Wisconsin's State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers told lawmakers today that a new school report card being used to justify the expansion of private school vouchers is "not ready for prime time."
Governor Scott Walker, the legislature and Evers developed the new report card last session as a way to consistently measure which schools were doing well and which needed help. This session, the governor's budget would use it to decide where to expand publicly funded private voucher schools. Districts with more than 4,000 kids and two schools that receive a "D" or an "F" would be candidates for vouchers. Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers told the legislature's Joint Finance Committee that the report cards are still a work in progress.
"This last year was a pilot year. And to suddenly turn it around and say, 'We're going to be doing merit pay with this, we're going to be doing X with this, we're going to be doing Y with this." It's just not ready for prime time."
Evers' view of the test did not sit well with most Republicans, including Finance Committee Co-Chair and voucher school advocate Alberta Darling. Darling rejected the idea that it could take seven or eight years before the school report cards are ready: "We have to be able to compete, and our taxpayers have to know what their investment is and our kids cannot wait."
But at least some Republicans' share Evers' view, including Ripon Republican Senator Luther Olsen, who helped develop the report cards: "This report card needs to be used as a flashlight, not as a hammer. And one of the things that concerns me is we're starting to use it as a hammer right out of the get-go."
The Governor's budget would also use the report cards to hand out new incentive money with struggling schools and high-performing schools both getting a share.