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Walker: Education proposals to soon be introduced

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Associated Press
January 19, 2012
— Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday his plans to reform Wisconsin public schools will be introduced as legislation this month, but the state superintendent who was closely involved in drafting those reforms said he was never consulted on the specifics of the proposed bills.

The two bills would set up a state accountability system to get around parts of the federal No Child Left Behind law, a system to evaluate teachers and principals, a statewide screening of incoming kindergartners, and requirements for elementary school teachers to take a more rigorous licensing exam.


Walker detailed the plans Thursday to about 2,000 school board members, district administrators and school business managers during the 2012 State Education Convention in Milwaukee.


State Superintendent Tony Evers, who has been on the opposite side of Walker on several education issues including the law Walker backed that took away nearly all collective bargaining rights for teachers said he wasn't consulted for the legislation, even though he led two of the three task forces involved and helped in the third. He said he hopes he'll be consulted about the bills at some point.


"Clearly, it is essential to see the details of this proposed legislation and ensure they match the intent and spirit of all the work that so many groups and individuals put into improving schools and academic achievement for all students in Wisconsin," Evers said in a written statement.


"It is also vital to understand that many students' schools are already planning for more budget cuts next year on top of cuts made this year," he said. "Education reforms must be fully funded and not simply be more unfunded mandates that result in further cuts to educational programming for our students."


The proposals will be in two bills authored by Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, and Rep. Steve Kestell, R-Elkhart Lake, said Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie. He said they hope to get them introduced by the end of the month and he expected they would get passed in the current legislative session.


The proposals came from three bipartisan taskforces, including the Read To Lead, Effective Educator Design and School Accountability.


"Improving our schools, measuring student achieving growth, and increasing accountability and transparency in education will help our children succeed," Walker said in a news release ahead of his speech at the convention. "While members of the working groups deserve credit for their recommendations, our work is not yet done. I encourage parents, teachers, school board members, and all community leaders to help implement these reforms that are key to our state's long-term prosperity."


Mary Bell, president of the statewide teachers union that fought bitterly with Walker over collective bargaining rights and cuts to school aid last year, said she also was on one of the task forces and wasn't consulted on the exact wording of the legislation.


"As with many things in the year since Gov. Walker took office ... we are very concerned that the rhetoric he uses with the public and the actual legislation and the actions he take are in conflict with each other and one does not necessarily support the other," she said.


States can apply for a federal waiver to avoid some of No Child Left Behind's requirements, though getting around other parts of the law require legislative action at the state level. State Department of Public Instruction spokesman Patrick Gasper said they are working on preparing the waiver, which is due later in February.


In Wisconsin, the governor's proposed legislation would create the Governor's Read to Lead Development Council, which would give statutory authority to raise money to support reading initiatives, and would require all students to take an early childhood reading screener in kindergarten by the 2012-13 academic year.


The state Department of Public Instruction would be required to improve the rigor of the licensure exam for new elementary school reading teachers and coaches by 2013-14.


The bills also would create a framework for a teacher and principal evaluation system that would be based on multiple measures of student outcomes and educator practice. They would each be 50 percent of the score.


And, all schools would be rated on multiple measures of student growth and proficiency consistent with progress toward college or career readiness.



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