Rift Grows Between Tribes

There was a clash of cultures in the State Assembly yesterday as Republican lawmakers passed a major rewrite to Wisconsin’s mining laws. The vote came over the objections of Native Americans who say it would hurt land that’s sacred to them. (Ashland Current 1/27/2012)

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With less than one month remaining in the 2011-2012 general legislative session, the clock is ticking on several key issues of interest to the public.

As school boards wrestle with the no-win choices Gov. Scott Walker’s historic school budget cuts have created, legislators and education experts have been involved in what began as positive, bi-partisan efforts to develop new standards of performance for educators, and new standards of accountability for schools.

Task forces chaired by Gov. Walker and Pubic Instruction Secretary Tony Evers, agreed on goals that included a performance based system for measuring educator effectiveness, and a system of measuring school accountability that would apply to public schools, independent charter schools and taxpayer-funded voucher schools.

These proposals were to have been the basis for Wisconsin’s request for a waiver from requirements of the federal “No Child Left Behind” law.

However, the school reform legislation introduced last week (SB-461) by Rep. Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, and Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, is missing what all parties had previously agreed to – that taxpayer-funded private voucher schools be held to the same standard of accountability as public schools.

Without these key elements, Wisconsin’s federal waiver proposal is less likely to be approved. Wisconsin taxpayers also would remain without a yardstick to determine whether our $144 million a year commitment to private schools is returning good results.

A related proposal was the promise made last year by legislative leaders to plug the so called “voucher loophole.” That bill, SB-174, would prevent the private voucher school program from expanding to other communities beyond Milwaukee and Racine without direct legislative approval. Under the current state budget, voucher schools could expand automatically.

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