Public school advocates ask Assembly committee, ‘Where is the support?’

AssemblyHearing

Photo by Joe Brusky.

Supporters of public education, including WEAC members, spoke strongly Wednesday (January 14, 2015) against an Assembly Republican bill that would pave the way for converting public schools to privately run charter schools throughout the state.

“I see a lot of sanctions in this bill, but where is the support?” Pewaukee Superintendent JoAnn Sternke asked the Assembly Education Committee at a hearing in the State Capitol.

the red rectangle buttonOthers testifying against the bill included the state Department of Public Instruction, and superintendents from Milwaukee and Madison.

At the start of the hearing, Committee Chair Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) withdrew one of the controversial parts of the bill that would have created an Academic Review Committee of appointed members that would have graded schools, a provision that critics said would have violated the state constitution by taking duties away from the State Superintendent.

In addition to those testifying at the hearing, dozens of WEAC members sent messages to legislators opposing the bill. Among the main points they made were:

  • AB 1 demands that struggling schools improve, but includes no state resources to support such efforts, setting schools up for failure and conversion to privately run charter schools as the unproven magic solution.
  • If we want to help children in struggling schools, we need to improve our neighborhood public schools so every child has a good public school to attend no matter where they live or what their family circumstances are.
  • Don’t allow voucher schools to hand pick the tests they will be judged by, as proposed in AB 1. Voucher school and public school students should be required to take the same test.

“You are not off to a good start!,” wrote one member, Roger. “AB 1 demands that struggling schools improve, but includes no state resources to support such efforts, setting schools up for failure and conversion to privately run charter schools as the unproven magic solution.  This is no answer.  Rethink the bill and engage educators, parents and community members in the discussion. Do NOT privatize public education.”

Another WEAC member, Erik, wrote: “I’m writing to you today with a simple message:  please oppose AB 1.  It’s not even a good idea on the surface, frankly, as there are far too many issues with it to label it ‘details to be worked out later’…”

And WEAC member Peggy wrote:

“Good public education is a fundamental element of a good democracy.  We need to work to strengthen public schools that are struggling, not punish them with punitive laws that do not help them improve. Please spend some time in the schools in your district so that you know what kinds of challenges the teachers and administrators face, and then get their input on how to improve the situation.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he wants to pass the bill by the end of the month. A public hearing on the Senate bill is expected in the next two weeks.

“I don’t know what the rush is,” Education Committee member and Democratic Rep. Sondy Pope said. “When I look at the scope of this bill, and the history behind it, and the impact and implications that will come with, I simply can’t understand why we’re doing this with such a fever pitch.”

Milwaukee teacher gives moving testimony:

After tearful testimony in which she described the many challenges facing children in Milwaukee, teacher Amy Mizialko said:

“This legislature can’t punish and starve our students of the resources they need to learn and then declare our students to be failures. The result we have is the result we have allowed to happen and I want to change that. You can do that. That’s what you’re here to do.”

Read Amy Mizialko’s testimony


Read more about school vouchers and AB 1.


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GOP drops key provision of Assembly accountability bill

Storify compilation of Tweets at the hearing, from Sachin Chheda: