Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Controversial Education Bills Unlikely to Become Law

Two controversial education reform bills appear unlikely to become law this legislative session.  To become law, the Model Academic Standards Board bill (SB 619) and the School Accountability bill (SB 286AB 379) need to be approved by both the Senate and Assembly—neither house has acted on either proposal yet. Since the Assembly will meet for the final time this session on Thursday, it appears unlikely that these bills will become law. 

Model Academic Standards

While the Senate Committee on Education held a public hearing on the controversial proposal to create a Model Academic Standards Board and abandon the Common Core State Standards in early March, Committee Chairman Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) says he will not schedule SB 619 for a Committee vote unless its authors can show him they have the 17 votes needed to pass the bill in the full Senate, making it unlikely to receive Senate and Assembly approval this session. The Assembly Committee on Education had planned to vote on the measure in February but ultimately canceled that vote, and the proposed Assembly calendar for Thursday does not include the proposal. 

School Accountability

Senate Bill 286, a  minor school accountability bill authored by Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), made it through the Senate in February. SB 286 would require choice and charter schools to begin reporting student data in the 2015-16 school year, but Assembly Republicans say they do not want to pass the current Senate version and instead crafted their own proposal, to be introduced as an amendment to SB 286, which includes sanctions for poor performing schools. However, Assembly Education Committee Chairman Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake) sent an email to Assembly Republicans on Monday warning his colleagues that if the Assembly proposal is approved their party will get "clobbered" in the upcoming elections. Representative Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna), the amendment's author, says he still expects the Assembly to act on his proposal Thursday. If the Assembly does pass their accountability proposal before adjourning on Thursday, it must still be approved by the Senate and it is unclear if there is enough support to pass the bill at this time since Senator Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) is on vacation and Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) often votes with the Senate Democrats. 

The Assembly proposal would require all schools, including choice and charter schools, to participate in the Statewide Student Information System beginning in the 2015-16 School year and receive school report cards starting in the 2016-17 school year; the bill includes sanctions for low-performing schools. The Department of Public Instruction would rank schools’ performances on the following:

1.  Pupil achievement in reading and mathematics.
2.  Growth in pupil achievement in reading and mathematics, calculated using
a value−added methodology.
3.  Gap closure in growth in pupil achievement in reading and mathematics
and, when available, in graduation rates.
4.  Rates of attendance or of high school graduation.

If a public school receives a failing score in three consecutive years, it will be closed or turned into a charter school. If a charter school receives a failing score in three consecutive years, its contract will be revoked; and if a choice school receives a failing score in three consecutive years, it will be permanently barred from participating in the school choice program. An Academic Accountability Council is created by the bill to determine the methodology for ranking and sanctioning school districts as well as making recommendations regarding the educator effectiveness system that ranks teachers and principals.   

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