January 15, 2014
by Christian D'Andrea
MacIver Institute Education Policy Analyst
Tuesday's State Senate session went on as planned, but it was missing a bill that could change the lives of students across Wisconsin. Senate Bill 76, which would expand the role of high-performing independent charter schools throughout the state, was pulled from the docket on Monday evening.
SB 76, authored by Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) is a bill designed at expanding the scope of the state's 2R non-instrumentality charter schools. These independent public schools operate outside the purview of a local school board and are authorized by educational stakeholders such as the City of Milwaukee or the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Currently, they only exist in Milwaukee and Kenosha. There are only 23 of these schools in Wisconsin as of the 2013-2014 school year.
The bill would allow high performing 2R charter schools the opportunity to open up new campuses outside of their home county without having to operate under the auspice of the local school board. This would allow schools that have proven track records of success to expand to areas where parents and students need them.
This legislation would ease the transition for private schools to become charter schools as long as they are willing to fall subject to state regulations. It would also allow non-instrumentality charter schools the option to pursue an alternative to the state's Educator Effectiveness program. The bill was introduced back in March of 2013, but did not receive a public hearing until October, pushing its impact to the 2014-2015 school year at the earliest.
The proposed legislation is one of two bills that are looking to expand the scope of non-instrumentality charter schools in Wisconsin. The other, Assembly Bill 549, is authored by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and has Darling as a co-sponsor. That bill would also help the growth of 2R charter schools by creating more authorizers (including UW campuses, CESAs, and technical colleges). It would change the designation of charter schools - requiring instrumentality charter schools to eventually become magnet schools - as well.
We've covered the success of 2R charter schools in Milwaukee, the district where all but one of these schools currently operate. Not only do they outperform traditional public schools and instrumentality charters when it comes to the state's School Report Cards, they also have posted significantly higher proficiency rates when it comes to reading and math across the K-12 spectrum.
It's not yet known when SB 76 will have its day of debate in the Wisconsin State Senate. Despite being pulled from the to-do list on Monday, stakeholders expressed confidence that the bill will see a vote in the coming weeks. When that happens, we'll be sure to cover the discussion here at the MacIver Institute.