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Charter Expansion Bill Spurs Debate in Wisconsin

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A new bill introduced in the Wisconsin House of Representatives that would expand charter schools in the state prompted seven hours of debate on Thursday, according to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel.

One of the most contentious parts of the bill is the way charter schools would be funded, which would reduce aid to regular school districts. The bill also proposes several new authorizers for charter schools, including all two- and four-year education institutions in the University of Wisconsin system, among others.

Proponents of the bill say it will provide parents and students with more public school choices and bring Wisconsin up to speed compared to other charter school laws in nearby states. (The state is currently ranked 37th by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in terms of the strength of its charter law.)

Currently, in most of the state (with the exception of Milwaukee and Racine), charter schools are operated through school districts and run with district staff, which charter advocates say does not provide the independent schools with the full-range of flexibility that charter schools normally enjoy—in particular, hiring and firing their own staff.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools released a statement in advance of the debate, encouraging lawmakers to support the bill.

"These changes will help put the state on a path toward providing more high-quality options for students and families," said Todd Ziebarth, the NAPCS's senior vice president of state advocacy and support , in the statement.

The bill is opposed by the Wisconsin Education Association Council, which encouraged its members to reach out to legislators and tell them to vote against the passage of the bill. They say it will take away local control of the schools and siphon money away from regular public school districts. The Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards have also come out in opposition to the bill.

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