Republicans in Strong Disagreement Over New School Accountability Bill

Education Committee Chair: ‘We Will Get Clobbered Across the State’

MacIver News Service | March 18, 2014

[Madison, Wisc…] Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) may have trouble getting his new version of the school accountability bill through the legislature if Rep. Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake) – the Assembly Education Committee Chair – has his way.

Steineke sent an email to all Assembly Republicans on Monday to give an overview of the substitute amendment he introduced last week. The substitute amendment makes changes to the school accountability bill passed by the Senate in February.

His amendment would create sanctions against failing public schools that include closing them or turning them over to a charter authorizer. Failing charter schools would lose their charter contract and be barred from the state’s school choice program, and failing choice schools would no longer be allowed to accept new voucher students.

The substitute amendment also ensures every publicly funded student take the same state tests and updates the Wisconsin’s school report cards.

Steineke’s full overview of his amendment is available here.

Kestell said in his email that if the Assembly passes the bill without support from the Senate, it would be seen as “intentionally killing the bills in both houses.”

The Assembly Education Committee Chair did not fully explain why he opposed Steineke’s version of the bill, but was not shy about urging his colleagues to vote against it.

“I urge extreme caution before embracing what Rep. Steineke is proposing,” Kestell wrote. “If we go along with this, I think we will get clobbered across the state on this issue, and we will deserve it.”

The email from Kestell came the day after Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) wrote a column in the Racine Journal Times supporting Steineke’s version of the bill.

“Fortunately, Assembly Republicans recently introduced what we believe is a reasonable solution when it comes to making sure our schools are making the grade,” Vos wrote in his column on Sunday.

Vos said the Assembly would vote on the bill on Thursday, one of the last remaining floor days for the year. He also claimed to be hopeful that the Senate would take up the bill before the end of the legislative session because “many senators have been involved in discussions and many of their ideas have been incorporated.”

However, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) told the MacIver News Service it is unlikely the bill will pass in his house.

“Senate Republicans are happy with the version that was passed out of our house several weeks ago, and adding sanction language to the bill will make it tough to get through our house,” Fitzgerald said. “We will take a look at it when it comes over, but I would prefer that the Assembly just concur in the bipartisan bill that we sent over.”

See the full letter from Rep. Kestell to Assembly Republicans below:

Kestell Accountability Email.png