January 12, 2015
A legislative proposal that appears to give school privatization interests a greater say over public and private school accountability standards was introduced by Assembly Republicans only a couple of months after pro-school voucher interests spent more than $850,000 to help elect Republican legislative candidates in the 2014 fall elections.
The Washington D.C.-based American Federation for Children sponsored radio and online ads and mailings in 10 legislative races to support nine Republicans and one Democratic candidate. Seven Republicans and the Democrat backed by the group won their races, including Assembly Republicans Scott Krug of Nekoosa, John Macco of De Pere, Nancy VanderMeer of Tomah, Dave Heaton of Wausau, Todd Novak of Dodgeville and David Steffen of Green Bay; GOP Senator Howard Marklein of Spring Green; and Democratic Representative Leon Young of Milwaukee. Those wins helped the GOP increase their majorities in the Assembly and Senate.
Democrats and the state’s largest teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, say the measure benefits pro-school voucher interests by giving them a greater say than public education interests on the newly created board, and that the bill does nothing to give public schools more money after massive cuts to public education by Republican Governor Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature.
WEAC has long been one of the largest direct and indirect supporters of Democratic candidates for statewide office and the legislature. The union’s political action committee and corporation spent about $5.8 million from 2008 through 2013 on outside electioneering activities and funneled millions of dollars more to Democratic ideological and union groups to spend on elections. But the union has reported no outside spending in the 2014 elections, though final reports for the year won’t be available until next month.
Among other things, the Assembly measure creates a 13-member Academic Review Board to develop accountability standards starting in 2017-18 that schools must meet within seven years or face sanctions also set by the board; cuts off state funding to failing private schools; allows the state to convert failing public schools to independent charter schools; and lets private schools use tests other than the one administered by the state to measure pupil learning.