Legislative Update – December 22 – Bill would end Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave coverage

Ending Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave coverage. The Assembly has introduced AB772, a companion bill to Senate bill 490, which would end the right to use paid sick leave while on family leave to care for a child after birth or adoption, and has many other negative impacts. The bill, which does not have a companion in the Assembly at this time, was referred to Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform. Email the bill’s sponsors.

The Senate Education Committee has passed the following bills:

  • Nutrition Education. SB159/AB215 requires 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. Current law requires school boards to provide instruction about the vitamin content of food and food and health values of dairy products. The bill also requires a nutrition education component be incorporated into the health education credit requirement to receive a high school diploma. View Bill History
  • Pupil Exam Information. AB300/SB222 requires school boards beginning next school year to annually provide information about mandatory pupil examinations to parents and guardians.
  • Testing Opt-Out. SB234/AB304 excuses 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.
  • Notification of school construction projects. SB427/AB510 requires 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 must provide notice at least two months prior to the start date.
  • Robotics league participation grants. SB483/AB564 expands eligibility for robotics grants to include sixth- through eighth-grade teams.
  • School Report Cards and Takeovers. SB494/AB569 requires the Department of Public Instruction to publish its annual school and school district accountability report by November 30. 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.
  • Availability of state practice tests. SB536/AB488 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. Under current law, DPI must allow a person to view a knowledge and concepts examination if the person submits a written request within 90 days after the examination is administered. The bill also repeals the chapter of the administrative code that DPI promulgated to implement current law.
  • Extended absences and IEPs. SB556/AB700 requires 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. Under current law, a child who has been evaluated and determined to be a child with a disability may be eligible for certain special education and related services. The bill also requires 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.
  • Apprenticeship program. WI AB 745/ WI SB 628 allows a high school senior to begin an apprenticeship program during the student’s senior year of high school. Under current law, 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.

Other Legislative Updates:

Child labor permits. A bill allowing a minor to be employed without a child labor permit by a family
business is closer to the governor’s desk. SB420/AB504 has been recommended for concurrence and referred to the Senate Committee on Rules.

Family & Medical Leave. A proposal by WI democrats Sen. Janice Ringhand and Rep. Sondy Pope would improve WI Family Medical Leave to give workers more flexibility. This legislation would allow people can take off to care for their grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and eligible family members deployed overseas by our military. Currently, the law allows people to take up to eight weeks off to care for their child, spouse, domestic partner or parents. In addition, the threshold requiring employer participation in FMLA would be reduced from 50 employees to 25. The time an employee could take off from work would be up to 12 weeks. Read More. NOTE: This is stark difference from the Republican proposal to end WI FMLA altogether. Read more about that here.

Gifted & Talented vouchers. A proposal claiming to help low-income parents get services for their gifted and talented children is the latest attempt by Wisconsin voucher lobbyists to expand the amount of tax dollars spent on private schools – at the expense of the 90 percent of children who attend public schools. Senator Alberta Darling is proposing the measure, which would pay private school tuition and expenses for 2,000 families who meet requirements set forth. The program would provide $1,000 for each “gifted and talented” student who is already eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches, which means the household’s annual income is at or below $45,510 annually for a family of four.

The proposal is circulating for co-sponsors currently and is a classic attempt to push more privatization under the guise of helping low-income families. After decades of similar voucher expansions, Wisconsinites know measures like this are only the tip of the iceberg and will soon be followed with moves to lift income limits. In fact, it’s model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). If lawmakers are serious about providing services for gifted and talented students – and for all students whatever their abilities – they would provide stable and adequate school funding for public schools instead of siphoning millions from local school districts to pay private school tuition. WEAC opposes the scheme.

Revenue limit exemptions for school energy projects. A bill (LRB-4926) is circulating to allow a school board to raise the school district revenue limit by the amount spent on energy efficiency measures. The popular exemption was nixed as part of the state budget deal earlier this year.

Rural schools: The state has announced two rounds of grants to help rural schools: $18.5 million in sparsity aid that will benefit nearly 150 districts; plus another $15 million available to help districts upgrade technology. But it remains up in the air if progress will be seen before lawmakers adjourn on the governor’s call to pump more money into sparsity aid for the 2018-19 school year. The aid helps districts with up to 745 students and fewer than 10 pupils per square mile. This year’s grants include five new districts that didn’t make the list last year. The technology grants, which were included in the budget, are between $30,000 and $60,000 for the 2018 fiscal year; DOA is accepting applications from rural school districts with 16 or fewer students per square mile until February 2. Meanwhile, Walker again touts his call to up sparsity aid, urging lawmakers to back a standalone bill from Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz, to pump more money into the program. Under the proposal, districts would get $400 per pupil through sparsity aid rather than the current $300. There also would be a second tier in the program for districts with between 746 and 1,000 pupils of $100 per student. The plan mirrors the sparsity aid package Walker included in his budget only to see Assembly Republicans replace it with a plan to boost low-spending school districts by allowing them to collect more in property taxes. Walker vetoed the plan due to his concerns over the impact on property tax bills and then argued for the sparsity aid bill after the budget was signed. Still, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, previously told WisPolitics.com the package won’t clear his house this session, saying the caucus isn’t “going to go back and re-argue all of the battles we had in 2017 in the spring of ’18.” Some GOP lawmakers are still holding out hope something can move, but note the difficult path the bill faces with Vos’ opposition.

Library TEACH grants. The Assembly Committee on Rural Development will vote today on SB491/AB572, which authorizes the Division for Libraries and Technology in the Department of Public Instruction 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. This bill also makes certain public libraries located in rural areas 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. Under the bill, 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.

School board elections. A bill which would change the signature requirement for nomination of candidates to school board in school districts that contain territory lying within a second class city, SB-260 /AB-332, is moving closer to the governor’s desk. This bill permits the annual meeting of a common or union high school district or the school board of a school district to adopt a resolution to reduce the number of signatures required on nomination papers submitted by candidates for school district officer. Currently, a candidate for school district officer in a school district that contains any portion of a second class city must submit nomination papers signed by not less than 100 nor more than 200 electors. This bill permits the number of signatures that must be obtained to be reduced by resolution to not less than 20 and not more than 100 if the school district territory lying within the second class city or cities is less than or equal to 10 percent of the school district’s territory. Read all the changes.

Student loan reimbursements. The Assembly Committee on Rural Development will hold a public hearing today on a bill circulating to reimburse student loan debt for individuals moving into Wisconsin rural counties from out-of-state. The bill, SB614/AB730, would provide student loan reimbursements 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. It’s unsure how much such a program would cost.

Workers comp. The Senate Labor Committee has introduced a bill to impose a fee schedule in Wisconsin’s workers’ compensation program, but it’s getting a chilly reception from legislative leaders. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he doesn’t see a crisis in the state’s workers comp program and sees no demand in his caucus to impose a fee schedule for the medical care injured employees receive.

Vos noted workers comp premiums dropped for the second straight year, which the Department of Workforce Development says will save businesses $170 million. He said that helped raise questions for him on whether a fee schedule was needed. Vos also said he’s not hearing from businesses in his district suggesting changes to the program. Vos’ comments are a second blow this week for those pushing legislation that includes the fee schedule. which was written by an advisory council. But Chair Steve Nass won’t vote it out of committee if it includes a fee schedule, a spokesman for the Whitewater Republican said.  The bill has pitted Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce against various health care groups, such as the Medical Society and Wisconsin Hospital Association. Similar proposals to add a fee schedule have failed to advance the last couple legislative sessions. 

Bilingual-bicultural education. AB 762 This bill provides additional funding to the Department of Public Instruction for bilingual-bicultural education programs in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 fiscal years. In fiscal year 2017-18, it is increased by $4,310,200 for the purpose for which the appropriation is made. In the schedule under section 20.005 (3) of the statutes for the appropriation to the department of public instruction under section 20.255 (2) (cc) of the statutes, the dollar amount for fiscal year 2018-19 is increased by $4,810,200 for the purposes for which the appropriation is made.