Parker addresses tax issue, charging a fee for teachers to bring their out-of-district children to school

By Madison City Schools Superintendent of Education Robby Parker

It is no surprise to you that we have been experiencing record growth.

Between last May and the start of school in August, we added 428 students. That is the enrollment of West Madison Elementary today. I have been working with our Board of Education on a strategic plan to maintain excellence as our school system continues to grow. I have been sharing details about the plan at community meetings, PTA meetings, the Chamber of Commerce, and any other venue that will invite me to speak.

On Oct. 30 at 6 p.m., the Madison Board of Education will host a work session with members of the Madison City Council and Triana Town Council. All of us want the same thing – to preserve the high quality education that you have come to expect of us.
I will be recommending a property tax increase to build schools and to support the operations of those schools. Even if city leaders decide NOT to annex any more land into the Madison City limits, our school system is on pace to run out of space in the next 2-3 years.

Before I can ask the residents of Madison (including myself and my family) to vote for a property tax increase, I have to be transparent about a policy of Madison City Schools that allows any employee who resides outside of Madison to bring their children to Madison City Schools. Of the 1,200 employees of Madison City Schools today, 150 employees bring 237 students.

We have 604 employees who reside in Madison and pay local property taxes to support the education of 11,283 students in our system. If we are successful in our attempt to increase property tax to support education, those 604 employees will have to pay even more whether they have kids attending Madison City Schools or not. The employees who live outside Madison complete a form each year requesting that their children be allowed to attend, and that form has to be re-submitted each year. Our policies and guidelines state that we make the annual decision based on a number of factors including space.

It is my recommendation to continue this policy even though a number of high performing, fast growing districts in Alabama, do not allow any students that live outside the city limits to attend. I say this because we value our teachers whether they live in Madison or outside Madison. But, with diminishing capacity in our schools and the fact that I am asking for a citywide tax increase to build schools, I am also recommending that those employees who live out of zone start paying tuition beginning with the 2019-20 school year. I am proposing an amount of $360 per family unit, or $30 a month, which can be done through a payroll deduction. It is simply a way for those who live outside Madison to pay a share like those in Madison have always done.

I believe this to be a modest amount that will not require ANY employee to make the decision to leave our system because of this fee. When I met with teachers, I told them that if any one of them could not afford $1.00 per day, that I would personally pay it for them. I do not want one teacher to leave us.

I invited every employee affected by this recommendation to meet with me last Wednesday so I could answer questions and explain the rationale. I wanted to meet with them before I presented it to the Board of Education for a first reading at the Thursday, Oct. 25, board meeting.

I am willing to explain it again, in detail, to any parent or community member and to answer questions on Monday, Oct. 29th, after school at 4 p.m. at the Central Office. Everyone in this community knows that I am open and love our kids and teachers with all of my heart. I love them so much that I am willing to make a tough decision to keep our schools among America’s best, no matter the criticism I receive. I want you to understand that I would not be making this recommendation at this time were it not for the situation our school system finds itself in with unprecedented growth.

I love every one of you and love our kids, and as long as I am Superintendent, I will do whatever it takes to give our kids the best opportunities in America.

Robby Parker