Wisconsin’s RTTT Follies

Further comment on the Wisconsin situation would not be warranted but for the continued assertion by Governor Jim Doyle and key legislators that the state is a serious contender for RTTT funds.

With that in mind, a November 7 news item includes the following:

“Gov. Jim Doyle made another push [on November 6] for creating mayoral control of Milwaukee Public Schools today. He said while an MPS governance change is not explicitly called for in the criteria released for Race to the Top, it was clear from [President] Obama’s address [in Wisconsin November 4] that such a change would be looked upon favorably in the application.

“’They’re going to look at if you can carry through on the reforms you say you’re going to do and to me that means a change in the governance of MPS,’ Doyle said.”

State Rep. Pedro Colón added that it was “explicitly clear” that when the president talked about drastic changes, he was referring to a governance change in MPS. “I think legislators who are thinking we don’t need to drastically change things in Milwaukee and we’re still going to get ‘Race to the Top’ dollars are greatly mistaken,” said Colón, who will be the lead Assembly author of the MPS governance change bill. (Inasmuch as the President did not say a governance change was needed, it remains unclear what Rep. Colon means by use of the word “explicitly.”)

So, what might a governance change involve? Here’s where things approach the “can’t make it up” stage. The lead sponsor of the idea, Sen. Lena Taylor, told colleagues that she will make the legislative proposal early in the week of November 9. Her memo to legislators can be found here.

It occurs to me is that opponents of a governance change are likely to be delighted by the hodgepodge described in Senator Taylor’s memo. The notion that this would enhance Wisconsin’s chance for an RTTT grant is dubious, assuming that Secretary Duncan means what he says in describing the criteria that will be used to review a state’s application.

A separate question: How would the mishmash described in Senator Taylor’s communication be perceived by prospective candidates for MPS superintendent, a position that will be vacant in the near future? What true reformer or change agent would consider this a promising opportunity?

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