Legislative Update – July 20

Latest in the Legislature
More on the Senate Republicans’ budget proposal unveiled earlier this week has been unpacked, including provisions that would impact voucher schools. Reactions are everywhere, with Democrats telling the GOP to “get it together,” while the governor says “we’re a lot closer than we think.” In fact, by Thursday afternoon, Assembly Republican leaders said they will accept the governor’s offer to redirect $203.5 million in income tax cuts he had proposed, using funds instead to fund transportation in the budget.

Additionally, the Senate proposal does not include the governor’s idea to move to lifetime licenses for teachers and administrators (page 487, #16), but instead specifies that provisional three-year licenses would be granted for new educators, administrators, and pupil services professionals, with a lifetime license granted after the completion of six semesters of successful experience. Modify the funding and position authority in the bill by 5.0 PR positions and $359,700 PR in 2017-18 and $610,600 PR in 2018- 19 to reflect DPI estimates of workload reductions under the proposal. Continue to require DPI to conduct the background checks on behalf of MPS, independent charter schools, and other school districts, as under current law.

The Senate budget also calls on the DPI to ease the licensure process in a few ways. By January 1, 2018, the DPI would have to submit a rule revising PI 34. The new rule must maintain a high standard of quality for teachers and simplify the licensure system as much as practicable, including the following: (a) simplify the grade levels licensees can teach and adopt broadfield subject licenses; (b) enable school districts to increase the number of teachers by offering internships and residency opportunities; (c) simplify out-of-state licensure reciprocity; and (d) expand pathways for existing licensees to fill high needs or shortage areas. The State Superintendent would also be required, by rule, to create a permit that allows a person enrolled in an educator preparation program to work in a school district as part of an internship, residency program, or equivalent program.

The Senate proposal also increases the score needed on a civics exam to graduate and changes parameters of Teach for America grants to increase funding and shift responsibility to the Department of Workforce Development, among other things (page 643).

By the Issue
More Campus Speech Legislation.
AB 440 would create requirements and prohibitions regarding free speech at the University of Wisconsin and technical college systems. The bill declares 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 imposes requirements throughout both systems, including the campuses are open to any speaker who is invited by students or faculty and that administrators must remain neutral on public policy controversies. It was referred to the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities.

Voucher Accountability Bill, Including Requiring Background Checks for First Time, Signed.
SB293 was signed by the governor today. The bill, supported by State Superintendent Tony Evers, expands accountability provisions for voucher schools and makes technical changes. The bill expands the DPI’s authority to remove schools from the program, for the first time requires background checks for voucher school staff, and fixes the special needs voucher funding flaw that unfairly hurt public school students. It also removes the ineffective law allowing voucher schools to monitor their own accountability standard. Current enrollment and income caps are maintained in the bill – although there’s talk that a budget bill may tinker with one or both of them.