Wisconsin Legislative Update from Sen. Sheila Harsdorf

On February 24, Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, who represents the district that borders on Minnesota, graciously met with me in Hudson, Wisconsin to learn more about chartering.  Keith Glasshof, an Eau Claire business and civic leader, former board member of the Wisconsin Charter School Association,  and founding member of a former technology charter school in Eau Claire, joined us.

Sen. Harsdorf impressed me as a thoughtful and inquisitive legislator.  She is generally supportive of chartering and has several charter schools in her district.  She does worry about the impact on district schools and rural schools, especially.

Keith and I had a good discussion with the Republican senator around the “myths” of chartering, their bipartisan nature, and the status of the Wisconsin law.  She seemed surprised to learn that the Wisconsin law is not a genuine charter school law, and that significant changes are needed to bring real chartering and public school choices to the families in her district.

Regretfully, she informed us that current legislation to improve the chartering law in Wisconsin was not likely to pass this year.  It appears that the legislature has other priorities on its plate, and there is still some fatigue from the education reform battles of last year around the private school initiatives in Milwaukee.   How disappointing!  Isn’t 20 years long enough for most Wisconsin families to wait for these newpublic school choices and opportunities?

I’m hopeful that after this legislative session ends, Sen. Harsdorf will consider developing legislation that will bring chartering in Wisconsin in line with the majority of other charter school states in our nation.  I offered to serve as a resource for her and to partner with her in presenting the topic to her constituents as a bipartisan duo.  I hope she takes me up on that!