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Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, right, discusses a school accountability bill that could force failing public schools to close with its lead sponsors Rep. Jessie Rodriguez, left, and Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, center, on Jan. 7 in Madison.

A vote on a heavily amended school accountability bill has been postponed by the chairman of the Wisconsin Assembly's Education Committee.

The committee was set to vote on the bill on Thursday, but Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, announced Wednesday afternoon that the hearing will take place at a later date.

The bill would impose sanctions on failing schools, but attitudes differ between the Senate and the Assembly on how low-achieving schools should be treated.

Thiesfeldt said his decision to postpone the hearing came upon learning that Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, might be open to including sanctions in the Senate version. He cited a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and conversations he's had with Farrow.

Under the Assembly bill, failing public schools could eventually be converted to charter schools.

"We have always been interested in working with the Senate to find meaningful solutions for struggling schools," Thiesfeldt said in a statement. "In the past there has been reluctance from the Senate to include effective interventions, but Sen. Farrow has indicated in a Journal Sentinel story and to me personally that he is now open to including sanctions in the bill. It’s best to resume negotiations in order to put forward legislation that includes effective interventions for schools needing help. I am anxious to hear what Sen. Farrow’s ideas are for the bill."

Thiesfeldt said he is "cautiously optimistic" an agreement can be reached, putting the bill on the floor this spring.

Thiesfeldt introduced an amendment to the bill on Tuesday morning, prompting outcry from Democrats who said it didn't allow enough time for them to propose changes or to hear public feedback. 

No indication has been made of when the rescheduled vote will take place.

Shortly before Thiesfeldt announced his plan to postpone the hearing, the liberal group One Wisconsin Now criticized him for what it says was a violation of open meetings law.

The group filed a complaint with Attorney General Brad Schimel and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne alleging that the committee engaged in discussions about the legislation without proper public notice after the conclusion of a joint hearing with the Senate.

"Despite this clear lack of notice, Chair Thiesfeldt did, in violation of the open meetings law, convene a meeting of the Assembly Committee on Education and discuss Assembly Bill 1 and proposed Assembly Substitute Amendment 1 to Assembly Bill 1," the complaint states, citing information from witnesses, media reports, audio and video.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.

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