By Dr. Michael Bonds
President, Milwaukee Board of School Directors.
Wisconsin Republicans joined public school supporters and others during a legislative hearing in Madison last week questioning key points of Assembly Bill 1 – a legislative proposal pushed by Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly that would weaken the state’s current accountability measures for all publicly-funded schools. I attended the meeting with Milwaukee Public Schools’ superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver.
We both spoke to the confusion, lack of transparency and other significant issues Assembly Bill 1 would cause for MPS and school districts across the state.
Assembly Bill 1 is a step backward in Wisconsin’s school accountability efforts.
The current accountability law promotes accountability for all publicly- funded students and allows parents and taxpayers to make an apples-to-apples comparison for publicly-funded students, whether the students are in public, voucher or private schools.
A key component of the current accountability requires all publicly-funded students take the same assessment test.
The proposal pushed in Assembly Bill 1 would allow for multiple assessment tests. That idea drew concern not only from MPS, but others. Steve Baas of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce business organization also opposes the multiple test provisions of Assembly Bill 1 because the public would be more trusting of an accountability system where all schools have the same tests.
Senate Republicans voiced alarm about another provision in Assembly Bill 1: the creation of an unelected, new state board with undefined control to convert any Wisconsin underperforming school to a privately-run charter school.
Under pressure from other Republicans, the author of the Assembly legislation, Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, was forced to withdraw this controversial provision of his proposal before the hearing even began.
Others testified about the devastating fiscal impact the law would have on school districts across the state.
Pewaukee School District has no schools that would be considered underperforming, but Pewaukee Superintendent JoAnn Sternke told legislators Pewaukee would still be impacted.
The state pays for independent charter schools by reducing state aid to public school districts across the state, and that means every school district in Wisconsin would see a negative impact from this proposed legislation. Assembly Bill 1, which would also give schools grades of A to F, is just plain wrong.
Legislators heard hours of testimony of concern from citizens around Wisconsin about the problems this legislation would cause if it became law.
After the testimony received last week, legislators should give Assembly Bill 1 an F and support Wisconsin’s current accountability law.