Legislative Update

A school funding commission created by the Legislature has several more public hearings set this spring:

  • Monday, May 7– Tomahawk
  • Monday, May 21– Turtle Lake
  • Monday, June 4– Madison

To take action on any legislation, click here to find your legislators.

SESSION IN REVIEW

SIGNED INTO LAW:

APPRENTICESHIPS

Apprenticeship program. Allows a high school senior to begin an apprenticeship program during the student’s senior year of high school. Before, any individual 16 years of age or over may enter into an apprentice contract whereby the individual is to receive from his or her employer, in consideration for the individual’s services, instruction in any trade, craft, or business. That instruction must include a minimum number of hours of related classroom instruction and on-the-job training.

CURRICULUM

Financial Literacy in Schools. Requires public schools to incorporate financial literacy into the curriculum.

ELECTIONS

School board elections. This would have changed the signature requirement for nomination of candidates to school board in school districts that contain territory lying within a second class city, allowing a reduction in the number of signatures required on nomination papers submitted by school board candidates.

FUNDING

Sparsity Aid. An increase in sparsity aid per student will begin in 2019, raising sparsity aid per pupil amount from $300 to $400 — an increase in sparsity aid appropriation of $6.5 million in 2019. Sparsity aid was vetoed by the governor in the 2017-19 state budget, but he changed course at the end of the Legislative session.

Supplemental aid. Provides for supplemental aid for school districts with a large area. Act 300

GRANTS

Teach grants for libraries. The Division for Libraries and Technology in the Department of Public Instruction is now authorized to collect and maintain public library-related data, including purchasing licenses for data collection software; training staff on the effective use of data; creating tools for libraries to use internally in analyzing, and to report to the public about, library use; and developing and implementing technology systems that allow for interoperable data exchange and automation of work processes. Certain public libraries located in rural areas are also now eligible to receive TEACH grants (Technology for Educational Achievement program). Currently TEACH block grants are awarded to school districts to improve information technology infrastructure and educational technology teacher training grants to school districts to train teachers in the use of educational technology. Now, the DOA may award grants to eligible libraries to improve information technology infrastructure in rural libraries and train librarians in rural libraries in the use of educational technology.

REPORTS

Annual School Reports. This law requires the Department of Public Instruction to publish its annual school and school district accountability report by November 30, rather than in September. This bill also changes the date by which DPI must determine whether a school is placed in the school takeover program to November 30 instead of October 15.

TESTING

Availability of state practice tests. This bill requires the Department of Public Instruction to make available, upon request, practice examinations or sample items related to knowledge and concept examinations required to be administered under state law. The bill also would repeal the chapter of the administrative code that DPI promulgated to implement current law. Act 335

UNIVERSITY SYSTEM/TECH COLLEGES

College Credit Transfers. Concerns transfer policies for college credit earned by high school pupils.

WORKER RIGHTS

Usurp local control on workplace standards. This preempts a local municipality from enacting a local living wage, fair scheduling standard, and a host of other measures that would improve the lives of working people. Act 327

DID NOT PASS 

APPRENTICESHIP

Tech grants for apprenticeship training programs. This would have created a grant program under which the Technical College System Board could award grants of up to $1,000 to technical college students who have undertaken an apprenticeship training program in conjunction with their course of instruction at the technical college.

COMPETITIVE BIDDING

Competitive Bidding for School Districts. This would have required a school board to advertise any project for construction, repair, remodeling or improvement of a public school building or public school facilities or for the furnishing of supplies or materials with an estimated cost greater than $50,000, and let the contract to the lowest responsible bidder. The bill would have also prohibited a school board from giving preference for where the bidder is located or using criteria other than the lowest responsible bidder.

CONSTRUCTION

Notification of school construction projects. This would have required school boards to provide public notice of any construction project with a cost of $10,000 or more that will occur in a school building in which pupils and educators will be present. With certain exceptions, the school board would have to provide notice at least two months prior to the start date.

CURRICULUM

Teen dating violence prevention education. This would have required curriculum to include teen dating violence prevention education.

Sexual abuse prevention education. This would have required curriculum to include sexual abuse prevention education.

Comprehensive firearms instruction. This would have allowed schools to include firearms instruction as an elective course.

Character Education. This would have required professional development training in character education for teachers, principals, and school district administrators.

Human Trafficking. This would have required Drivers Education courses to include information on spotting signs of human trafficking and how to respond.

Nutrition Education. This would have required a school board to modify its instruction about nutrition to include knowledge of the nutritive value of foods and the role of a nutritious diet in promoting health.

 EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT

Wisconsin and the Every Student Succeeds Act. This would have prohibited the DPI from submitting its ESSA plan to the feds without first responding to any objections filed by members of the Senate or Assembly education committees was amended in the Assembly to also apply to other state plans required under federal law to be submitted by state agencies.

FAMILY & MEDICAL LEAVE ACT

Ending Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave coverage. This would have ended the right to use paid sick leave while on family leave to care for a child after birth or adoption. The bill had many other negative impacts, including cutting back family leave for part-time employees like Education Support Professionals.

FUNDING

Common School Funds. This bill would have eliminated the authority of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands to make state trust fund loans, broaden the authority of the BCPL to delegate its authority to invest state trust fund moneys, and remove certain restrictions on the use of common school fund income moneys. As educators working in schools with shoestring budgets, we know the Common School Funds are often the only monies available to keep our school libraries running. Voters soundly rejected eliminated the role of state treasurer in the April election, which oversees the Common School Funds for libraries.

Excluding capital improvements from shared cost. This bill would have excluded expenditures from either a school district’s general fund or debt service fund that are authorized by a capital referendum from the school district’s shared cost if the school district is a negative tertiary school district. In other words, a negative tertiary school district would not lose equalization aid for capital expenditures that exceed the tertiary guarantee and are funded by referenda. The bill included protections for some school districts in areas with high property wealth and per-pupil spending from seeing general aid deductions in the school funding formula in cases where voters approved capital projects.

Revenue limit adjustment for workforce development improvements. This would have created a school district revenue limit adjustment for workforce development improvements to support vocational or technical education. Any school board that received a petition and adopts a resolution to initiate workforce development improvements would be allowed to increase its revenue limit by the amount the school district spends on the improvements in a school year, including amounts spent for a 20-year-max debt service on a bond, note, or state trust fund loan used to finance the improvements. The petition would be filed jointly by the president of a local chamber of commerce or a chamber of commerce and a regional workforce development board.

Special Education Funding. This called for state funding of special education at 33 percent.

GRANTS

Lifting Limits on Tech Ed Grants. This would have removed the per pupil limitation on career and technical education incentive grants that the Department of Workforce Development awards to school districts. It required the DWD to award $1,000 for each certification program completed by a pupil.

 GUNS IN SCHOOLS

Guns in School. The Private School Carry Act would have allowed anyone with a concealed-carry license to carry that gun on school grounds, and, if the school board passes a policy, those guns could be concealed-carried into buildings. Under the proposal, if a school district doesn’t allow it and someone forgot they have a gun strapped to their ankle or other part of their body, the penalty would have been decreased to a forfeiture (which isn’t really a crime), instead of the current felony.

Penalties for making school gun threats. This proposal would have make it a crime to intentionally convey 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. This proposal would have allowed 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).

Firearm education curriculum. This would have created a comprehensive firearm education curriculum to be offered as an elective to high school pupils. It would require the state superintendent to jointly develop the curriculum with the Department of Natural Resources, a law enforcement agency, or an organization that specializes in firearms safety or that certifies firearms instructors. 

Firearm Possession at School. This regarded suspending and expelling a pupil for possession of a firearm at school.

LICENSURE

Special education license. WEAC cautioned against relaxing standards for pathways to teacher licensure particularly in regard to our students with the greatest needs.

Lifetime licenses. This bill would have required the Department of Public Instruction to define and alter certain provisions for educators holding a lifetime license.

Montessori teacher license. This would have provided an initial teaching license based on completion of a Montessori teacher training program. WEAC had cautioned against this, citing the slippery slope alternative licensure can be – opening the door to less-credible pathways.

REFERENDA

Including Specific Financial Information on Resolutions, Referendum Questions. The measure would have required 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 many districts.

Referenda to Exceed Revenue Caps. This would have limited districts 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. This would have limited when a school district could schedule a referendum to exceed revenue limits.

Bonding Resolution Consideration. This would have requireD 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. This would have created a general school aid penalty if voters approve a referendum to increase their revenue limit. The move would also have allowed school boards to rescind revenue limit increases that have previously been approved by voters in a referendum.

SCHOLARSHIPS

Academic excellence higher education scholarships. This would have impacted how academic excellence higher education scholarships are awarded to pupils of public and tribal high schools with enrollments of at least 20 but fewer than 500 pupils, and not more than ten scholarships to be awarded statewide to seniors from public or tribal high schools enrolling fewer than 20 pupils and to seniors from private high schools enrolling fewer than 80 pupils.

SPECIAL EDUCATION

Extended absences and IEPs. This bill would have required a school attendance officer to direct a counselor, social worker, psychologist or nurse to determine whether to refer a child who has been excused absent for 10 or more days because of physical or mental conditions for a disability evaluation. The bill also would have required the school attendance officer to notify the parent or guardian of a pupil that has been absent without an excuse for part or all of five or more days that the parent or guardian may request an evaluation of whether the child is a child with a disability or, for a child who has been identified as a child with a disability and for whom an individualized education program has been prepared, a review and, if appropriate, revision of the child’s IEP.

STUDENT LOAN DEBT

Student loan reimbursements. The measure would have reimbursed student loan debt for individuals moving into Wisconsin rural counties from out-of-state. Student loan reimbursements would be made to those who, for at least six months, have been domiciled in a “rural county,” which the bill defines as a county that does not include a metropolitan statistical area as delineated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. To qualify, the person must have lived outside Wisconsin for at least five years, be employed on a full-time basis and not receive any public assistance benefits.

TEACHER RIGHTS

Theisfeldt Bill. After an outpouring of opposition to a bill that would be detrimental to our most vulnerable students, while doing nothing to protect teachers, this bill failed. The bill, circulated by Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, fell short of its stated goal to “protect teachers.” WEAC instead offered up protections that would make a difference in our classroom and schools.

TESTING

Opt-Out. This would have excused a pupil enrolled in any grade from 3 to 12 from taking any examination required under state or federal law, except the civics test that is a requirement for high school graduation.

UW SYSTEM/TECH COLLEGES

Requiring UW, Tech System to remain neutral. This would have created requirements and prohibitions regarding free speech at the University of Wisconsin and technical college systems. The bill declared that it is not the role of a UW institution or technical college to shield individuals from speech that is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The bill imposed requirements throughout both systems, including the campuses are open to any speaker who is invited by students, faculty and that administrators must remain neutral on public policy controversies.

VOUCHERS

Gifted and talented vouchers. This bill claimed to help low-income parents get services for their gifted and talented children. Supporters proposed taxpayers pay private school tuition and expenses for 2,000 families who met requirements. The program would provide $1,000 for each “gifted and talented” student who is already eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches.

Voucher transparency. The Wisconsin Voucher Taxpayer Transparency bill  would have required 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. This would have given 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 have required 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.

WORKER RIGHTS

Worker’s Compensation Council. The bill would have changed the composition of the Worker’s Compensation Council to limit the number of members from organized labor.

 WRS

County jailers and the WRS. This would have classified county jailers as protective occupation participants under the Wisconsin Retirement System and under the Municipal Employment Relations Act.

Age and calculation formula for the WRS. This would have increased the age for qualifying under the WRS, along with the formula for earnings.

Military Service & WRS. This would have added military service as credible service under the WRS.

 

LOOK FOR UPDATES SOON ON THESE BILLS WE’VE BEEN WATCHING:

CURRICULUM

Reducing minimum hours of instruction. The Assembly passed AB 221 / SB 105, which would allow 40 Wisconsin school districts to reduce the minimum hours of instruction for students. Backers frame this as “allowing teachers to teach less if they perform well” on the state report cards. The Senate version has had a public hearing, but no vote is scheduled yet.

GRANTS

Dual Enrollment. A public hearing was held on AB 851 / SB 711, which requires the University of Wisconsin System to award grants to school districts, independent charter schools and voucher schools to support dual enrollment programs taught in high schools. Under the bill, grants are awarded to assist high school teachers in meeting the minimal qualifications necessary to teach dual enrollment courses. The grants would end after June 30, 2022.

Grants to schools for public safety training. The Assembly Committee on Workforce Development will hold a hearing on AB 872, which creates an incentive grant program for school districts that provide training for certain public safety occupations and provides completion awards for students who complete those programs.

Robotics league participation grants. SB483/AB564 expands eligibility for robotics grants to include sixth- through eighth-grade teams.

TESTING

Pupil Exam Information. AB-300/SB 222 requires school boards beginning next school year to annually provide information about mandatory pupil examinations to parents and guardians.

UW SYSTEM/TECH COLLEGES

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.

UW Merit Scholarships related to environmental programs at Stevens Point campus. The Assembly Committee on Government Accountability and Oversight will vote on AB 804, which would change the formula for distributing merit scholarships to students at UW-Stevens Point for environmental programs. Instead of using current criteria, the Board of Regents would be required to provide $300,000 annually for merit scholarships in this area. The Senate has already passed the measure, SB 700.