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Republicans start session with bill that could transition "failing" public schools

Republican state lawmakers set their priorities Wednesday and they revolve around schools. Before the Assembly met, Republican leaders talked to the press about a bill intended to create accountability for schools. The bill includes a route to turn a failing public school into a charter school.

It's the first bill introduced in the Assembly by the Republicans who control it. The bill will reform how a public, private, and choice school are graded and sets a new course for consequences.

\"This is the most important bill we have on our schedule right now, so my goal is to bring it up quickly. I'd like to have it passed out of our house no later than the end of January.\" said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester).

The bill calls for a 13-person academic review board which will literally come up with a grading scale for judging a school as successful or failing.

\"The board would decide what constitutes an A, what constitutes a B, what constitutes a C and so forth.\" said Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, the bill's co-author.

Consequences would kick in after the 2017-2018 school year. If a school gets a D or an F, it would go into a four year improvement program that already exists. \"It's about teacher training, it's about more parental involvement. It's all the things you'd want to see in a school that is not doing as well as we'd ask for.\" Vos said.

If a public school is still getting a D or F after four years in that program, its school district would lose significant power over the school, and the school could be transitioned into a charter school.

Democrat Mandela Barnes is on the Assembly Education Committee, and says this bill will end up hurting school districts like Milwaukee Public Schools.

\"What we're seeing here is a plan that doesn't provide a framework for action. What it does is just allow for a voucher or a charter school to take over.\" said Barnes (D-Milwaukee).

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