Sure, there were statements made around the edges about not supporting or supporting vouchers, but specifics were often times left vague. This was especially true of the governor's ideas about expanding vouchers and his vision of what school accountability looked like.
Never mind it was a hot topic last winter. That was only nine months ago... Who could possibly remember things from nine months ago?
Well today, we saw some of the dividing lines over what education policy will look like next month and January come more sharply into focus. That came from the School Administrators Alliance, and a massive policy brief they prepared about the direction Wisconsin should be heading with school reform and accountability. Needless to say, it wasn't exactly a conservatives paradise.
From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
With hopes of changing the conversation about education policy in Wisconsin, leaders of groups representing school district administrators recommended that lawmakers consider a slate of research-based proposals in the next legislative session.Let's reiterate one compound word in there... research-based.
About 100 administrators gathered in Madison Wednesday morning for the announcement of the policy wish list. It includes everything from greater investments in early childhood education and school-based mental health services, to more money for technology and innovation, to allowing districts a greater annual increase to the amount they can raise per pupil through state aid and property taxes.Remember, one of the lesser-remembered nuggets of Gov. Walker's 2011 budget nightmare was that it capped property taxes, which effectively hamstrung districts ability to increase their budgets with fluctuating staff needs and costs of materials.
But such policy proposals don't resemble the legislative agenda being discussed by GOP leaders who control the Legislature.Not by a long shot.
A leading Republican senator says his first mission at the start of the session in January will be to dramatically redesign the state's school accountability and report card system. That could set the stage for legislation that would allow more taxpayer money to flow to more private voucher schools, and not necessarily public schools.Could set the stage? Let's just go ahead and call it like it is... It's a gift bill to private schools who are not going to be held to the same standards as the state's public system yet receive state money.
That's why those behind the biennial policy agenda of the School Administrators Alliance — the lobbying group representing state principals, superintendents, school business officials, special education directors and human resource directors — are making their recommendations public.
That's why this group making the recommendations it did are far differed from something WEAC or teachers would advocate for. While there are many similarities, it's important to draw a distinction. These are the people who work the books and know the money side of the equation at the local level.
"Our members have a real desire to see state-level policy come in closer alliance with what research suggests and what exemplars around the world have done," said Jim Lynch, executive director of the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators.
The 44-page policy agenda puts it more bluntly:
"There is a real cause for concern that policy-making at the state level is moving down the wrong path."BECAUSE WE ARE!
The whole 44 page policy is a fascinating read (if you're like me and enjoy such tedious things.)
Research shows that investing in early childhood learning, rigorous teacher preparation and educational innovation pays off, the agenda continues, "but these issues are often overlooked in the Legislature in favor of less research-based and more ideology-driven reforms such as expanding vouchers or politicizing academic content standards."How 70% of MPS high school students are considered habitually truant. (I could have a conversation with you for HOURS on this topic as I teach at a north side traditional MPS high school.)
Lynch said schools can close persistent, wide achievement gaps in Wisconsin if state policy-makers view education as a priority and invest in research-based ideas that have been shown to improve whole systems.Of which there are MANY we aren't doing.
Specifically, some of the policy recommendations include:
• Add funding to the child care payment system Wisconsin Shares, which has been frozen for seven years.
• Create a school mental health grant program to provide services to children who are uninsured.Yet another topic I could talk for HOURS on. The mental health services needed in my school, and in fact, in almost every school in Wisconsin, are FAR greater than most people would like to admit or realize. We are a traumatized society, for a variety of reasons. If we want schools to be successful, we need to confront it.
• Create a statewide commission to improve recruitment of talented teachers and principals. Review the rigor of their preparation programs.There's so much I feel I'm losing as a teacher in the school I'm in. (See that whole 70% truancy article again.) I know I could be better than I am, but I also know I'm trying. It's hard, it's mentally draining, but it's what's needed.
• Continue to fund implementation of the statewide teacher and principal evaluation system.And let's not screw with school internet services like last biennium.
• Provide more funding for broadband service, or make prices through a state contract known as BadgerNet more affordable for schools.
■ Fund a state-led digital learning program.I'm not a real believer than any model of instruction is "outdated." Socratic method has been used since the 400's BC. (You know, Socrates... Maybe it's the world history teacher in me...)
• Provide short-term grants for districts to experiment with innovations that upend outdated models of instruction. Evaluate those experiments.
• Increase the annual per-pupil adjustment under revenue limits — the total amount districts can raise in state aid and property taxes per pupil — at the rate of inflation.I don't know how many times I can say this, but if you don't increase things by the rate of inflation, you are cutting them. It's just that simple.
• Adopt State Superintendent Tony Evers' biennial funding proposal, which calls for more money for special education and bilingual students.After you've read the 44-page policy outline, watch this little over 30 minute interview conducted today on Wisconsin Eye between State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers and Steve Walters.
• Increase funding for student transportation.There's the blasted rural-school funding problem again. Oh, and yet another issue that unifies MPS, the most urban district in the state, and rural ones.
• Establish a State Academic Standards and Assessment Review Council, charged with reviewing standards and tests used in schools, with members appointed by the state superintendent and other educational and research organizations.THERE IS NO REASON FOR STATE ACADEMIC STANDARDS TO GO THROUGH THE LEGISLATURE AND BE POLITICIZED. NO MATTER WHO IS IN POWER. PERIOD.
GOP bill planned
Because of GOP victories in the midterm elections and key moderates in the Senate retiring, the Legislature will be a more conservative place for the next two-year session.
That means issues supported by tea party-aligned Republicans and opposed by Wisconsin's public school leaders that failed to pass last session — like potentially dumping the new Common Core academic standards — could get traction this session.Read: Issues supported by big money interests who have profits on their mind and made big donations to tea-partiers to pass an agenda that further lines their pockets and divides society further.
The Common Core prompted a stand-off between K-12 administrators and lawmakers last session when administrators trooped to Madison to pack a Senate hearing and defend the new standards aimed at improving teaching and learning in mathematics and English.Get ready for that $#!%-show fight to happen again.
Already Wednesday, a key Republican senator's idea for a new state education council differed from the state council proposed by the administrators.
Sen. Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee) said he intends to release a draft bill later this month aimed at reforming the state's school accountability system.
It would create a nine- to 15-member "accountability board" at the Department of Public Instruction to determine the data to be collected from all public, public charter and private voucher schools and included on the report cards.Not that we've had a discussion about this idea at all during the fall campaign. Sen. Farrow is one of the conservatives who helped derail SB 286 last February, and all of these ideas have been on the table since then. He's also in favor of turning MPS into a so-called "recovery district," which means turning some or all schools over to charter operators and your humble blogger being out of a job.
Oh yes, I have skin in this game. My career, my livelihood, and not to mention, my students.
It would also determine what sanctions or rewards should be given to schools based on how they perform on the report cards.You know, because instead of giving more resources to schools that are struggling, we should punish them. Because, that makes sense...
The current 3-year-old state report card system only includes traditional public and charter schools. Lawmakers in the last legislative session approved folding voucher schools into that system as well, starting in 2015-'16.That's what came out of SB-286 last year after it's original draft and at least one subsequent substitute amendment were changed before passage.
Farrow also said the governor wants the new accountability system solidified "before any other discussion happens on other things." Such as, an expansion of private voucher schools.It's a two-step process. Know what schools you're going to close and solidify a way students will flow into the voucher system. Oh, and don't be surprised if in January you see special-needs vouchers come back too. Then, in the biennial budget, watch for a massive expansion of the voucher system and public funds get diverted from public schools all over creation.
As for the prospect of funding any new proposals from administrators in the next state budget, Farrow was noncommittal.
"All different departments are submitting their (proposed) budgets right now," he said. "If you look back at what departments ask for and what they get, I don't think it's ever been equal."In short - I'm not saying a darn thing, because the SAA is going to be sorely disappointed.