by Benjamin Yount
Wisconsin’s governor scuttled a plan aimed at getting kids to read earlier, but has signed a new law that advocates say will give parents a better view of how local schools are spending their money.
Gov. Tony Evers on Friday vetoed AB 454, better known as the reading readiness plan.
The governor echoed complaints from some Democratic lawmakers and the state’s superintendent who said the plan would mean more testing for younger kids.
“I object to fundamentally overhauling Wisconsin literacy instruction and intervention without evidence that more statewide, mandatory testing is the best approach for our students, and without providing the funding needed for implementation,” Evers wrote in his veto message.
The reading readiness plan would have screened kids for their reading level starting in kindergarten with the hope of catching kids before they fall behind.
CJ Szafir with the Institute for Reforming Government is one of the advocates who pushed for the plan.
He said with two-thirds of Wisconsin school kids unable to read or write at grade level, he’s not sure why Gov. Evers doesn’t want to focus more on literacy.
“It’s disappointing Gov. Evers and the education establishment are so out of touch with parents and students,” Szafir said. “By vetoing this important bill, the status quo lives on with roughly two out of three Fourth Graders not proficient in reading. Unfortunately, these students will continue to struggle, and our workforce in Wisconsin will be worse off without strong literacy intervention.”
While the governor turned down the reading legislation, he signed a school spending transparency plan.
Senate Bill 373 requires schools and the state’s Department of Public Instruction to create a single website that gives parents more information about how much money their kids’ schools are getting and how much they are spending.
Sen. Mary Felzkowski, R-Tomahawk, said the information on school finances is available, but it’s spread out and often difficult to decipher.
“At its core our bill is about transparency and access, and about every taxpayer, parent, teacher, reporter, and school board member who has at one point or another found our school funding data difficult to comprehend,” Felzkowski said. “Every member of the public should have the opportunity for an informed discussion about school spending with their school’s leadership.”
Advocates say transparency on school spending is the first step toward school spending accountability.
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Benjamin Yount is a contributor to The Center Square.
Photo “Governor Tony Evers” by Governor Tony Evers. Background Photo “Wisconsin Capitol” by Library of Congress.