Data Outcry Hits Wisconsin

Data Outcry Hits Wisconsin
February 5, 2014

Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)

School Choice Weekly #24

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants private schools to conform to the same data demands as public schools. He’s made this a key part of his support for expanding Milwaukee’s vouchers to the rest of the state. Two problems: This would negate the reason for school choice in the first place, and parents are increasingly suspicious of data mining.

A central reason states enact school choice laws is that traditional public schools are not meeting every child’s education needs. One of the reasons they cannot is the mind-numbing regulations and requirements larded onto them. So what sense does it make to turn more efficient private schools into less efficient, quasi-public schools when enacting a voucher program?

Additionally, choice schools have a form of natural accountability that public schools do not: They do not automatically get enrollees, and any student can leave at any time without having to buy a new house in a new school district. This internal accountability in a private school negates the need public schools have for external, test-based accountability.

The “accountability” bill also would have shafted private schools into an expanded state data collection system, requiring private schools to supply end-of-year test results, use only the state test, report interim test results with much more fine-grained data, show how well students were meeting Common Core standards, and report data on “student engagement,” whatever that means. The bill also included no opt-out provision for parents who do not want their children subject to state tests and data collection.

Besides privacy concerns, a central complaint of private school advocates was also the complexity of the bill, and that it gave control over school ratings and voucher participation to the anti-voucher Department of Public Instruction.

“Right now, we don't have the votes and that's all right,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Luther Olsen, according to the Associated Press.

In Wisconsin, even the Republicans tend to vote blue. So not being able to scrape together the votes to extend the regulatory state, even in those conditions, should tell lawmakers something--something like “this is a terrible idea.” Time to get a better one.

SOURCE: Associated Press


School Choice Roundup

  • ARIZONA: What it looks like to pioneer “school choice 2.0.” One gem: Lawmakers still introduce voucher bills instead of education savings accounts because many don’t know about the latter.
  • SOUTH CAROLINA: A new Parent Trigger bill would have the state take over a school district if a majority of parents demand it.

Common Core Watch

Education Today

Joy Pullmann

Joy Pullmann is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute and managing... (read full bio)