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Letter from Sen. Vinehout: Senate Bill siphons dollars from local schools and ties hands of school boards

MADISON -- A proposed law to expand charter schools would take dollars from local schools and send tax money to private operators of charter schools. Members of the State Senate Education Committee recently heard testimony about the statewide effects of a bill that allows for a dramatic increase in charter schools.

“Every school would pay the price of charter school growth,” said Senator Kathleen Vinehout, who serves on the Senate Education Committee. “Dollar for dollar, state aid would be reduced to local schools to pay for charter school expansion statewide. This kick to local schools comes on the heels of several years of dramatic reductions in state aid to many school districts.”

The proposed law, Senate Bill 76, would bar a school board from considering the financial impact of a charter school on students in the rest of the district; remove input from teachers in the charter school decision; and force local school districts, under certain circumstances, to accept new charter schools. Funding for privately operated charter schools comes from students’ resources in local public schools.

Committee members heard testimony from a California-based Charter School representative who lauded Wisconsin for “attracting high quality national operators”. The Department of Public Instruction testified state aid to public schools was already reduced this year by $64 million to pay for charter schools in southeast Wisconsin.

“This bill makes it easier for national companies to come into Wisconsin and take over local schools using public dollars. This is not in the best interest of Wisconsin’s children.” Vinehout concluded.