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Rep. Davis eyes fed cash for schools

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Brian Gray/The Monroe Times
July 28, 2009
— Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, wants Wisconsin's public schools to be in the running for federal money from the "Race to the Top" program announced Friday by President Barack Obama.

But to do so, Davis said, the state must lift its prohibition on using state testing results to evaluate teachers.


Davis and Sen. Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, have announced they will introduce legislation to allow teachers to be evaluated by how well their students perform on tests. Doing so would make Wisconsin eligible for up to $612 million in funds tied to the Race to the Top program.


"Other states are already making these moves, and it's time for Wisconsin to catch up," Davis said.


The Assembly majority leader will assign the bill to an Assembly committee, possibly the education committee or the education reform committee, Davis said. After it's assigned to a committee, a public hearing and discussion of the bill will take place. Davis said he isn't sure when the bill will be discussed.


Whenever it's before a committee, however, Davis said he hopes there will be bipartisan support for it.


"We're hoping it goes forward," he said. "I think it has a good chance since it's something President Obama is supporting at the national level."


Obama said Friday the program would make available $5 billion in grants to the nation's schools. Broadly speaking, the president wants states to do four things he considers to be reforms:


-- Toughen academic standards.


-- Find better ways to recruit and keep effective teachers.


-- Track student performance.


-- Have a plan of action to turn around failing schools.


In the program, $297 million would be set aside for districts that create or expand effective performance pay and teacher advancement models to reward educators for increases in student achievement and increase the number of educators working with poor, minority or disadvantaged children.


There would be $315 million for districts that expand data systems to track students' achievements from preschool through college and link their advancement with teachers and principals.


The Race to the Top program was created as part of the Federal Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by Congress earlier this year.


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was quoted in the New York Times on Friday as saying, "Believe it or not, several states, including New York, Wisconsin and California, have laws that create a firewall between students and teacher data. I think that's simply ridiculous. We need to know what is and is not working and why."


Already, seven states—Tennessee, Rhode Island, Indiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Colorado and Illinois—have lifted restrictions on charter schools so they can compete for the money.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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