With tension mounting in Madison surrounding the budget and Democrats and Republicans rarely seeing eye to eye on any issue, the Wisconsin State Senate today accomplished a rare feat by moving forward on a school choice bill in bi-partisan fashion by a 28-5 margin.
The bill, mostly technical in nature, provides significant quality control measures that reduce the administrative burden and enhance accountability. Several notable provisions include:
- The requirement of background checks for all employees at choice schools
- Increased financial accountability requirements so the state can recover taxpayer funds from schools that close during the school year
- Increased authority for the Department of Public Instruction to punish or expel schools who make financial misrepresentations
- And a change in the financing mechanism for the special needs scholarship program so that public schools receive more funding
The legislation is a result of a yearlong collaborative effort between the Department of Public Instruction and School Choice Wisconsin. The two organizations, who in the past have often found themselves at odds, were able to come together and provide a list of noncontroversial changes that will streamline the program’s administration and ensure that time is better spent actually educating children in the classroom.
“We would like to thank the authors Senators Olsen and Taylor, Representatives Kitchens and Fields who helped expedite this bill and ensure that these changes will be in effect by fall,” said Justin Moralez of the American Federation for Children. “While these changes are mostly technical in nature, each of them will help improve the life and education of many children,” Moralez noted.
While co-authored with bi-partisan support in both houses, some Democrats still placed ideology over reason by voting against the bill despite the fact background checks are a measure that many Democrats have been championing for years.
“It is disappointing that some Democrats still chose politics over children. The choice program is clearly not going away and is increasingly popular in their districts. In fact, recent polling shows that as much as 42% of Democrats support the choice program state wide,” said Moralez.
The bill passed the Senate today on a 28-5 margin and is expected to pass the Assembly next week.