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Lawmakers can't agree on school accountability bill

MADISON, Wis (WRN)  Lawmakers are stilling trying to reach a compromise on a bill that would help grade student performance in schools that receive taxpayer funding. It remains to be seen though if some form of agreement between the Senate and Assembly can be reached before the session ends this spring.

The two chambers are so far considering very different approaches to creating an accountability system for all schools that receive taxpayer funding, which would include charter and private schools that accept students using the voucher program.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) wants a bill that grades schools and includes sanctions for those that continue to fail. Vos says that would mean “if schools are not succeeding over time, there are sanctions to say they either need to have radical changes or to close.”

Multiple approaches to a school accountability system have so far come up in the Senate, including a bill that extends Wisconsin’s two-year-old public school report card system to also include charter and private schools. Another bill would set up the standards for collecting data on schools, but includes no sanctions. A Senate committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday to vote on one of the bills, which could see a number of proposed amendments.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) does not believe a bill that includes sanctions would be able to pass his chamber this session, and he also has doubts about its chances in the Assembly. Fitzgerald believes that putting something in place that treats public and private schools the same would be out of balance because “there’s not a fair playing field right now” between them.Vos has criticized the Senate’s efforts as not being substantial enough. Fitzgerald says their approach is still “significant, compared to doing nothing.”

Governor Scott Walker has not publicly backed any of the current proposals, only saying he would like to see the Legislature pass some form of accountability measure before the session ends.