Assembly Bill 1 / Senate Bill 1
First up on the Republican Legislature’s agenda appears to be legislation to dismantle our public schools.
There has been a flurry of testimony at the capitol against the Republican bill set to dismantle our public school system. A similar bill was introduced last year and was shot down due to public outrage.
Please read the information below and then contact members of our Wisconsin state legislature. It will take public outrage again to stop this bill.
“Stop the Back Door Takeover of Our Communities’ Schools”
“Last week a fast-tracked school “accountability” bill (AB 1) was introduced in the State Assembly that was developed behind closed doors with no input from the public school community. The alleged purpose of the bill is to identify struggling schools and set forth a series of actions to help improve them. But in fact, schools will be subject to a series of sanctions and punishments and, ultimately, communities will be forced to hand over control of their schools to charter schools run by private operators. Woefully missing from the legislation are any state resources to help the schools improve.
Legislators need to hear from you as soon as possible. Click on http://legis.wisconsin.gov/ to find contact information for your legislators and call or email them today.
AB 1 is a backdoor effort to create a second school system in our state that will be second-rate and drain the resources we need for world class public schools. Here’s what people need to know about this bill and why it should not be taken at face value as an effort to improve K12 education in our state.
1) Schools with low test scores are not “failing” schools. In fact, very good schools can have students who get low test scores if they teach children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Two recent research reports by The Forward Institute show convincingly that the VAST majority of the difference identified between Wisconsin schools in the current school report cards are determined by two factors: socioeconomic status of the students and attendance rates.
AB 1 requires that the report cards give letter grades to schools (A through F), labeling many good schools that teach disadvantaged children as “failing”. Currently, about 135 schools in many different communities around Wisconsin would be given “D” or “F” grades. The goal is not to improve these schools, but to set them up for escalating sanctions and ultimate handover to private operators.
2) AB 1 sets up a smoke screen for voucher schools. For the first 20 years of their existence, voucher school students in Milwaukee did not take the same state mandated tests that public school children take. This enabled voucher advocates to repeat their false advertising that voucher schools would somehow improve schools for Milwaukee children. After many years they were finally required to take the same tests which showed that voucher schools perform worse than comparable public schools even though they can be selective about which students they admit and retain.
AB 1 is an effort to once again hide these facts. The bill allows voucher schools to choose alternative tests to the state tests that the federal government requires public schools to administer. This amounts to blindfolding the public so that they cannot see the low quality of private voucher schools in comparison with public schools.
3) Privately run charter schools are not a solution and will make things worse. Under AB 1, schools labeled as “D” or “F” will ultimately be taken away from the community and handed over to private charter school operators. There is NO research basis to believe such a handover will improve schools for disadvantaged students and ample evidence showing the opposite.
Perhaps the largest series of studies systematically comparing the performance of privately run charter schools with public schools is run by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) hosted at the conservative Hoover Institute. Previous reports have shown that far more public schools outperform matched charter schools than the other way around. A new report on privately run charter schools in Ohio has shown definitively that public school students learn more. Also, significant reports by Pro Publica have shown widespread mismanagement of public money by private charter operators which frequently have board members who profit off of school purchasing and hiring decisions.
A good example of how privately run charter schools operate can be found in the Rocketship school chain which is attempting to expand significantly in Milwaukee. Students in these schools spend large amounts of time in computer cubicals supervised by unskilled staff and there are no art, music or physical education classes. The purpose is to artificially drive up test scores and spend less money on staff. Complex real estate deals with the school buildings are also used to skim public dollars and take money from the schools for further expansion of the chain. Rocketship board members literally profit off the sale of computer licenses to the schools.
4) Expansion of privately run charters will drain money from public schools. Privately run charter schools in Wisconsin (currently only existing in Milwaukee) get “first draw” on state aid money for schools. An increase in the number of privately run charter schools will result in less state aid for public schools which will either have to raise property taxes (if permitted by the state) or cut educational programming.
5) We know how to improve education for struggling students and AB 1 does not do it. There are no silver bullets but based on ample research we know many measures that will help students in schools that get low test scores, including: smaller class sizes and more individual attention; extra instructional time after school and during the summer; wrap around services to make sure children are healthy and have proper nutrition; highly educated and experienced teachers; and high quality early childhood education so that children are well prepared to begin their K12 education.
These measures require investment in our communities’ schools as do world class schools in general. Mandating the labeling of schools as “failing” and forcing communities to hand over control of their schools to private operators who often have ulterior motives diverts attention from what we really need to do.
Please contact your state legislators. Go to http://legis.wisconsin.gov/ to find contact information. Tell them to oppose the Assembly School Accountability Bill that jeopardizes the future of our neighborhood public schools while favoring unaccountable private voucher schools. Our children deserve a thoughtful, deliberative, inclusive approach to improving schools for all children, not backdoor attempts to hand over control to private operators.”
The (Corporate) Right to (Rob) Work(ers) Legislation
It appears the Republican legislature will wait until April to put forth “Right to Work” legislation for Wisconsin. That gives us time to get out and talk to our friends, family and co-workers about the problems with becoming a “Right to Work” state.
WAITING until the legislation is presented will be TOO LATE!
Please take a look at the following article put out by the Economic Policy Institute on the harmful effects of Right to Work on a state’s overall economy.
Can Wisconsin really afford another hit to our economy? The current numbers coming out about our budget deficit of “hundreds of millions +” says “NO.”