Underperforming schools in Racine Unified will not be subject to a new takeover rule passed early Wednesday morning by the Joint Committee on Finance that will affect some schools in Milwaukee.

As part of an omnibus education package approved by a 12-4 vote along party lines, poor performing schools that meet a series of three criteria – 15,000 students or more; transportation aid for minority students; and the lowest rating of “fails to meet expectations” for two years in a row – would be subject to a takeover by a commissioner appointed by the county executive.

Under the plan, the commissioner takes control of the schools and all faculty and staff must reapply for their jobs, a story in The Journal Times reads. The commissioner would also have the option to turn the schools into voucher schools but without a religious component or let independent charter schools take them over.

Schools here meet two of the three criteria, but have not been rated as failing for two years in a row.

District spokesperson Stacy Tapp told Racine County Eye in an email that district officials don’t have enough information to issue a statement or comment just yet.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, told the newspaper he thinks this is just the first step in privatizing public education and said a commissioner should not have more authority than the local school board.

“(The commissioner) supersedes the authority of the local school board or superintendent when it comes to the operation of the schools,” he is quoted as saying.

State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, acknowledged improvements throughout the district and said the measure should be viewed as both a challenge and help to continue moving forward.

“But this is leverage. This is something that can happen … the idea here is to give them help and to let them know that the status quo isn’t going to be acceptable,” his quote reads.

Signing the bill into law is far from a done deal, though. Both the Assembly and the Senate need to approve identical versions and then Gov. Scott Walker has to sign it.

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