Legislative Update – April 19

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will again take up a case about the independent authority of the elected state superintendent. The Court is responding to a lawsuit from the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) over the DPI’s independent rule-making authority. State Superintendent Tony Evers won a case affirming his independent authority in a 5-2 ruling back in 2016, with conservatives in the majority on the bench. “Educators are scratching their heads at this latest move by the far-right to play by different rules than our Constitution calls for,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, a middle school social studies teacher. Read more.

School Funding Commission Public Hearing is Monday in Oshkosh
Details for the next public hearing for a school funding commission created by the Legislature have been announced:

  • Monday, April 23, 2-6 p.m., CESA 6, 2300 Highway 44, Oshkosh. Invited testimony will be heard, and then the public may make comment. The time limit for comments is five minutes each.

Other hearings are set:

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

Bills signed into law
The governor has signed a slew of bills, including the child tax rebate and sales tax holiday. Check out the status of the bills we are watching at www.weac.org/bills.

Here’s a list of recently-signed bills:

School board elections. Changes 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. Act 321

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

Availability of state practice tests. 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

Usurp local control on workplace standards. 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

Merit Scholarships. Provides merit scholarships for UW-Stevens Point students. Act 314

College Credit in High School. Excludes certain college credit in high school programs from the Early College Credit Program. Act 307

Career and Tech Ed Grants. Provides career and technical education incentive grants for school districts and completion awards for pupils and makes an appropriation. Act 336

Robotics League Grants. Extends robotics league participation grants to middle schools. Act 315

Funding-Related Bills That Passed This Session
It’s hard to keep track of everything that passed in the long Legislative session that has just concluded. That’s why WEAC is providing a wrap-up of various bills that passed, and didn’t, in various areas impacting public education. Here’s a round-up on funding-related bills:

PASSED

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

DID NOT PASS

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 eliminating 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.