Testimony to the Wisconsin Senate Education Committee
My name is Sean Roberts, I’m the director for Milwaukee Charter School Advocates. We represent the independent “2R” and district-authorized non-instrumentality charter schools in Milwaukee and Racine.
I encourage the legislature to act quickly with regard to Senate Bill 598 that allows district-authorized non-instrumentality charter schools to apply for equivalency in the state’s educator effectiveness system. This does not “exempt” any school from participating in the system, it simply allows independent schools that happen to be authorized by a district to have the same ability that “2R” charters have as well as every other public school district in the state.
We believe this was an oversight when the initial educator effectiveness bill was passed. DPI, MPS, nor the schools themselves have an answer for how to go about having the district determine the evaluation goals and testing instruments for an independent non-profit entity, nor how to administer such a requirement. Again, these schools are not asking for anything that school districts and “2R” charter schools do not already have the ability to do in state law.
With regard to Senate Bill 619, our highest-performing public options for students—independent charter schools—which are providing students with opportunities to succeed and beginning to close our state’s wide achievement gap— have some concerns with rewriting of the standards as currently adopted.
First, most independent charters have already begun the transition to the common core standards over the past 4 years, which has involved considerable time, resources, and money on their part. As you may know, these schools are already funded at far less than traditional public schools and there wasn’t any money for schools to make the transition- in terms of revamping/purchasing new curricular materials, staff training, etc. It’s a concern if the state ends up making drastic changes while funding remains flat for high-performing charter schools… the schools will have to pay for these things again, potentially, after sinking all those costs into the previous transition.
Secondly, because charters are held accountable to performance standards, changing the standards (or even ambiguity about them moving forward) could be problematic. We as a state expect charters to get certain results, but we could potentially be moving the target on them in the middle of their charter contracts. Stability (or at least clarity) is important if we’re expecting schools to meet the high standards our schools wish to be held accountable for achieving.
Thank you for your time and your consideration.