Friday, January 10, 2014

Capitol Update, January 10

Charter Schools

The Assembly Committee on Urban Education held a public hearing on Thursday for Assembly Bill 549 regarding charter schools in Wisconsin.  Representative Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), the bill’s author, stated in his testimony that he introduced the bill because Wisconsin is in need of educational reform.  He feels that charter schools will shake up the "status quo" and have proven success, using Milwaukee Public Schools as evidence.

One of the biggest changes proposed by the bill would be to increase the entities that are able to establish an independent charter school.  Currently only UW-Milwauke, UW-Parkside, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the city of Milwaukee are able to do so.  The bill expands that to all four-year UW institutions, two-year UW campuses, CESAs and technical college district boards.  Representative Kooyenga argues that this will create more competition and innovation in education leading to better opportunities for students.  The increased opportunities also occur because the bill removes the restriction that students can only attend a charter school located within their school district.

Representative Kooyenga stated that the other most important part of the bill is that it will allow high performing charter schools to automatically replicate and any of the authorizing entities that they approach must contract with them.  The charter school must have testing scores 10 percentage points higher than the public schools in the district in order to qualify for this.

Other notable changes as a result of the bill include eliminating district-run charter schools and relabeling them, allowing independent charter schools to have their own governing board and allowing independent charter schools to establish their own method of evaluating teachers and principals.

Opponents of the bill are concerned that it will lead to decreased funding for public schools, potentially resulting in increased property taxes, and that it takes away local control of schools within a district.

Rural Schools

Representative Mandy Wright (D-Wausau) has announced that she is currently drafting a bill that would grant up to $10,000 in student loan repayments for new teachers who stay in rural areas.  The bill intends to help attract and retain teachers in rural school districts where the salaries are typically lower than in larger districts due to differences in their tax base and enrollment numbers.  She hopes to have the bill introduced and voted on this session.

State of the State

Governor Walker has announced that he will be delivering his annual State of the State address on Wednesday, January 22 at 7:00 PM.  He will outline what his agenda is for the coming year.

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