Watch archived testimony from the Senate Committee on Education public hearing here.

Read testimony from the Deputy Superintendent of the WI Department of Public Instruction: WI Department of Education testimony against SB 22

Read testimony from Todd Price, Associate Professor of Education at National Louis University.

Disability Rights Testimony on SB 22:

More testimony from Madison residents:

Testimony before Committee on Education, March 23, 2011

Anna Haley-Lock  

Re:  S.B. 22

Chair Olsen and Committee members, thank you for hearing my testimony today.  My name is Anna Haley-Lock, and I am testifying in opposition to this bill.

My husband, 2 young kids and I relocated from Seattle to Madison about 2 years ago.  Eric and I had accepted jobs at UW-Madison.  One of the reasons we were drawn to Madison was for its excellent public schools. 

Just 2 years later, we’re pretty devastated.  NOT because of our experience with Madison schools. They are everything we hoped they’d be, and more.    And our concerns extend beyond just the proposals related to K-12 education.  But we are alarmed by what will happen to K-12 education if budget cuts, along with these bills being discussed today, pass. 

As a professor who studies social policy, the first thing I always ask when evaluating a proposed policy change is:  What does the research say?

Now let me note, sometimes research can’t give us a definitive answer.  Sometimes it’s “too soon” to know whether a policy idea – like expanding charter schools – has merit.

But in this case, the research is clear.  The findings are in, and they are definitive.

Charter schools do not perform better than public schools, in spite of having a host of advantages.  AND they come at the expense of reduced investment in public schooling.

Research on charter schools tells us that…

* … compared to public schools, 17% of charters got higher test scores, 46% had gains that were no different than their public counterparts, and 37% were significantly worse.  To re-state that:  a major national study conducted by a Stanford economist found that 83% of charters did the same as, or WORSE than, public schools.  (cited by Ravitch, 2010) 

At the same time,…

* … compared to neighboring public schools, charters enroll smaller proportions of students with limited English, or who have learning disabilities – like my own daughter – or who have emotional and behavioral challenges – like my own son.  (Ravitch, 2010)

That means the students who are the hardest to educate are left to regular public schools, and that charter schools get the students who are the EASIEST to educate.

* Charters are also typically able to "counsel out" the lowest performing students (in some, 50 to 60% of students starting in a charter leave before graduation).   The students left over are thus even easier to educate.  (Ravitch, 2010)

* And charters tend to have greater access than traditional public schools to private sources of funding, such as through foundation, state, and federal government grants.  (Wisconsin Charter Schools Association talking points)

YET even with all of those advantages over public schools, charters perform no better, or worse.

But we’re in Wisconsin.  What’s the story on charters in our state, say in Milwaukee?

àIn a March 2009 report, researchers Lavertu & Witte of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that …

…there is no statistically significant relationship between charter school attendance and student performance on reading achievement;

…for the most recent years of their study, there is no statistically significant difference between charter schools and traditional public schools in student math achievement;

…and any positive impact of charter schools on achievement (relative to traditional public schools) declines the more years a student spent in a charter school.

[choice – prepped but omitted from actual testimony]

àLet me finally share some research on the Milwaukee choice program, which this legislative session if not these particular bills is also poised to expand.

Researchers Witte and colleagues reported -- just last December – that their “comparisons of students in … independent Milwaukee charters to matched MPS students exhibit few significant effects of attending a charter school on achievement growth in either math or reading.”

Even School Choice Wisconsin, the organization that sponsored the recent poll of Milwaukee residents on school choice, has acknowledged the lack of improvement shown by schools participating in the Milwaukee program. 

In April 2010, they reported that “achievement gains for choice program students “are higher than but not significantly different from similar Milwaukee Public School students after two years,” based on matched samples of MPS and MPCP students.  Let me say that again:  the two sets of schools are indistinguishable in achievement.

But here’s where they are different:  choice schools have much smaller class sizes, and smaller overall school sizes.  These are characteristics we would hope for all of our children.  But in the Milwaukee choice program, even those striking advantages fail to yield even minor achievement gains over the public school system.


So again, the research seems clear.  That makes the current legislation all the more heartbreaking.  You, as our elected representatives, are now considering a range of measures, including SB 22 to expand charter schools, a proposal to expand the similarly underperforming Milwaukee choice program, as well as severely cut funding to public K-12 education.  The combined effects will be to gut a system of public schooling on which Wisconsin families and neighborhoods depend.  As a researcher, as a new Wisconsinite – as a mother – I implore you not to support this ill-advised course of action.


D. Ravitch, Why I Changed My Mind About School Reform:  Federal testing has narrowed education and charter schools have failed to live up to their promise.  Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2010.  Available at:  http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704869304575109443305343962.html.

J.F. Witte, P. J. Wolf, A. Dean & D. Carlson, Milwaukee Independent Charter Schools Study: Report on One Year of Student Growth, Executive Summary of Milwaukee, School Choice Demonstration Project Milwaukee Evaluation, Report #21, Version 1.1, December 2010.  Available at:  http://www.uaedreform.org/SCDP/Milwaukee_Eval/Report_21.pdf.

School Choice Study Results Show Reason for Optimism:  Milwaukee choice participants score higher than low-income students nationally, School Choice Wisconsin, April 2, 2010.  Available at:  http://www.schoolchoicewi.org/currdev/detail.cfm?id=312.

S. Lavertu & J. F. Witte, The Impact of Milwaukee Charter Schools on Student Achievement, Executive Summary, Recent Issues in Governance Studies, March 2009 (#23).   Available at:  http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/papers/2009/03_charter_lavertu_witte/03_charter_lavertu_witte.pdf.

Wisconsin Charter Schools Association, http://www.wicharterschools.org/.  The point about additional funding access of charter schools has also been made by Diane Ravitch (including in her recent lecture on the UW-Madison Campus, “The Future of Public Education,” sponsored by Wisconsin Academy, March 8, 2011 – archived podcast available at: http://www.wisconsinacademy.org/evenings/index.php?category_id=4927#Ravitch).

I am an art teacher in my third year teaching. My first year I taught at 21st Century Prep in Racine, Wi which is partly funded by SC Johnson and partly funded by UW Parkside. I am currently an elementary art teacher here in Madison. I am here to oppose the bill.

My concern is accountability.

We've heard a lot of facts so I want to share a personal story.

As an art teacher in a charter school, I saw every child in that school every week. I saw English language learners who were not tested and therefore were not getting services. I saw a 2nd grade boy who was clearly autistic that the school refused to test as well. If you don't test, you don't diagnose and then you are not required to pay for services. I had a first grade girl who the school acknowledged was being sexual assaulted and went home to that house every night. There is no accountability for these Charter schools, fiscally (as the news told me this morning) or otherwise. If we can't meet basic needs of children, how do we meet their academic needs?

I could only take so much!! I could not look at the faces of those children everyday knowing I could do nothing to help them. Knowing those children were stuck in this school and this was the best education they were to receive. I was asked back to teach for the following year but when I brought attention to these students I was fired.

They told me I was fired for sending inappropriate text messages to staff members. I didn't get along with most of the staff and didn't have their phone numbers so you tell me why I was fired. (one teacher was racist, one was sending sexual text messages about other teachers, one was selling pot! I won't go through the entire upstanding staff for you).

SB 22 wants to take funds away from public schools to fund charter schools such as this one. How is this the right choice for our students both in public schools and at these failing charter schools?

When you de-fund public schools when their operating costs are the same, you ensure their failure. What happens to the children who are left in these public schools??

Senator Darling- I want you to look at my face knowing I represent all 500 of my current students and untold thousands of future students. How can you look at me, knowing that, and vote yes on this bill?

PLEASE make the right choice for our Wisconsin children. I beg you, please vote Senate Bill 22 down.

Good afternoon.  My name is Ann Lacy, and I am a lifelong resident of Madison, a 1976 graduate of Madison West High School, and the parent of two children who are currently students at Madison East High School.  I am here to speak in opposition to Senate Bill 22.  As an involved parent and a supporter of the public schools, I have many concerns about this bill, most of which have been eloquently addressed already today.  I would like to reiterate a few points which are of particular and immediate importance to me.  

We have been told repeatedly that the state of Wisconsin is experiencing a budget crisis, and that one way to deal with this crisis is to make government smaller and leaner, yet here is a bill that proposes the creation of a new, and I think unnecessary, governmental entity, the Charter School Authorizing Board.  The members of the proposed Charter School Authorizing Board are to be appointed, three apiece, by the governor, the senate majority leader, and the speaker of the assembly; and of each set of three appointees, the bill clearly states “no more than two… may belong to the same political party”:  this will be, then, a board for which membership in a political party would seem to be the most important qualification.  Is this what we want for our public schools?  

As a citizen and a taxpayer, it makes sense to me that a charter school—which is supposed to be a public school—is authorized by the elected school board in the community it will serve.  So, a charter school established in Madison, where I live, needs to be authorized by the Madison School Board, after its organizers have gone through a process that may be slow and even cumbersome, but that allows everyone involved time to learn and understand, and to demonstrate a broad base of support.  Democracy tends to move slowly.   

Much is made of the educational innovations that charter schools provide.  And I do not doubt that many charter schools do provide educational innovations.  As, I would argue, do many traditional schools, including those  attended by my children and myself.   

I would like to close with a comment about virtual schools.  In all but a small number of cases, it seems to me—dinosaur though I may be (I was born in 1958)—that students learn best in a classroom setting, with their peers and a qualified teacher, face to face.  We may live in an increasingly electronic world, where people may have many “friends” whom they wouldn’t recognize if they met them on the street, but to my mind nothing takes the place of actual, in person, communication.  That is why I am here today, and have been here since I registered at 9:30 this morning, rather than sitting at home in front of my computer, sending an email message. 

Thank you for your time.