Education
4:58 pm
Thu September 12, 2013

No Consensus on What Wisconsin Should Demand of Voucher Schools

People testified for hours Thursday, on what taxpayers should expect from the private schools getting public money for Choice or voucher students.

As Wisconsin sends more money to private schools for voucher students, lawmakers consider ways to safeguard the investment.

Members of the Senate Education Committee listened to opinions on Republican Sen. Luther Olsen’s plan. It would require the private schools accepting Choice students, to publish their standardized test scores and other performance data. The measures would be the same as public schools use.

“We want to know how they’re doing,” Olsen said.

Olsen says each school would have to report one composite score for all its choice students.

Sue Nelson of the Milwaukee Archdiocese says it’s concerned about privacy. She says Catholic schools work to shield the identities of choice students from staff and fellow students.

“What they’re smart enough to figure out is, you’re the 21 who took the test, and this is the result,” Nelson said.

Fellow archdiocesan associate superintendent Brenda White says it favors accountability, but disclosing information about certain students could also reflect poorly on a school.

“This bill would require those scores to be posted, potentially, on the school’s home page, the front page of the web site, as though it reflects the entire student body's performance,” White testified.

Democratic Senator Tim Cullen says the concerns the archdiocese raised are reasons why some private schools opted  not to participate in Choice.

"You’ve decided to enter the arena, take the public money, and now you have all these problems that come with taking the public money. It seems like you’re making argument for the schools that figured out the money isn’t worth the changes we’re going to have thrust on us,” Cullen said.

In the new two-year state budget, leaders expanded the voucher program. Now some are calling for increased accountability.

Olsen's proposal would also pull public funding from voucher schools deemed failing those students in three consecutive years.