A Call from the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future 2/12/14
Legislative activity around accountability for public education, voucher and independent charter schools is, to say the least, fluid. I would even throw in the word “secretive” and venture an opinion that the Legislative Majority is trying to confuse and confound public school advocates in an attempt to keep them quiet and disorganized.
We can’t let that happen. We need to keep the pressure on. I know you have all been asked to do a great deal but let’s keep representing our value that our public schools are worth protecting and promoting because they are the heart and soul of our communities. This legislative session ends on April 3.
This version of the accountability bill adds a few more bells and whistles, but it continues to use misleading letter grades to label schools — something Governor Scott Walker’s own School Report Card Design Team recommended against — and continues down a path that would shutter public schools or convert them to charters.
Although the mandate that five percent of all schools must fail mandate has been withdrawn, it is safe to say that they have already tipped their hand and, with this bill, schools that currently “meet expectations” would get letter grades of “C.” Given the broad swath of schools in this category a majority of public schools would be labeled “C” or mediocre according to the proposal. Based on history and experience with these legislators it doesn’t take much imagination to hear the rhetoric now: “We need to expand vouchers and charters because Wisconsin has too many mediocre, ‘C’ schools.”
Another surprise: The Senate Committee on Education will be voting on another version of accountability on Thursday, Feb. 13, at 10 a.m. in Room 411 South in the Capitol. Committee chairperson Senator Luther Olsen(R-Ripon) has scheduled an executive session on Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 286. No testimony will be heard.
I think it is safe to say that we can expect an accountability bill that puts public schools in a bad position to still move through the process. When and where we don’t know, but that is no reason to wait. Our best bet is to keep talking and writing about our public schools and their value to our communities. Keep those letters-to-the-editor, opinion pieces, and press releases flowing.
Now is the time to rally the troops — again — and contact your legislators, especially if they are Senate Republicans, as well as members of both committees. Just click on their names below for an easy way to send a message. When you’ve done that, copy your legislators. Finally, pass this note along to members of your organizations, friends, relatives, neighbors, and public school advocates.
Members of the Senate Committee on Education are listed (click on their names to send an e-mail message):
- Sen.Luther Olsen, chairperson
- Sen. Paul Farrow, co-chairperson
- Sen. Leah Vukmir
- Sen. Alberta Darling
- Sen. Richard Gudex
- Sen. John Lehman
- Sen. Tim Cullen
- Sen. Nikiya Harris
- Sen. Kathleen Vinehout
Members of the Assembly Committee on Education are listed (click on their names to send an e-mail message):
- Representative Steve Kestel, chairperson
- Rep. John Jagler, vice-chairperson
- Rep. Steve Nass
- Rep. Donald Pridemore
- Rep. Howard Marklein
- Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt
- Rep. Jessie Rodriguez
- Rep. Sondy Pope
- Rep. Fred Clark
- Rep. Mandy Wright
- Rep. Dianne Hesselbein