Legislative Update – January 25

Education was at the forefront of the governor’s State of the State speech as he laid the groundwork for his reelection bid. He claimed responsibility for increasing public school funding, especially in rural areas, and positioned himself as a champion in a number of other educational areas.

“Rhetoric around public schools is commonplace in campaigns, but we educators know the facts,” said teacher Ron Martin, WEAC President. “The state is spending about 11 percent less on K-12 public education than it did in 2008. Voucher schools receive more state funding per student than public schools. It’s time for policymakers to involve educators in solutions for long-term support of public schools instead of using our students as election-year gimmicks.”

More coverage of the education-related items in the State of the State speech

Legislative Schedule: Senate Leadership has told its members they will be in session on Tuesday, February 20.  That is the only day the Senate plans to have a floor session, at this time.  The State of the Tribes is scheduled for Tuesday, February 13 at 1 pm.

Legislative Developments: Elections Commissioners yesterday have voted 4-2 to keep Michael Haas on through April 30 to cover the upcoming spring election and give the board time to find a permanent replacement. The two clerks appointed to the commission — one nominated by each party — joined the two Dem appointees in supporting the move, while the GOP members were opposed.

But Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told reporters yesterday after the State of the State address he wasn’t sure why the committee didn’t deadlock on that vote.

Bills moving in the Legislature:

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.

Supplemental aid for school districts with a large area. AB 477 / SB-685 provides supplemental aid for school districts with a large area. The bill is in committee.

County jailers and the WRS. A public hearing was held on Tuesday, January 9 for AB 676 / SB 577, which would classify county jailers as protective occupation participants under the Wisconsin Retirement System and under the Municipal Employment Relations Act. While the bill would likely not have a cost impact on the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, there is insufficient knowledge as to whether this bill would increase or decrease county costs. Fiscal estimate

Senate Action:

Nutrition Education. SB159 /AB-215, which would require 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.

Annual School Reports. SB-494 /AB569 was passed by the Senate. It 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.

Teach grants for libraries. The Assembly passed AB572 / SB491, 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.

Worker’s Compensation CouncilAB 308 was passed. The bill would change the composition of the Worker’s Compensation Council to limit the number of members from organized labor.

College Credit Transfers. The Assembly Colleges & Universities Committee passed SB-407, concerning transfer policies for college credit earned by high school pupils.

UW Merit Scholarships related to environmental programs at Stevens Point campus. SB 700, passed by the Senate, 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.

Committee Notices:

Firearm Possession at School. A public hearing will be held Tuesday on SB-402, regarding suspending and expelling a pupil for possession of a firearm at school.