Assembly Republicans Agree To Senate School Accountability Plan

Sanctions Won’t Be Part of School Accountability Bill SB 286

Leaders Agree To Work Together Over the Summer and Fall to Create an “Effective School Accountability System”

UPDATE: SB 286 was passed, unamended, via voice vote in the Wisconsin State Assembly Thursday night.

MacIver News Service | March 20, 2014

[Madison, Wisc…] After months of debate, Wisconsin legislators are primed to pass a bill that will install accountability measures in all of the state’s publicly funded schools. However, SB 286 won’t include any sanctions to shut down chronically failing schools. The Assembly has announced that they will not vote on Rep. Steineke’s substitute amendment as originally planned and instead, it will vote on concurrence of SB 286 as passed by the Senate.

The accountability debate was supposed to come to a head on Thursday, but Republican legislators in the Assembly and Senate were able to compromise on a plan that will leave the toned-down school accountability bill intact and remove proposed Assembly Substitute Amendment 1. That amendment would have added significant changes to the scaled down program that SB 286 currently proposes. As written, that bill compels all schools that accept publicly funded students to participate in the state’s School Report Cards.

ASA 1 would have tied major reforms to those grades. That included a shutting down chronically failing schools or converting them into high-performing charter schools, as well as other sanctions tied to disappointing report card performances.

Now, Assembly and Senate Republicans have vowed to establish sanctions tied to these report cards in the future rather than pushing ASA 1 for a vote today. If the bill had passed as amended, it would have been sent back to the Senate, where it was unlikely to be taken up a second time. That would have effectively killed the bill in 2014.

Instead, legislators will pass SB 286 as is, establishing it as “the first steps…to create a workable and effective School Accountability system in Wisconsin.”

“Our goal this summer is to talk to all the stakeholders and get an accountability system that is going to show people we are being the best stewards that we can be with their money, and that we are giving kids the best opportunity we can to be successful,” said Senator Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee), who was a key figure in the accountability debate.

That will put pressure on legislators to create a broader accountability program in 2015. Senator Farrow and Representative Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) expressed optimism in the program’s future.

“The main goal all along has been to get to a point where we have a comprehensive bill that could pass both houses,” said Rep. Steineke. “Obviously we ran out of time this session, but we did not want to lose momentum. So we agreed to pass the Senate bill as they passed it to start the process. Then beginning in the summer and throughout the course of the fall we have agreed to work together to come up with a compromise that addresses all the issues in the substitute amendment I offered with the goal of having a bill ready to be introduced in January.”

“We are going to talk to as many of the stakeholders as we can throughout all sectors to get a good piece of legislation that allows the sectors their uniqueness but holds them accountable for the money that is coming from the state,” added Sen. Farrow.

The pair, along with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), penned a letter to Governor Scott Walker detailing their plan for creating a comprehensive accountability plan. You can find that letter in its entirety here: 201403201752.pdf