Democrats Want Accountability Bills To Help Schools, Not Just Assess Them

Assembly Dems Want To Create Superintendent's Fund, Change Aid Formula, Boost Overall Funding

“We need to invest in success, not simply reward and punish failure,” said Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo. Photo: State of Wisconsin

Assembly Democrats say the school accountability proposals being debated by majority Republicans this week need to do more to help schools, not just measure them.

The bill the state Senate will debate tomorrow would begin collecting student data from publicly funded private voucher schools next year. A version Assembly Republicans hope to eventually pass would sanction poor-performing schools and create a letter-grade system for school report cards.

Assembly Democrats say all schools should be measured, but Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, supports amendments to the Republican proposals that give the state superintendent more power to help schools that need it.

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“We’re going to do that by creating a fund that the superintendent will have the ability to use to provide extra support for all types of schools that are failing to meet expectations,” said Clark. “We need to invest in success, not simply reward and punish failure.”

Democrats will also try to amend the plan to boost overall state school funding and call for a change to the aid formula that puts more of a focus on helping schools with high poverty. They don’t support the letter grading system or the sanctions called for by Assembly Republicans.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca also called out Gov. Scott Walker on this issue. For the last few years, Walker has talked about the need for a law that holds all schools that receive public dollars accountable, but at this point there’s no guarantee Republicans will send anything to Walker’s desk.

“All the things that he prioritized, having a Republican Assembly and Senate, they happened sometimes within days,” said Barca. “So if he is serious about making this a priority, we can be assured that it will in fact happen. But so far all we’ve heard has been rhetoric and there’s been little action.”

The school accountability bill is just one of many being debated in the Legislature this week as lawmakers race toward the end of session.