The new “school accountability” bill advanced Wednesday (January 7, 2015) by Assembly Republicans sets public schools up for failure and a takeover by private entities, WEAC President Betsy Kippers said.
“Woefully missing from the legislation are state resources to help struggling public schools improve, setting them up for takeover,” Kippers said.
“The bill charts a course for the end of our neighborhood public schools as we know them, paving the way for struggling schools to be converted to privately run charter schools unanswerable to locally elected school boards and taxpayers.
“If enacted, the system will be rigged in favor of voucher schools which will be able to choose which tests they want for their school report cards to dodge possible sanctions for underperforming.”
Under the plan, as explained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the state would create a board that would assign a grade of A to F for all publicly funded schools and eventually punish schools with D’s or F’s. “In a shift from current law, the measure would allow private schools to use a different exam from the state test to measure student learning, though it would create a process for comparing those differing tests,” according to the Journal Sentinel.
- Schools with three straight years of poor or failing results would have to comply with an improvement plan for at least four years. If they did not improve after four years, they could be shut down, either by being converted to a charter school in the case of a public school, having their taxpayer funding cut off in the case of private voucher schools or having their independent charter revoked. The earliest that this harshest step could be taken is the 2021-’22 school year.
- The Assembly bill would create an “Academic Review Board” that would develop a new system for evaluating schools by looking at the math and reading skills of students, how much they learned about those subjects in the classroom and whether they graduate from high school. The board would set incentives for exceptional schools and schools with large numbers of at-risk students. It would be made up of 13 members with staggered four-year terms:
- State schools superintendent Tony Evers and five members nominated by him — a public school principal, a charter school staffer, a private voucher school administrator, a voucher schoolteacher and one representative each from the state’s technical colleges and University of Wisconsin-System.
- One at-large member and one technical college representative nominated by Gov. Scott Walker.
- One nominee from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse).
Democrats said converting public schools to charter schools will only benefit private businesses that are set up to run them.
“It’s a gift to the money makers, is it not?” asked Rep. Sondy Pope.