The school accountability bill still boils down to what Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said last fall:
“If you get a check, you get a checkup,” the chairman of the Senate Education Committee succinctly stated.
It’s taken awhile, but consensus on this point has emerged at the state Capitol.
Gov. Scott Walker has expressed similar sentiments for a long time. So did Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, last week during a meeting with the State Journal editorial board.
So let’s get it done.
Sen. Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, appears to have the simplest idea that’s easiest to pass. He plans to introduce a bill this week to ensure all traditional public, charter and private voucher schools are reporting student information to the state, including results of a new state test in spring 2015.
Farrow is willing to add consequences for low-performing schools through subsequent legislation next session. That would be in time for state report cards in 2015, which seems reasonable.
The governor’s credibility is on the line. He pledged last summer to push for a requirement that voucher schools receive the same state report cards as public schools. That’s only fair to taxpayers, parents and students.
In fact, Walker originally suggested such a rule would be in place before voucher schools expanded across the state, including to Madison.
The state voucher program gives taxpayer subsidies to lower-income students to attend participating private schools.
Vos is thinking bigger than the Senate and plans to release a bill Monday with more consequences for poor-performing schools, including voucher schools.
“I don’t want everybody to use bogeyman arguments of ‘They’re not the same,’ and ‘They’re not being tested,’ and ‘How do we know the money’s being well spent,” Vos told our editorial board Thursday. “That’s an argument we need to get off the table.”
Unfortunately, Vos wants to give private voucher schools the option of using a different test than public schools for those students who aren’t receiving vouchers, assuming they want to include those students in their publicly reported scores.
But that would undermine public confidence in equal and transparent assessments.
Sen. Olsen’s strong suggestion of a state check leading to a consistent and trustworthy check-up must be met.