With the spring legislative floor period winding down, the Wisconsin Assembly is preparing to take up its own version of school accountability legislation. The Assembly package is markedly different from a bill passed by the state Senate last month.
“The Senate basically takes a baby step down the road, where it just includes everybody in the student information system at an earlier date. This is a much more comprehensive approach,” said Republican Representative Jim Steineke, the author of the Assembly bill.
The Senate bill would track student performance at schools that receive taxpayer dollars, and require those schools to report to the Department of Public Instruction beginning in 2015. Some Senate Republicans acknowledged that their bill fell short of everything they wanted.
Steineke’s bill would force action on failing public schools – including the possibility of closing them – and prohibit underperforming private schools from accepting taxpayer subsidized voucher students.
“Just putting a grade on a school or a descriptor on a school and walking away doesn’t really accomplish anything,” said Steineke. “A lot of the schools that are low performing now have been low performing for years, and not a lot has been done.”
Whether or not the bill can pass both chambers in the remaining time remains to be seen. “It’s unclear if the amended bill will have the votes to pass the Senate. We will discuss it in caucus next week, but I would prefer that the Assembly concur in the version we passed to ensure some transparency/accountability measure passes this session,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.
“What I’m hoping to do is sit down with each senator between now and their last day of session, to give them as much information on the bill as they need, to make an informed decision,” said Steineke.
“They’re going to be on the floor next week Tuesday, as we are. We’re hoping to pass this on Thursday so we’ll have a chance for negotiations and discussions next week, and then if we’re able to reach some sort of consensus, they could come back and pass it on their last session day on April 1st,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. “I know that Governor Walker is a strong supporter of getting this done, so hopefully with the Assembly’s leadership creating momentum along with Governor Walker, Senate Republicans will join in, to get this bill finally passed.”