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State Superintendent Candidate Proposes Parents Choose Operators For Lowest Performing Schools

School hallway
Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

A candidate running to unseat Tony Evers as the superintendent of state schools is proposing a new way to turnaround Wisconsin’s lowest performing schools.

John Humphries has already laid out plans for a new state accountability board and revamping school report cards; and at a Milwaukee coffee shop Thursday, he unveiled his latest proposal to seek new operators for public schools rated in the bottom 5 percent on his revised state report cards.

He said those operators that run the school – which can be a company or a team of educators – could be from a variety of backgrounds, including from within the local school district.

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“That could be a school team from (Milwaukee Public Schools), it could be one of the voucher providers or a high-quality charter school operator,” he said.

Under the plan, parents of students enrolled in the low-performing school would vote on which operator takes over the school or could reject a new team coming in all together. Humphries said there were not yet details on how parents would choose a new operator and whether a simple majority would be able to decide a school’s fate.

The parent participation is what sets Humphries’ plan apart from an unpopular legislative program called the Opportunity School Partnership Program, which put responsibility for Milwaukee’s lowest performing schools in the hands of an administrator chosen by the county executive.

“This doesn’t create another body to oversee these schools,” Humphries said. “Instead what it does is put parents in charge of selecting what’s going to work best in their school.”

Evers criticized the plan, calling it unworkable.

“If we’re going to spend any energy and finances, it should be working directly with the schools, the local school boards and especially with the local communities,” Evers said.

Evers also pointed to barriers to getting parents involved in and sufficiently informed about options for new operators for any school, including many parents working multiple jobs.

Humphries, Evers and candidate Lowell Holtz will appear on the primary ballot Tuesday, Feb. 21 for the superintendent seat. The top two vote-getters will appear on the ballot in the Tuesday, April 4 general election.