approve the school but delay its opening until 2013.
David Cagigal, president of the Madison Prep board, said a private school would be expensive because the school's target low-income population wouldn't be able to afford tuition. Instead, the board would ask private donors to replace the roughly $9,300 per pupil it had sought from the School District.
"Maybe money is not the issue if we want to go ahead and prove our point," Cagigal said. "I can assure you we will persist with this idea of closing the achievement gap."
Supporters also might urge the Legislature to create a statewide charter school authorizing board, which could help Madison Prep receive public funds and bypass School Board approval, Cagigal said. Such a bill was introduced earlier this year and approved by the Joint Finance Committee, but has not been scheduled for a final vote.
Currently, most charter schools become eligible for public money only when they receive approval from the school districts in which they are located.
Madison Prep supporters said they might also create a citizen panel that would hold the School Board and district accountable for student achievement results.
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Urban League of Greater Madison president Kaleem Caire said there's a 50 percent chance Madison Prep will open next fall in some form. But Caire did not elaborate.
In an interview Tuesday morning, he stood by comments he made after the School Board vote in which he urged supporters to oust the five board members who opposed the school and that he would file a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Justice Department.
"The status quo for our community does not work," Caire said. "We're going to pursue a plan of action from the School District and we're going to address the leadership vacuum that we have in the Madison school system."
John Matthews, executive director of Madison Teachers Inc., which opposed the proposal, criticized Caire's response and said opponents and supporters need to be conciliatory.
"Hostility is not the among the affirmative ways of doing things," he said. "I think there's a fine line right now between trying to let the dust settle and the emotionalism dissipate and trying to move forward."
Opponents of the proposal, including Superintendent Dan Nerad, have said it would violate the district's contract with MTI, allow for too little district oversight and require an expensive administrative fee of $900,000 over five years for the Urban League.
School Board president James Howard, who supported the proposal, said attention now turns to Nerad, who last week promised to introduce a plan in January to address the achievement of low-income, minority students.
Nerad said he's still open to discussing the charter school and elements of its proposal with the Urban League.