Janesville23.4°

Repeal 180-day school law and enforce instructional time

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By John W. Eyster
February 24, 2014

I was very happy to learn that Sen. Luther Olsen is leading a campaign in our WI State Legislature to repeal the WI 180-day school law with hope of PASSAGE in this session of the legislature and the signature of Governor Walker to make it WI STATE LAW!

This action is overdue.  I was Legislative Liaison for the School District of Janesville when Rep. Deb Towns (R – 43rd Assembly District) was Chair of the Assembly Education Committee and introduced a bill to repeal the 180-day school law in 2006.  At that time, Assembly Bill 84 sailed through both houses of our legislature in February 2006.  But then Gov. Doyle VETOED the bill in April 2006.  We were very disappointed.

Now I have the feeling of “back to the future.”  I hope it ends with the 180-day law REPEALED!  Right now the general public is well aware of the problems created by the straitjacket of 180-days since there were 4 days in January when MOST school districts throughout WI were closed due to severe winter weather.  Now school districts are calculating for MAKE-UP DAYS.

Before you argue that this repeal would reduce the educational time for our students, I need to EMPHASIZE the fact that the current law has NOT ONLY the 180-day requirement, but also standards for “direct pupil instruction“:  at least 437 hours kindergarten, at least 1,050 hours in grades one to six, and at least 1,137 hours in grades seven to twelve.

I know that a major surprise in 2006 was the discovery that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction was not collecting data to enforce the “direct pupil instruction” requirement of WI State Law.  The Milwaukee Journal Senitnel did research in the Milwaukee area at that time with report that numerous school districts did meet the 180-day requirement, but NOT the “direct pupil instruction” requirement.

I discussed the issue as part of my WE THE PEOPLE blog post, “What about ‘local control’?” on July 1, 2011

The issue of LOCAL CONTROL is a KEY issue as the REPUBLICAN CONTROLLED WI STATE GOVERNMENT both legislative and governor have been working systematically to CENTRALIZE CONTROL of our WI state government.  This is essentially a REVERSAL of the REPUBLICAN arguments I was bombarded with when advocating for various bills in our WI State Legislature.  Republicans then told me again and again we hold the principle of LOCAL CONTROL.

I gained a lot of information about Senator Olsen’s bill reading Andrew Phillips article, “Bill would end Wisconsin’s 180-day school mandate, allow flexibility” on February 14, 2014 in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  I urge you to read this article as you consider the issue.

I continue to believe that in this 21st century with all of the changing educational resources, DAYS are NO LONGER a key to LEARNING. Having taught ONLINE for the Wisconsin Virtual School, I KNOW that my students’ learning was REALLY directly related to the TIME they spent on the course. I believe that K-12 PUBLIC EDUCATION needs to shift its assessment of LEARNING to the OUTCOMES and NOT THE DAYS!

I encourage you to contact your state legislators (Assembly Rep and Senator) expressing your views.  I believe it is time to repeal the 180-day law.


John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor of political science at UW-Whitewater and an advocate for Project Citizen, a model curriculum for democracy/civics education in Wisconsin high schools. John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.


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