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Stark ideological differences define Seat 4 race for Madison School Board

March 24, 2019
Madison School Board Seat 4 candidates David Blaska and Ali Muldrow

In the most ideologically divided Madison School Board race this year, David Blaska and Ali Muldrow offer stark contrasts for voters when they decide April 2 who takes over Seat 4.

Muldrow said the achievement gap is “what defines our community.” She wants to include information on “medically accurate, inclusive human growth and development” throughout the K-12 curriculum to teach children about anatomy, stages of development and how to better understand their emotions. She said a priority is having arts every day.

“More dance, more music, more theater, more planning time and smaller classrooms are things I care about,” said Muldrow, co-executive director of GSAFE, the Gay Straight Alliance for Safe Schools. “My opponent and I are really different people who have really different values and bring different priorities to the table.”

Blaska, a former Dane County supervisor and conservative blogger, argues the district is obsessed with “identity politics” and said correcting bad behaviors has become administratively burdensome. He wants teachers to be in charge of classrooms and principals in charge of schools. His priorities would be “discipline, discipline, discipline.”

“I’m very much a political realist. I’m doing this because it needs to be said, and because I know it will get a receptive audience,” Blaska said. Muldrow, he said, “is wedded to identity politics, and for her, everything is race and not behavior.”

In February, Muldrow won 56 percent of the vote in a four-way primary followed by Blaska with 23 percent.

Muldrow lost the 2017 race for Seat 6, and Blaska has not run for School Board previously.

Blaska fully supports the school-based police officer program, advocating for it to be expanded into middle schools. Muldrow said she would not vote to continue the program, which is in the last year of the current three-year contract, if it comes before the board.

On hiring and retaining teachers of color, Muldrow said the district could attract a diverse group of teachers by allowing more freedom in selecting professional development opportunities.

“Teachers should determine their areas of growth and be given the tools to pursue that growth,” she said.

Blaska said “a good teacher is a good teacher” regardless of the person’s race.

“What we’ve got to do to get more teachers of color is to have more kids of color getting better grades,” Blaska said. “There’s not some stockpile somewhere in Omaha that nobody knows about.”

He said his views differ from the “kind of like psycho-babble” of other School Board members and candidates.

“All the rest of them are saying the same thing that everyone else has been saying in this town. They have to get the achievement gap down, but they don’t have any idea how to do it beyond putting a person of color on the School Board,” Blaska said, adding that, given his conservative leanings, “I am diversity.”

Children need to be prepared for a rapidly changing economy, Muldrow said, and schools need to be able to provide them with abilities to “embrace new information throughout their lives.”

“Part of being passionate about education is being passionate about people’s ability to think for themselves,” she said. “We have a responsibility to empower our children to think for themselves.”