The Wisconsin Legislature is moving toward requiring that data about crimes committed on school property be more readily available for parents and other parties to view alongside test scores and graduation rates, reports Scott Bauer of The Associated Press.
A voucher program is expanding across the state and enrollment caps have been lifted. In Milwaukee especially, proponents of school choice have used crime information to influence public school students to transfer to charter or voucher schools. Their point is that their schools are safer options for students than urban public schools.
Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin, an organization that represents private schools in the voucher program, said that safety is an important part of what parents consider when deciding on schools for their children. According to the group, which researched police data from 2014, a higher number of calls to the police occurred in the Milwaukee public school district than in voucher schools and charters.
Information concerning suspensions and expulsions is already available online, but there is no report on non-disciplinary incidents for which it is necessary to call the police. Those who back the two crime-reporting bills say the goal is to get more information to parents and members of the community.
The bill sponsored by Rep. John Jagler (R-Watertown) calls for all public high schools to report crime data and have it published in the state report card. Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and 26 more co-sponsors want to see this approach.
Another proposal, backed by Republican Senate President Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), offers a more limited pilot program with one city, one rural, and one suburban school district reporting. She thinks starting with a more limited approach is the most sensible thing to do. Her bill requests only $25,000 for the Department of Public Instruction to set up the pilot.
The Department of Public Instruction agrees with Lazich, according to spokesman John Johnson. He did point out that “tons of information” is available now on the department’s website. Parents and others can search by accessing district or individual schools and can obtain the number and types of issues that resulted in expulsions or suspensions. But Jagler explains it does not include the number of times calls for police take place and there are no expulsions or suspensions.
Jagler’s proposal does not yet include the cost for school districts to implement the program, said Dan Rossmiller, a Wisconsin Association of School Boards lobbyist.
Lazich’s bill, the Student Safety Incident Tracking Bill, would begin in the 2016-2017 school year. She adds that Wisconsin needs data to track and take action toward confronting crime in schools which will reduce risks to teachers and students.
Current information from the 2011-2012 school year shows 11.3% of the state’s teachers reported being physically attacked by students, and 13.7% reported threats from students of physical assault, writes Lilly Price of The Daily Cardinal.
WKOW-TV reports that Jagler says he is not interested in a trial program. He wants data concerning crime in schools reported and available across the state. When the Legislature resumes its session in January, the proposals could be considered.