Bills We’re Watching

There are a number of bills moving outside of the budget debate in the State Legislature that impact students, educators and public schools.

To take action on any of these items, click here to find your legislators.

CURRICULUM

Financial Literacy in Schools. AB-280 would require public schools to incorporate financial literacy into the curriculum.

FUNDING

Special Education Funding. SB211 and companion bill AB319 call for state funding of special education at 33 percent. View Senate Bill History and Assembly Bill History, along with fiscal estimate and some additional notes.

GUNS IN SCHOOLS

Penalties for making school gun threats. SB-82 and companion bill AB-111 would make it a crime to intentionally conveying any threat or false information concerning an attempt to use a firearm to injure or kill a person on school property, on transportation provided by a school, or at an event sanctioned by a school. A person who is convicted of the crime would be guilty of a Class I felony.

Guns in elementary, middle and high schools. A hearing is scheduled Wednesday for SB-169 (companion bill AB-247), which would allow anyone to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, background check, or training (also lowering the minimum age and opening the door for guns in schools).

REFERENDA

Including Specific Financial Information on Resolutions, Referendum Questions. The first in a series of bills that restrict local control for conducting referendums, SB 187, received a public hearing May 30, with some surprise changes. As amended, the measure would now require a school board to include specific financial information in a resolution and in the referendum question for all bonding /construction referenda, resulting in an impact on more districts than the original proposal. Of note:

  • The new version spells out exactly how districts much formulate an estimate on the interest and related debt service costs – using the interest rate in effect immediately before the adoption of the resolution.
  • The referendum restrictions were altered from affecting only school districts to instead include all municipalities.

Referenda to Exceed Revenue Caps. AB-268 limits to five consecutive school years the number of years for which a school board may seek approval from voters in the school district to increase the revenue limit applicable to the district.

Referendum Scheduling. AB-269 limits when a school district can schedule a referendum to exceed revenue limits.

Bonding Resolution Consideration. AB-282 would require common and union high school districts to vote upon an initial resolution to raise money through a bond issue (such as for building and maintenance purposes) only at the school district’s annual meeting. It would also prohibit voting on a resolution to exceed the revenue limit (such as for operating purposes) at a special meeting.

Reducing State Aid to Schools that Pass Referendums. AB-285 and companion bill SB-193 would create a general school aid penalty if voters approve a referendum to increase their revenue limit. The move would also allow school boards to rescind revenue limit increases that have previously been approved by voters in a referendum.

UW SYSTEM

Campus Speech. An Assembly committee was scheduled to vote May 30 on AB 299 (companion bill Senate Bill 250). The bill would require the UW System adopt a policy on freedom of expression and suspend or expel those who violate the policy twice. Republicans say the bill is needed to ensure people can listen to constitutionally protected speech from speakers on campus, no matter how controversial they may be. But others say the bill creates a safe space for racists. See details.

VOUCHERS

Voucher transparency. The Wisconsin Voucher Taxpayer Transparency bill (SB 183 & AB 267) requires property tax bills include information on the amount of any net reduction in state aid to the home district as a result of pupils enrolled in any of the state’s school voucher programs.

Voucher spending referendum. SB-227 would give property taxpayers affected by the Racine and statewide voucher programs the final say on whether they want to be on the hook for tax dollars taken directly out of public schools to fund vouchers. The bill would require a referendum to pass before voucher schools can take state aid out of a public school district. The 2015 state budget changed state law to divert state funding to voucher schools at a rate much higher per student than public schools receive.

WRS

Military Service & WRS. AB-62 would add military service as credible service under the WRS. An amendment was offered requiring participating employers to contribute an additional percentage of earnings to reflect the shared cost of granting creditable military service.