"More accountable, efficient, effective:" Education reform a key piece of Walker's second-term agenda

MADISON (WITI) -- Republican leaders say a bill laying out tough new standards of punishment for lagging schools could be the first order of business in the next legislative session.

"More accountable, more efficient and more effective for the people of this state," Governor Scott Walker said.

Education reform is a key piece of Governor Walker's second-term agenda.

"We expanded School Choice, we reformed our public schools, but now there's things to build off of that," Governor Walker said.

The details of the so-called "Academic Accountability Bill" are still being worked out.

State Senator Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee) says he is circulating a draft of the legislation.

"The Accountability Bill is a priority.  I would like to have that completed and in the Governor's hands before we look at any other educational aspects," Senator Farrow said.

The bill could be unveiled in December, and voted on in January. It could create an Accountability Board that would determine criteria to punish or reward schools based on performance. The board would also determine what data would be collected for state report cards.

The bill could allow voucher school students to take a different test compared with those in public schools.

"An Accountability Board that will be in charge of overseeing any type of sanctions or adjusting the sanctions in the future as things change," Senator Farrow said.

During the last legislative session, an accountability measure was blocked by moderates like Senator Luther Olson (R-Ripon), who had concerns over how to sanction failing schools and how to test private school students who pay their tuition with taxpayer-funded vouchers.

But with expanded majorities in the Assembly and the Senate, moderates' voices don't carry as much weight.

"It's going to be written by special interests," Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said.

Senator Larson says Republican lawmakers are not listening to the state's educators, who have outlined their priorities.

"What we need is early childhood education. We need early childhood intervention, more funding for technology, and dedication from the Legislature, and that's what they're looking for, and unfortunately Farrow and the Republicans are working around them and looking for a way to punish them," Senator Larson said.

Both Governor Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos say they want to move fast on education reform.

Governor Walker has called for the replacement of the Common Core academic standards and he wants to increase the enrollment caps in the statewide private school voucher program.