UPDATE: School accountability bill proposes turning failing publ - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

School accountability bill proposes turning failing public schools into charters

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Failing public schools could be turned into privately-owned charter schools under the first major bill introduced in the new session of the state legislature.

A school accountability bill introduced by Assembly Republicans would also set up a 13 member Academic Review Board (ARB) to review, grade and implement changes at all failing schools - public, charter and choice.

The ARB would be separate from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI),  but would include the DPI superintendent and six other members DPI appoints.  The remaining six spots would be filled by appointees of the Governor and legislative leaders.

"They would be establishing the review program within the bounds of what's created by the bill in the statutes," said Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), the bill's author.

That review program would grade schools based on test scores.  Those schools that fail three straight years would have to implement an ARB-approved improvement plan for four years.
"It's about teacher training, it's about more parental involvement.  It's all the things that you would want in a school that's not doing as well as we would ask for," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who called the bill the most important part of his agenda this session.

After that four-year improvement period, still-failing charter and choice schools would lose all public funding.  A failing public school could be turned it into a  privately-funded, independent charter school. 

Rep. Thiesfeldt said the DPI Superintendent would have the final say on that matter, but could also extend the improvement period for another few years.

"That means it becomes an opportunity for a business to come in and make money on education and that's the biggest problem for me," said Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Cross Plains), who wrote her own school accountability bill with Sen. Nikiya Harris (D-Milwaukee).

The Democratic bill only focuses on accountability for private choice schools receiving public dollars.

"I think the public schools are doing their very best, considering the cuts to funding that have taken place under Governor Walker," said Rep. Pope.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are looking for a bill that is free of the penalties and sanctions contained in the Assembly GOP bill.
A similar disagreement led to a school accountability bill failing in the last legislative session, but Speaker Vos said he is confident the differences can be worked out.  Speaker Vos wants the Assembly to pass a final version of the bill by the end of January.


MADISON (WKOW) -- The first bill introduced in the new session by the Wisconsin state Assembly will likely be a school accountability measure.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke says the bill is expected to be unveiled Wednesday. That's the first day the Assembly is in session.

Governor Scott Walker and GOP legislative leaders have said this is one of the first things they want to get done this year. A proposal on school accountability died last year after criticism over how to sanction schools that were failing, and how to handle private schools that accept students using taxpayer-funded vouchers.

Steineke says the new version will include sanctions for schools. Republicans in the Senate, though, are working on a version of the bill without sanctions for schools.
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