Schools Need Local Control

By Rep. Dave Considine (D-81)

On Tuesday, January 14th, the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Education held a public hearing on AB 1, the “accountability” bill.  It was my first committee meeting. I want to share with you, my friends and constituents, some news, thoughts, impressions, and takeaways.

The first thing that happened was that the committee chair, Representative Thiesfeldt of Fond du Lac, withdrew a significant part of the bill which was odious to many of you and to me. The portion of the bill setting up an Academic Review Board apparently will not be included in a new version. Added will probably be a requirement for schools to notify the state whether or not they are using the Common Core Standards.

First thoughts – I am proud to represent and work for the great citizens of Wisconsin and specifically my constituents in the 81st District.  I was reminded of the phrase so many of us chanted during the Act 10 protests, “This is what democracy looks like.” Hundreds of citizens – parents, board members, teachers, administrators, and students – wrote letters and emails, and attended this hearing to observe, speak, and show concern. I am sad that I didn’t get to hear from so many of you as the day dragged on. I believe many of you should have gotten to speak before the lobbyists and am sorry all of us did not get to hear you personally. As a “newbie,” I don’t know if I can get that order changed, but I will try.

Here are concerns and recommendations I heard:

  • Involve the public in crafting a bill
  • Why change a system that is already working?
  • Increase support for schools and teachers as professionals
  • Facilitate full community involvement
  • Foster collaboration, not competition
  • Provide assistance for more early learning opportunities and mental health support
  • Address the real problem – poverty
  • Utilize charters, but under local control
  • Recognize parental rights, responsibilities, and choices
  • Utilize and implement the findings of the Rural Schools Task Force
  • Make certain all schools who get public funds make appropriate provisions for special needs
  • Don’t promote exclusivity in our schools
  • Hold all schools accountable

My main takeaway is to trust teachers and parents. We know standardized testing doesn’t really tell us what our children know - it tells us how well they know how to take tests. Real evaluation happens as we learn. The “aha” moments for teachers and students don’t happen during a test. Those moments happen and are recorded by good teachers and parents throughout the school day and later at home.