Meet the candidate: Kate Toews for Madison School Board
Kate Toews, Madison School Board candidate, would focus on quality and diversity of teaching staff if elected in the upcoming municipal election.Image By: Alicia Shoberg
Kate Toews says she never planned to run for a municipal position. That all changed last November, when she said education funding threats following the presidential election compelled her to vie for a board of education seat—a move she said was necessary to protect her children’s futures.
Toews, who is running for seat six of Madison Metropolitan District School Board, spoke Wednesday with The Daily Cardinal on where she stands on current and future issues facing the district.
Toews said her primary concern is attracting and retaining a high-quality and diverse set of teachers in both the short and long term. The important components in achieving that goal, according to Toews, are increasing educators’ compensation and benefits and fostering a strong culture of listening to their input and concerns.
Opponents of raising pay claim it is unrealistic because about 85 percent of the budget already goes to staff, but Toews asserted that number is misleading because only about 35 percent of those funds go to teachers. Gov. Scott Walker has also threatened to cut state funding for the district if it continues to pay more than 88 percent of the staff’s healthcare.
“I have a lot of experience with budgets and compensation, and the reality is there are a lot of ways to efficiently use our resources,” Toews said. “Having quality teachers and educators is the most important thing for our kids. In particular, our district does not have a lot of teachers of color, and I think that is a big challenge that we need to work on. Every single kid deserves to have a teacher at some point that speaks their language or that looks like them.”
Toews believes more diverse teachers will help address the achievement gap between white students and students of color in Madison. She said she also wants to see continued dedication to early childhood education.
The qualifications that set her apart from the other candidates, she said, are having three children in or entering the school district, and over a decade of experience in the business world.
“The role of the board is to manage a $450 million budget, to hire and manage the superintendent and to make major strategic decisions for the district,” Toews said. “I am the only candidate with experience managing budgets that large, and managing people on that scale. I’ve had to listen to competing priorities and make those hard decisions.”
Toews said her experience as a mediator and willingness to listen to the community’s teachers, students and parents will come into play on controversial issues within the district, such as the Personalized Pathways Program.
“My perspective is that we should be innovating as a district,” Toews said. “Experiential learning can be great, but I would never want to have our schools have such rigid schedules that kids are unable to explore different topics that they are interested in. I think after this year we should listen to the teachers and families that are participating in it to see what works and what doesn’t work.”
The primary election is Feb. 21 and the general election is April 4.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter