Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Yes, this is a BAD, unaccountable voucher bill

Looks like Thursday is the day for a hearing on SB286, another attempt to funnel taxpayer dollars to school privatizers. Go click on Andy at the Wisconsin Soapbox to get the particulars for this one, but one of his key criticisms is that schools that are already in existence can be taken over and otherwise sanctioned based on current performance. As a result, Andy finds this bill to be a backdoor attempt to have Madison legislators be able to essentially sell off and close many Milwaukee Public Schools, while giving privatizers extra opportunities that public schools won't have.
...in other words, you have to have those first five years [for a charter school to be in existence] and be evaluated so that any type of sanctions from the state would come in the second go-round with the charter by the 10th year of operation. By that time, it would be exceedingly clear to the school and district however that the school isn't cutting it and would hopefully be shut down.

But you know what? This bill just lets operators come in and fly-by-night set up shop and take money, leaving when they see the writing on the wall that they aren't going to be renewed. Additionally, it's pretty clear to see that the data which would result from these new policies would show a bevy of public schools that have closed, but not anywhere near as many charter schools, further adding to the narrative of charter operators that they are better than the public schools.

This bill is horrible for public education in Wisconsin.

It completely circumvents local control, puts in exceedingly draconian measures for districts to follow should they have schools at the bottom of the DPI Report Card, and completely rips apart the Milwaukee Public Schools. Oh, not to mention, throws students who are in the public schools in these categories into a world of the unknown, not to mention completely screws the people who have sacrificed to work with the hardest to serve population.
And by the way, grading schools and giving sanctions and rewards based on tests hasn't exactly been cleanly doled out. Do you want me to remind you about the Atlanta cheating scandal, or Michelle Rhee's "Erase to the Top" strategy in Washington D.C.? In both instances, you had big-city school officials changing test answers and performing other types of fraud in order to avoid sanctions and reap rewards under high-stakes "accountability" measures.

Do you also recall Tony Bennett's routine when he was the State School Superintendent in Indiana? It was wracked with blatant favoritism, with this passage as an example.
Emails obtained by The Associated Press show Bennett and his staff scrambled last fall to ensure influential donor Christel DeHaan's [charter] school received an "A," despite poor test scores in algebra that initially earned it a "C."

"They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence's chief lobbyist.
And where did Tony Bennett go to when the Hoosiers blew him out of office in November 2012? He took the same gig for Rick Scott in Florida. And who was one of the charter school operators in Florida that Bennett sent taxpayer dollars to? Life Skills Academy. Who were just in the news this month after they closed their charter school in Milwaukee in the middle of the year, forcing 66 students to find a new school. And it's not like those kids were getting a quality education to begin with.
Vigue said Rodney Monroe was "a real good preacher," but that he and his wife were struggling with the new Florida school, which had only eight or nine children in 2013-'14, including some or all of the Monroes' own children.

LifeSkills Academy in Milwaukee also had troubles.

Save for one child who met the state benchmark one year in reading, no students could read or do math proficiently in 2011 or 2012, according to the most recent state test score results.

Before closing, the school collected more than $200,000 in taxpayer money this academic year. The school will not get its final two voucher payments from the state, according to the state.
So under SB 286, how many more instances of Life Skills Academy-like fraud and underperformance would happen, since they could just set up their school without any direct oversight from local voters and taxpayers? And how many of those potential operators have paid off Legislative Republicans as an advance payment on the profits they stand to get from pushing these kids through their substandard schools?

This is why this bill is scary, and must be exposed and put down. It has nothing to do with innovating and improving education, and everything to do with GETTING PAID. That's true for both the charter/ voucher operators, and the legislators that front for them in Madison.


  1. All students in schools that take any tax dollars must have all their students take the same test during the same time period as the public school students.

  2. But MCG, then you'd have real competition that might cause vouchers to come up short. Can't have that when the voucher folks have shelled out so much to WisGOP, so we get bills that set up a two-tiered system like this.