The Wisconsin State Assembly education committee, chaired by Republican State Representative Jeremy Theisfeldt of Fond du Lac, held a public hearing today on 2015 Wisconsin Assembly Bill 1 (AB1), a proposed “school accountability” bill that isn’t actually a school accountability bill, but rather a bill to shame, takeover, and privatize public schools in Wisconsin.
The original bill that was brought to the public hearing was so atrocious, the public hearing turned into a total farce and the Republicans that control the committee have gone into full damage control mode. I’ll let the tweets from The Progressive magazine columnist and Madison Common Council candidate Rebecca Kemble and the author of the progressive blog Wisconsin Soapbox, who have been livetweeting today’s public hearing, speak for themselves:
…and that was just the first hour or so of the 11 1/2 hour public hearing.
To summarize all of that, Jeremy Theisfeldt and his fellow Republicans brought the bill to the public hearing and was quickly criticized by Democrats over horrible provisions in the bill and the bill not having a fiscal note despite the bill having a significant fiscal impact on local school districts in Wisconsin. That forced the Theisfeldt to remove a provision from the bill that would have authorized a state panel that would have had the power to take over public schools in Wisconsin and give them to millionaire charter school operators, as well as some of the other more atrocious provisions of the bill, without scheduling a second public hearing for the modified bill. That forced Theisfeldt to go into total damage control mode as he was attacked by both Republican (Dean Knudson of Hudson) and Democratic (Sondy Pope of Verona and Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee) state representatives, with Sinicki pointing out that the modified bill would still allow for public schools in Wisconsin to be taken over by the state and given to millionaire charter school operators. Theisfeldt comes across as a guy who is way over his head and is making a total fool of himself.
In my nearly four years as a political blogger, this public hearing on Wisconsin AB1 has been the single biggest farce I’ve read about.
The first bill to be introduced in the Wisconsin State Assembly for the 2015-2016 session is a school shaming bill by Republican Wisconsin State Assemblyman Jeremy Theisfeldt of Fond du Lac. Theisfeldt’s bill would allow millionaire charter school operators to take over “failing” K-12 schools in Wisconsin.
While Republicans and the corporate media in Wisconsin are referring to this legislation as “school accountability” legislation, in reality, it’s school shaming, takeover, and segregation legislation. This is because the legislation does absolutely nothing to fix the root causes of why some public schools perform worse than other public schools, allows millionaire charter school operators to take over “failing” Wisconsin public schools (which does nothing to improve the quality of education and makes them less accountable to the public), and, in effect, could leave poor areas and areas with large minority populations in Wisconsin without any service from public schools, effectively resulting in segregation of Wisconsin’s education system along both racial and economic class lines.
You’re not going to fix the poorly performing schools problem in Wisconsin until you fix the poverty problem in Wisconsin. If one were to compare the average household income of families who send at least one child to particular Wisconsin public schools to the performance of said Wisconsin public schools, you would probably find at least a rough correlation, if not a strong correlation, between household income and public school performance, with schools in wealthier areas of Wisconsin performing better than schools in poorer areas. Raising the minimum wage, restoring collective bargaining rights to public employees, and replacing the corrupt Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) by creating a state economic development bank to make it easier for people to start up new businesses and hire people would be a good start toward eliminating the poverty problem in Wisconsin. Sadly, Republicans in Wisconsin aren’t even remotely interested in fixing the poverty problem or improving public education, and Democrats in Wisconsin aren’t much better than the Republicans when it comes to education (Jennifer Shilling, the leader of the Democrats in the Wisconsin State Senate, wants more accountability for school voucher programs, which means that she effectively supports school vouchers because she’s not publicly supporting repealing school voucher programs in Wisconsin).
Wisconsin deserves legislation that values all public schools (such as legislation setting statewide K-12 academic standards in Wisconsin and using methods other than standardized testing to make sure that schools are teaching to the standards) and strengthens the state’s economy, not shames certain public schools.
The author of Wisconsin Soapbox and Heather DuBois Bourenane of Monologues of Dissent have written more about this subject.