Wis. bill holds private voucher schools more accountable

Private schools participating in voucher program will now recieve state report card

Voucher School Accountability

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - Accountability for private schools has been a hot topic in Wisconsin and a new bill begins to address those concerns. 

Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill requiring private schools participating in the voucher program to submit data to the state they don't currently provide. The information will be a part of the schools report card, which is something private school's haven't received in the past.

Public schools have been receiving report cards for about two years now. Demographics, graduation rates and test scores all make up a schools report card.

Aquinas Catholic Schools is one of the private schools that will now receive a report card, but they worry that it may not be a fair comparison.

There are 23 students in the Aquinas Catholic School System participating in the voucher program, but only eight of those students were at the age requiring them to take the Wisconsin Concepts and Knowledge Exam, which is the state-wide standards test.

"Our students who took the WKCE this year represent less than 1.7 percent of our enrollment," Kurt Nelson, Aquinas Catholic Schools president, said.

Nelson said those eight students would now represent the entire Aquinas school system on their state report card, which he says is unfair.

"If we're going to report and have an apples-to-apples comparison, lets take measures that really account for the whole school system," Nelson said.

Nelson said Aquinas schools are taking nationally recognized tests and wonders why tests that all Aquinas students are taking can't be used toward the report card.

"When you talk statistics, the smaller the sample size, the more unreliable it is. So a public school district that has many many students and is collecting lots of data, those are fairly reliable statistics," Nelson said.

"Some of our smaller programs and some of our smaller schools actually as those are being graded for their state report card, eight students are making a difference on those, either good or sometimes not so good," Randy Nelson, superintendent of La Crosse School District, said.

Randy Nelson feels the new bill is a step in the right direction.

"This bill is a good start, but I think I do believe that in the bigger picture of things it still falls largely short of really what the accountability systems ought to focus on," he said.

Randy Nelson agreed there is a difference between reporting on just students receiving vouchers and all students at those schools, but feels the bill was put in place to monitor the students receiving state funding.

"I think that when you accept the tax payers dollars, and there are always strings attached to those when you do that, and if that's one of the strings then I think that's one of the rules that people need to play by," he said.

Kurt Nelson said he wants the information being released to be reliable. He said if the state decides to only include voucher students then it should not be labeled as representing the entire school.

The report cards for voucher schools will begin in the 2015-2016 school year.

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