Several education reforms seen as key to Wisconsin’s application for federal stimulus funding under the “Race to the Top” program were able to clear the Legislature before the end of the fall session.
Lawmakers in both chambers were able to approve the legislative package, with final action coming in the Assembly in the early hours of Friday morning. The package includes bills that encourage the opening of more charter schools and create a system for tracking student performance.
The most controversial portion of the package is a bill lifting a state prohibition on evaluating teachers based on student test scores. President Obama and US Education Secretary Arne Duncan have said that will be a key part of any state’s application for part of the $4.3 billion available through “Race to the Top.”
However, state Representative Brett Davis (R-Oregon) says the bill passed by lawmakers fails to actually do any good, because it doesn’t allow test results to be used to fire a teacher. Davis says the measure actually creates “425 more firewalls” because teachers in each district will be able to negotiate standards with local school boards.
State Representative Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) described the bill as simply a “race to the money trough.”
The legislative package now heads to Governor Doyle, although Davis predicts lawmakers will have to come back and pass additional reforms to help improve Wisconsin’s “Race to the Top” application.