school-studentsA public hearing in Madison Wednesday makes clear that this most recent GOP effort to take over public schools and further privatize public education is fatally flawed, casting doubt on the bill’s future.

MADISON - A controversial bill that, if enacted, could lead to the takeover of eleven schools in Green Bay met with broad-based opposition at a public hearing today, casting doubt on the bill’s future.

Among the schools that could be turned over to private operators under the bill are: Danz, Doty, Eisenhower, Fort Howard, Howe, Lincoln, Nicolet, and Sullivan Elementary Schools, Washington Middle School, and East and West High Schools.

Current law directs the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to annually publish a school and school district accountability report to set performance standards and gives the state superintendent of public instruction authority to withhold state aid from a school district that fails to comply.

The GOP sponsored Assembly Bill 1 (AB 1) replaces the school accountability system with an academic review system, to be created by an appointed Academic Review Board (ARB) and also gives the ARB the authority to establish an independent charter school or initiate a contract with an individual or group to operate an independent charter school without approval from the DPI.

eric-genrichAssembly Education Committee member Rep. Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) said, “Today’s hearing has made clear that this most recent effort to take over certain public schools and further privatize public education is hastily and poorly crafted. This legislation is being rammed through the legislative process without giving deference to or seeking real input from the educational professionals and local school boards who serve our school kids every day.”

Signs of the bill’s trouble began to emerge as critics from across the political spectrum began pointing out the bills flaws and as a conflicting senate bill was introduced. Additionally, at the start of today’s hearing, the bill’s author informed the committee and the public that a significant portion of Assembly Bill 1 (AB 1) would be discarded. However, those changes were not made available at the time of the hearing.

dave_hansen“This is what happens when legislators try to solve complicated and controversial issues on their own without talking to all the stakeholders,” said Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). “Some of the special interests in the Capitol might not like that fact, but a lot of the problems we’re seeing with AB 1 could have been avoided if a more inclusive effort had been made by the author.”

With many tough questions about AB 1 still unanswered, it is unclear what the contents of the legislation will be when it goes before the full Assembly, as expected, later this month.

“I am opposed to this effort to punish and stigmatize public schools and remain committed to supporting public policies that put Wisconsin children in a position to succeed inside and outside of our schools,” continued Genrich.

“With a $2.2 billion deficit, taxpayers cannot afford to pay for an expansion of separate private school system. And they shouldn’t be asked to,” said Hansen. “Trying to force them into paying for the voucher system by privatizing our local public schools through the backdoor like Rep. Thiesfeldt wants to do is not only dishonest but goes against the very tradition of educational freedom that is the foundation of our state.”