Professor Testifies at Wisconsin State Capitol
By Robert Schroeder
As public education morphs into a new economic and political reality in Wisconsin, one National Louis University professor has added his voice to the political process.
National Louis' Todd Price, Ph.D., associate professor in the National College of Education, testified multiple times before Wisconsin Assembly and Senate committees on education, voicing his concerns over bills that would expand school vouchers and charter schools.
"One of the things that was a little bit encouraging to my thinking and hopefully for my colleagues was that at each of these hearings, I found the committees to be very respectful of people in higher ed having a role in talking about research," Price said. "I don't know if it impacted the various decisions, but it was encouraging to me that in one instance they actually referenced my report and referenced it before taking a vote."
On March 23, Price testified before the Senate Committee on Education in regards to Senate Bill 22, which would pave the way for an increase in the number and reach of charter schools. Price told the committee that beginning in 1998, the state of Ohio passed a law which led to an explosion of charter schools, with the result of 43 percent of charter schools failing to match standards with public schools and the state spending $500 million to support the charters.
One month later, Price testified before the Assembly Committee on Education in regards to Assembly Bill 92, which pushed to expand Wisconsin's school voucher program. He lamented that the issue of vouchers has never been brought to public referendum but pointed out that the initial reason for starting a voucher system was to benefit districts' poorest students.
"There is information by one of the many foundations that is suggesting that there really hasn't been that competitive edge to the public schools that the choice was supposed to spur," Price said. "So that rationale of helping out poor kids, helping public schools compete, the results are not in yet to this day."
On May 16, Price spoke before the joint Senate and Assembly Committees on Education in regards to Senate Bill 95/Assembly bill 130, which moved to establish standardized testing as a major component of teacher evaluations. Price recommended the state examine the Danielson framework for teacher evaluation and cautioned that standardized tests should be a component but not a complete component of teacher evaluation.
"We are keenly interested in the profession and the highly effective evaluation system, but it cannot be reduced to a standardized test given to students," Price said. "I'm just a little worried that there might be a lack of understanding of the evaluation and the effective part of the assessments."
Price concedes his younger self would have offered passionate emotional testimony, but his years as a professor refined his arguments to an opportunity to educate the panel.
"They aren't in the classroom, they aren't in the venues that we are as educators," Price said. "I took it as a moment to try to educate instead of advocate as strongly as I might have before, and to that end I think it made it possible to have a civil dialogue instead of shouting."