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Janesville School District hosts local legislator forum

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Nick Crow
February 24, 2014

JANESVILLE--More accountability is needed from private schools that receive public funding, five area legislators agreed in a meeting Monday with members of the Janesville School Board.

"I think with voucher schools, accountability is something we're looking at," said 45th District Rep. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville. "If you are receiving tax dollars, you need to be as accountable as public schools."

Other legislators attending Monday were:

-- Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, 15th District.

-- Rep. Andy Jorgensen, D-Milton, 43rd District.

-- Rep. Deb Kolste, D-Janesville, 44th District.

-- Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, 31st District.

The group discussed Assembly Bill 549 and Senate Bill 76. If passed, the bills could limit the forming of charter schools by public school districts, requiring that they be run independently.

"I do believe that this private charter school movement is as much of a political movement as it is an educational movement," Cullen said. "It bothers me that this movement is just being pushed and pushed."

Superintendent Karen Schulte said the Janesville School District has four charter schools being run very well by the district.

"They are very important to the School District of Janesville," Schulte said. "They meet the needs of different kids. One size does not fit all. For us, in a big public school setting, it has allowed us to diversify what we can do."

The group also discussed the number of school days per year and common core standards.

SCHOOL DAYS

Loudenbeck said legislation to change the number of school days required isn't "just a response to bad weather down here."

"This could change how you have the ability to structure your school schedule," Loudenbeck said. "It could impact students up north. They could have extended days four days a week, and districts could save on transportation."

Cullen said high schools under the legislation will would be required to have 1,137 hours of school time. What would change is how districts would reach that number.

"I think it gives some flexibility," Cullen said.

Legislators also discussed a bill that would change requirements on when the school year can begin but admitted changes likely wouldn't come soon.

"It's hard to change a law," Jorgensen said. "We have to back the train up. It's always easiest to make changes right before a bill becomes a law."

COMMON CORE

Kim Ehrhardt, director of instructional services for the Janesville School District, expressed concern to legislators about SB 619. If passed, the bill would replace Common Core State Standards with new standards.

"Common Core is a big improvement over the old plan," Ehrhardt said. "The chaos that would ensue (with its reversal) is very frightening."

Cullen said the the legislation is no longer being pushed, but he expects debate to return during next year's legislative sessions.

"It's a fiscally irresponsible waste of money to pull (Common Core standards) back," Kolste said. "To make standards based on political ideology is really scary for me."

Loudenbeck said the changes would allow school districts to keep standards they want but open dialogue for public hearings on the standards.

"A group is out there beating a drum, and people are listening," Jorgensen said. "Now is a time to be engaged as a citizen to know what's going on in Madison."



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