Assembly Republicans are proposing a system where public schools that consistently fail to meet state standards could be converted to independent charter schools. The bill, introduced Wednesday at the Capitol, would also remove taxpayer funding from private schools in the state’s voucher program, if they fail to meet expectations.
The legislation would establish a new accountability system for taxpayer-funded schools in Wisconsin, setting up a method for testing those institutions and assigning a letter grade. It would also set up a 13 member board to oversee the grading process.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) says the measure is his top priority as the new session gets underway. “This is the most important bill that we have on our schedule right now,” Vos told reporters Wednesday. “My goal is to bring it up quickly. I’d like to have it passed out of our house no later than January.”
While the bill may be on the fast track in the Assembly, its future in the state Senate remains in question. State Senator Paul Farrow is working on his won version of the legislation and does have some concerns about the Assembly proposal. Still, Farrow says he thinks they are “on the right path” and talks will continue to find an agreement.
An attempt to pass and accountability bill fell apart during the last Legislative session, although Vos pointed out that the membership of both chambers has changed since then, as have the proposals being brought forward.
A spokesman for the Department of Public Instruction says agency staff is reviewing the bill, noting that’s any proposal must be constitutionally viable in relation to the state superintendent’s authority to supervise schools.
Senate Democrats on Wednesday also introduced their own private voucher school accountability legislation, which Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling argues is needed to “prevent cases of waste, fraud and abuse that have come to light since Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans expanded the program statewide in 2013.”