Education Advocacy Update: June 18

Budget passes out of Joint Finance Committee. The Joint Finance Committee has completed its work on the 2019-2021 state budget. The Assembly is expected to vote on the budget bill next week.

Assembly Education Committee meets. The Assembly Education Committee has passed two teacher licensing bills.

  • Special Education Licensure (AB 194). This bill is almost identical to one that was circulated a couple of years back. This makes exceptions for particular license area, special education, which could open the door to more carving out of exceptions in specific licensing areas and lowers the standard for special education teachers, those teachers who serve Wisconsin’s most intellectually vulnerable population. Specifically, this bill allows the Department of Public Instruction to issue an initial license as a special education teacher to an individual who successfully completes a course in the teaching of reading and reading comprehension, provided the individual satisfies all other requirements for licensure by DPI. Current law requires, as a condition for receiving an initial license to teach in special education, that an individual passes an examination identical to the Foundations of Reading test.

  • Out-of-State Teacher License Reciprocity (AB 195). This would change the way a person who has been educated and licensed to teach out of state can become licensed to teach in the state of Wisconsin. This bill would continue to allow a person who is educated and licensed out of state to begin teaching in Wisconsin with a 1 Year License with Stipulations. After two successful semesters, that person would then be eligible for a License Based on Reciprocity. Furthermore, this bill would move the License Based on Reciprocity to a Tier II Provisional License. 

The Committee held public hearings on two bills:

  • Supplemental state aid for consolidated school districts (AB 223). This creates a new aid program for certain consolidated school districts. To be eligible, the consolidation must take effect on or after July 1, 2020, and the consolidated school district’s maximum allowable levy rate must be greater than the lowest levy rate of the school districts that were consolidated to create the school district (underlying school districts). If the criteria is satisfied, in the first school year following the consolidation, the consolidated school district would be entitled to aid in an amount equal to the consolidated school district’s equalized value multiplied by the difference between the maximum allowable levy rate of the consolidated school district and the lowest levy rate of the underlying school districts (base aid amount). In the second school year, the consolidated school district would be entitled to aid in an amount equal to 80 percent of the base aid amount. The amount of the aid would be reduced by 20 percent each year for six years.
  • Shared costs and secondary cost ceiling for general equalization aids. (AB 224). Under current law, the equalization formula provides three tiers of state support for school districts. The second tier of support is for costs per pupil between $1,000 and the secondary cost ceiling. Under current law, the secondary cost ceiling per pupil is set at 90 percent of the previous school year statewide shared cost per pupil. Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, this bill increases the secondary cost ceiling to 100 percent of the previous school year statewide shared cost per pupil. A school district’s shared cost is one of the factors used to calculate a school district’s equalization aid.

Generally, under current law, a school district’s shared cost is the sum of the school district’s expenditures from its general fund and its debt service fund. Under this bill, beginning in the 2020-21 school year, expenditures from either a school district’s general fund or debt service fund that are authorized by an operating or capital referendum held after the date on which this bill becomes law are excluded from the school district’s shared cost if the school district is a negative tertiary school district. A school district is a negative tertiary school district if its equalized valuation exceeds the tertiary guaranteed valuation per member. In other words, under the bill, a negative tertiary school district will not lose equalization aid for operating and capital expenditures that exceed the tertiary guarantee and are funded by referenda approved after this bill becomes law.

Two GOP senators have concerns on JFC budget. Sen. David Craig, R-West Bend, said the budget process is going in the “wrong direction for taxpayers” and said it was unlikely leaders would be able to persuade him to support the budget amid spending increases. Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, is also voicing concerns over the budget. With a 19-14 majority in the Senate, Republicans can only lose two members and still pass the budget without Dem help. Over the last week, Nass has expressed issues with the capital budget JFC approved, fee increases for transportation and the size of the structural deficit.

The budget needs to pass both the Assembly and Senate before it gets to Evers, who is armed with one of the most powerful gubernatorial veto pens in the nation. Wisconsin law allows the governor to veto not just entire items but also individual words in the text of bills.

JFC tax cuts. The Joint Finance Committee OK’d more than $500 in tax cuts, including reducing the rate for the second lowest income tax bracket. The cut of $321.5 million over the two-year period would push the bracket rate, now at 5.84 percent, to 5.21 percent. The GOP motion also would pump another $58.6 million in general purpose revenue into the funding for the lottery tax credit to reduce property taxes.

The full Assembly met on the following bills:

  • AB-051 Teacher Loans. The minority teacher loan program.
  • AB-053 Pupil Records. Pupil records.
  • AB-054 School Drills. Fire, tornado, and school safety drills for public and private schools.
  • AB-067 School Report Information. Information on the school district and school accountability report.
  • AB-110 Dyslexia Guidebook. Developing a guidebook related to dyslexia and related conditions.