Wisconsin Assembly to vote on several school bills, including allowing students not to wear masks, requiring schools to collect crime data
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Assembly was scheduled to vote Tuesday on a Republican-backed bill that would split the state’s largest public school district in Milwaukee into up to eight smaller districts, a move that officials said reviews, will not guarantee better results for struggling students.
Another bill, allowing parents to remove their students from any mask mandates and requiring schools to be open for in-person instruction, has also been put to a vote.
Even if the bill dismantling Milwaukee schools passes the Republican-controlled Legislature, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has signaled he will veto the measure, saying it is “too simplistic” and will not work. But it shows the direction Republicans want to go if Evers is defeated in his November re-election bid. Republican gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch supports the measure.
Republican supporters say the move would increase accountability and lead to better performance in smaller districts, ultimately bolstering the low reading and math scores of Milwaukee public school students.
The measure has the support of conservative groups but is opposed by a wide range of others, including the Milwaukee District, Disability Rights Wisconsin and the state teachers’ union.
Opponents argue that dismantling the district and its roughly 75,000 students does not guarantee better academic results. They say what Milwaukee really needs is more money to strengthen educational offerings and other programs to help improve student success.
The bill would divide Milwaukee into four to eight smaller districts beginning in the 2024 school year. The idea has been floated unsuccessfully before, including in 2009 and 2015.
Other bills up for vote on Tuesday would be:
– Allow parents to remove their children from any school district requirements to wear a mask. This measure would also require schools to be open to in-person learning. He is supported by the President of the Assembly Robin Vos and conservative groups. Opponents include the state education department and groups representing school boards and administrators.
— Eliminate income limits on being able to send children to private school using a taxpayer-funded voucher. The bill also removes a cap on enrollment in the statewide voucher program. Evers opposes the expansion of the voucher program, so this proposal also heads for a veto.
– Add the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the list of other 21 days that K-12 schools must observe. As part of the bipartisan measure, it would be up to each district to determine how to mark the anniversary of the attacks. Other days that schools must observe include Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Bullying Awareness Day, and Veterans Day.
— Require public and private high schools participating in the school choice program to collect statistics on certain crimes that occur on school property or on buses and make this data publicly available.
Republican supporters say the availability of report card data will help parents make informed choices about where to send their children.
Opponents, however, say schools are not responsible for collecting such data, what would be considered something to report is unclear and the information could be misleading. No group is recorded in support; opponents include organizations representing school boards, administrators and school social workers.