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Madison Metropolitan School District

2024 Referenda

On Monday, June 24, 2024, the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Board of Education voted unanimously to approve two referendum questions, one for facilities and one for operations, that will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.

One question is for Operations levy and the second is for Facilities bonds. In general levies are for learning (curricula, staffing, programs, security and safety, activities, student support services, school improvements) and bonds are for buildings (new construction and replacement schools).

kindergarten teacher and student


Operational Referendum

Ask: $100 million over four years

Why it matters: 

  • The investment contributes to a community’s economic viability, including strong property values and livability.

  • Investing in early learning, a foundational pillar upon which many of our equity projects are built, benefits our future by instilling a lifelong love of learning and increasing our students’ chances of success throughout their educational careers.

  • Attraction and retention of world-class educators are essential to our students’ academic success and benefits youth in the classroom, helping prepare them for success by providing the support and guidance they need to succeed.  

  • Supporting our students and families benefits the whole community and helps ensure access to behavioral and mental health services that students and families may not otherwise be able to receive.

This referendum isn't just about sustaining; it's about thriving. It's about continuing to create environments where teachers flourish and students excel.

The competitive landscape of education demands that we attract and retain the brightest minds dedicated to shaping our students' futures. 

The proposed operational referendum totaling $100 million over four years is equipping our teachers to inspire and educate. This referendum will enable MMSD offer competitive salaries and benefits, including tackling the escalating costs of healthcare premiums that have outpaced standard increases.

Beyond sustaining our current standards, this funding will empower MMSD to invest in vital educational initiatives:

  • Continue investing in 4K and early learning programs, ensuring every child receives a strong foundation.
  • Multilingual education will be bolstered, embracing diversity and preparing our students for a globalized world.
  • Additionally, we will enrich middle school opportunities in career exploration and fostering well-rounded development through expanded extracurricular activities and learning opportunities.

students walking into school


Facilities Referendum

Ask: $507 million over 20 years

Why it matters:

  • MMSD faces the challenge of aging infrastructure. Twenty-six of our school buildings are more than 60-years old, and 40 of them received grades of C or D. 

  • Our school buildings are not just structures. They are the spaces where our students learn, grow and become inspired. Schools are the heart of our communities. 

  • From ensuring proper heating, cooling, and plumbing to enhancing accessibility and safety, these improvements directly impact the learning environment and well-being of our students and staff.

  • There is a connection between updated facilities and high-quality teaching and learning.

The Facilities Referendum is about equipping our students with the tools and spaces they need to thrive. It's about preparing them to be future-ready and successful in an ever-evolving world. By investing in our middle school buildings, we're investing in the potential of every student and our community.

Building on the success of our 2020 referendum, which transformed our high schools into modern, 21st-century learning hubs, we are now embarking on the next phase of our journey: revitalizing our middle and elementary schools.

Our focus is clear: addressing critical needs in aging buildings, with 26 facilities over 60 years old, far beyond their intended lifespan. This initiative is not just about bricks and mortar; it's about creating safe, inspiring environments where learning can flourish.

We have seen the profound impact of modern facilities on our high school students, who now have access to cutting-edge technology, STEM labs, and collaborative spaces that prepare them for success in future careers. Now, it's time to extend these opportunities to our middle and elementary schools.Imagine updated classrooms equipped with the latest educational tools, ensuring that every student has access to a quality learning experience. Picture renovated libraries, where knowledge knows no bounds, and cafeterias and shared spaces that foster a sense of community and belonging.

Learn More About Public School Funding

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) is at a pivotal transition time. Over the past 12 years, MMSD has navigated fiscal challenges stemming from inadequate state resources for public education. As we continue to embark on a journey to transform instruction and enhance school climate, we’re facing ongoing disruptive cuts from the state.

MMSD faces an anticipated budget shortfall beginning in the 2024-2025 school year. Had state funding kept pace with inflation, MMSD would have received over $20.8 million in vital support for the 2023-24 academic year. Yet, we grapple with the financial strain as healthcare costs escalate for our more than 6,000 employees and we work to retain top-tier educators – all while providing an exceptional educational experience for over 25,000 students.

One of the ways MMSD continues to focus on high-quality education is through investments in literacy instruction. Grounded in the science of reading, the district has prioritized teacher professional development and curriculum resources to improve students’ academic outcomes.

MMSD also remains steadfast in investing in early learning opportunities, including funding full-day four-year-old (4K) kindergarten. State formulas discount the funding of 4K learners, counting students as “half” a child and only providing funding to support their education at 50 percent, leaving school districts to cover the other 50 percent from their general fund.

State funding inadequacies extend to special education. Public schools are required to provide these important services to the students who need them, however, the state covers only 31 percent of these costs. This left MMSD with a $66.4 million gap in 2023-2024, which needed to be covered by MMSD's general fund.

Meanwhile, record increases to private and independent charter schools by the state government add to financial challenges to public schools. MMSD is required by state law to allocate nearly $11 million of public tax dollars to support private and independent charter schools.

MMSD is not alone in this struggle. Across Wisconsin, public schools face budgetary concerns due to insufficient state funding. Public schools operate under a revenue limit formula, designed by the state government. These limits dictate the amount of state aid and local taxes a school district receives each year to operate. Over the past decade, the revenue limit has become increasingly restrictive. With little or no annual revenue growth to meet the rising cost of inflation and student needs, school districts must turn to cuts in personnel, programs, and services, or ask taxpayers for authority to increase the revenue limit through a referendum.

The April 2024 ballot saw 92 school referendums state-wide, including four in Dane County, with 66 percent earmarked for operational expenses.

Despite these challenges, MMSD believes in a responsible approach to budget development. Each year, the district focuses on teaching and learning priorities, finding efficiencies and repurposing funds. But even with this smart approach, over time, state cuts and restrictive limits will take a dangerous toll on our community’s public schools.

20.8 million dollar funding gap

Over the last decade, State Revenue Limits have not kept pace with inflation causing $20.8 Million revenue gap in 2023-24 alone.

half a child

4K students only count as a half-person for state aids per state law. In MMSD, we cover those critical early learning expenses so students can attend 4K classes for the full day.

31% Special Education reimbursment rate

A 31% State Special Education reimbursement results in $66.4
million MMSD funding gap this year alone. Statewide a $1.5 billion annual State Special Education funding gap.

speech bubbles bright colors

To inform the two referenda questions for the community to vote on in November 2024, MMSD held twelve input sessions, which include targeted, informational and community-wide engagement opportunities:

4,000+ responses from MMSD families, students, staff and community members.

 Community feedback survey Report Community Leader Think Tank Report

MMSD students all ages

Key priority areas to ensure college, career, and community readiness

Students sitting on a rug in 4K


Early Learning

Thanks to the 2020 operating referendum, MMSD has been able to continue to increase four-year-old kindergarten (4K) throughout the district. For the 2023-2024 school year, 27 MMSD schools offer half or full-day 4K programs. For full-day programs, nearly 66% of learners are students of color. In the 2024-2025 school year, we will begin to offer 4K dual-language immersion programming.

MMSD has been making ongoing and sustained investments in early literacy to improve student outcomes. We are continuing to invest in teacher and staff professional development around reading fundamentals and how to teach reading.

Learn More

student reading a book

Multilingual Education

Multilingual education is also an important priority at MMSD. Twenty-seven percent of students are English language learners. Across our district, 21 schools offer Dual-Language Immersion. MMSD also offers Advanced Placement language courses and the Seal of Biliteracy.

As part of our 2020 Referendum, middle school students now experience daily world language. With globalization and increasing cultural diversity, being bilingual or multilingual opens doors to enhanced communication, cultural understanding, and broader career opportunities.

Learn More

Students playing instraments

Well Rounded Opportunities

Well-rounded opportunities foster creativity within arts and music, providing purposeful engagement with in-depth, varied content knowledge. This ensures students are ready for post-secondary education and opportunities across industries, disciplines, and careers.

Well-rounded opportunities must allow for collaborative learning and exploration, requiring facilities that align to 21st century learning to promote deeper learning. Expansion of programs, updated facilities, and partnerships with Madison College have allowed 61% of students to graduate with some college credit.

Additionally, MMSD students took more than 3,000 Advanced Placement tests in 2023. And 54% of our students participate in co-curricular activities. Our district is continuing to expand opportunities that exist at the high school level to middle school.

Learn More

Two students working together

Culture & Climate

Our teachers and staff work to create thriving school cultures and positive learning environments. Part of this is ensuring inclusive spaces so all of our students feel welcomed and supported at school. For example, the district invested $4.3 million to upgrade accessibility and inclusivity at 33 school playgrounds.

We have also worked to renovate and build private spaces for students’ health and well-being needs. We want our students to be able to be their best selves at school. The MMSD School-Based Mental Health and Well-Being team supports students, families, and school staff at every stage of their educational journey. MMSD has therapists at the four comprehensive high schools as well school-based health centers at 16 middle and elementary schools.

Learn More

Facilities Referendum Questions

Operating Referendum Questions

2024 Referenda