WEAC Legislative Update – January 31

The Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding will hold a public hearing Friday, February 2, with invited testimony from representatives of Milwaukee Public Schools and, the Southeast Wisconsin Schools Alliance and School Choice Wisconsin.

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.

Usurp local control on workplace standards. The Senate Committee on Labor voted to approve SB 634 / AB 748. The bill 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.

Grants to schools for public safety training. The Assembly Committee on Workforce Development held 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.

Common School Funds. A public hearing was held on Senate Bill 713, whose companion bill AB 857 I mentioned last week. The bill would eliminate 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.

  • In a nutshell, the requirement that schools spend Common School Fund monies on instructional materials, library books or school library computers/software would be eliminated under this bill, and any items purchased would no longer have to be located in the school library.
  • Since the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands would no longer make loans, the interest from those loans – which now goes into the Common School Fund – would be gone. Over the past 10 years, the loan program invested over $1 billion in Wisconsin, and the interest earnings are a key source of revenue for the Common School Fund.
  • The bill would for the first time allow SWIB to invest state trust fund dollars using their typical investment strategy, instead of only investing in fixed accounts. It’s estimated if this approach were active during the financial crash of 2008, a loss up to $290 million would have occurred and school libraries would have been left in the dark.

 

Tech grants for apprenticeship training programs. The Senate Workforce Development Committee held a public hearing on SB 682, which creates a grant program under which the Technical College System Board may 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. These grants may be awarded only to assist students in paying materials expenses associated with the apprenticeship training program, including costs of purchasing tools, clothing, equipment, and supplies. The TCS Board must establish an application process and criteria for awarding these grants, which criteria must consider the financial need and anticipated or actual expenses of the applicant. The TCS Board may award grants totaling up to $50,000 per academic year. The companion bill, AB 808, is up for a vote in an Assembly committee Thursday.

 

UW Merit Scholarships related to environmental programs at Stevens Point campus. The Assembly Committee on Government Accountability and Oversight passed 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.

Thursday:

Annual School Reports. The Assembly Education Committee will hold a public hearing on AB569, which 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. The Senate has already passed the companion bill, SB-494.

Excluding capital improvements from shared cost in some districts. The Assembly Education Committee will hold a public hearing on AB 803. In this bill, expenditures from either a school district’s general fund or debt service fund that are authorized by a capital referendum are excluded from the school district’s shared cost if the school district is a negative tertiary school district. In other words, under the bill, a negative tertiary school district will not lose equalization aid for capital expenditures that exceed the tertiary guarantee and are funded by referenda. The bill protects 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 approve capital projects. There is currently no companion bill in the Senate.

Just introduced:

Teen dating violence prevention education. SB734 was introduced and referred to the Senate Education Committee. The companion bill is AB831.

Career and technical education incentive grants for school districts. SB746 would create career and technical education incentive grants for school districts and completion awards for students. The bill was sent to the Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Military Affairs and Senior Issues.