Wisconsin Senate Bill 1: Less Flogging is still Flogging


As most of you know the Wisconsin House republicans had a hearing on their destroying public schools accountability bill (Assembly Bill #1) a few weeks ago.  Read here for a review of that disastrous day.  

It’s now been two days since I went to the capital in Madison to testify against Senate Bill #1.  In case you’re wondering, Senate Bill #1 is another silly school “accountability ” bill.  And yes I actually waited 7 1/2 hours this time because it was really important for the 6 people left in the room to hear such a blistering and historic oratory.

However, after some reflection I am really troubled by what I heard from people who were supposedly there as supporters of  public education.  Time and time again, public school administrators went to the microphone and literally thanked the Senate for putting forward a bill that was (And I’m paraphrasing), “not as bad as AB #1 and not punitive.”  In fact the School Administrator’s Alliance (SAA) “Representing the Interests of Wisconsin School Children”  called Senate Bill #1, “a significant improvement over Assembly Bill #1.”

Is it really an improvement when our public schools—the hearts of our communities—can still be privatized? And please explain how the continued use of high stakes standardized tests as an accountability tool is not punitive? Children are damaged cognitively and psychologically every time they are forced to take a high stakes standardized test.

Where’s the improvement?  There isn’t any and its extremely simple why?  Children are not struggling in schools because of a lack of accountability.  Children are struggling because accountability denies them the opportunities and essentials for success in school.  In fact, here is what I said on Tuesday,

I am here today as a citizen, a parent and a long time educator.  I start my testimony by asking the committee three questions.

  1. Does this bill provide blankets for homeless children?
  2. Does this bill provide supplemental health care and nutrition for sick and hungry children?
  3. Does the bill provide funding for the purchase of a single book for a child living in poverty?

My reading of this bill indicates that the answer is NO! In fact the only thing this bill does is provide mechanisms for moving taxpayer money around and the creation of a new test and punishment regime.  This is great if you’re an adult with money invested in test and data systems.  If you’re a kid….?

We need to be clear.  Senate Bill #1 is an accountability bill that will do nothing for the children of Wisconsin and only serve to maintain the failed policies of 30 years of accountability.

The research is absolutely clear.  Accountability does not work.  In fact, according to research by David Berliner, the achievement gap has widened over the accountability years.  Listen again.  Since instituting accountability—test and punish data management—the achievement gap has grown.

Why? Because accountability narrows the curriculum, it takes money away from the arts, it denies children access to music and instruments, it creates an atmosphere of fear and anxiety.  And most importantly, accountability fails to even remotely mitigate the affects of poverty—no blankets, no healthcare, no books.

Instead we get more tests. More beuracracy. More status quo. More test and punish. And more redistributing tax dollars upwards.

This must stop. 30 years of research demonstrates that accountability only benefits adults by rewarding those in a position to benefit from the redistribution of the tax dollars meant for public schools.

If we truly care about the children of Wisconsin then we must stop with test and punish accountability.  We must minimally invest in blankets, healthcare, nutrition, and books.


Invest in the  hearts of our communities—our public schools.