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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

 2:07 PM 

Senate passes minimal school accountability bill

A bill that would provide performance report cards for all publicly funded schools has passed the Senate, 29-3.

Sens. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie, and Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, voted against the legislation.

The bill is a sharp reduction from earlier versions, which called for sanctions on failing schools. A version along those lines is still moving through the Assembly.

Dem Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, hammered the bill for taking out most accountability measures included in the original version and passing something that he said was "very innocuous."

"This bill started out as one thing and turned into a no-consequences bill, or a bill that changes the timing of some reporting of something that was already in the state budget," Lehman said.

"It's a disappointment, because as I said in committee, I have a fear that this is going to be sold as some kind of accountability bill, which it is not."

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said the bill he put forth is an accountability measure because it forces students at publicly funded schools, including voucher schools, to take the same test and ensure their scores are reported.

"I guess if the word accountability is consequences, that's a little shift in definition," Olsen said.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said the report cards were a start, but chastised legislators for portraying the extreme scenarios of what the bill would do or not do when Milwaukee students are still struggling. She argued that they're not going to address failing schools if everybody is "perched in their corners."

"I don't care if you're on the Democratic or Republican side, you should be disgusted that 85 percent of the kids in Milwaukee cannot read at grade level," Taylor said.

Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said that she wished the other senators from Milwaukee would take note of the failures of the public schools in Milwaukee as well, rather than just focusing on voucher and charter schools.


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