Legislative Update – January 22, 2020

Legislative Update January 22

The governor will deliver his State of the State Address tonight at 7 p.m. Watch it live at www.wiseye.org.  

The Senate has passed several bills we’ve been watching:

  • Seclusion and Restraint (SB-527 / AB-585). This bill would impose additional requirements on schools. It also changes where data on incidents of seclusion or physical restraint is housed to the DPI. The Assembly Education Committee will vote on this bill January 23.
  • Revenue Limit Ceiling (SB-437 / AB-473). This bill would create an exception to the freeze on using the low revenue ceiling adjustment after an operating referendum that failed in the 2018-19 school year if the referendum was for the cost of maintaining a new school and, at the same election, voters rejected a referendum for constructing a new building. The Freedom Area School District is the only one in Wisconsin that meets this criteria.

The Assembly has passed the following bills:

  • School Report Cards. (AB 67 / SB 64). Requires school report cards to include the percentage of pupils participating in music, dance, drama, and visual arts, would be amended to clarify that changes would begin with the 2020-21 school year under an amendment offered by Rep. Joel Kitchens. Under the bill, DPI would include this information for each high school and school district, along with the statewide percentage of participation in each subject. The bill specifies that this information may not be used to evaluate a school or district’s performance. Passed Assembly, currently in Senate Education Committee. 
  • Dyslexia Guidebook (AB-110). This bill provides for development of a guidebook related to dyslexia and related conditions.
  • Suicide Prevention Grants (AB-528).This bill establishes competitive grants to support peer-to-peer suicide prevention programs in high schools.
  • Teacher Prep (AB-232 / SB 230). This bill would allow flexibility for student teaching hours so that aspiring educators could spread the required hours out over a longer period of time. Most students and must work while enrolled in school, so the bill would allow them to continue earning while student teaching. The bill also benefits paraeducators, who could continue their work with students while fulfilling their student teaching responsibilities. WEAC has registered and testified in favor of this bill. The bill has been passed by the Senate Education Committee.
  • School Board Meeting Notice (SB 160 / AB 170). This would change the way that school board meetings can be noticed. Notably, it provides that, “if a school district clerk or, in the clerk’s absence, the school district’s president determines that providing notice at least 24 hours before the meeting is, for good cause shown by the clerk or president, impossible or impractical, the clerk or resident may notify each school board member of the date, time, and place of the meeting less than 24 hours, but not less than 2 hours, before the meeting.” The bill has also passed the Senate and now goes to the governor.
  • Aid for consolidation or grade sharing (SB 412 / AB 442). This would create a categorical aid for school boards that enter into a whole grade sharing agreement and adopt a resolution to consider school district consolidation. Under the bill, the Department of Public Instruction pays an eligible school board an amount equal to $150 per pupil enrolled in a grade included in the whole grade sharing agreement. A school board may not receive this aid for more than five school years. The Senate has not taken up.
  • School-based mental health consultation (SB-608 / AB-644). Would require the Department of Health Services to create and administer a school-based mental health consultation pilot program in Outagamie County to assist participating school-based providers in providing enhanced care to students with mental health care needs, to provide referral support for those students, and to provide additional services.  The Senate has not taken up.
  • School Board Meeting Notice (SB 160 / AB 170). This would change the way that school board meetings can be noticed. Notably, it provides that, “if a school district clerk or, in the clerk’s absence, the school district’s president determines that providing notice at least 24 hours before the meeting is, for good cause shown by the clerk or president, impossible or impractical, the clerk or resident may notify each school board member of the date, time, and place of the meeting less than 24 hours, but not less than 2 hours, before the meeting.” The bill has also passed the Senate and now goes to the governor.
  • Student identification cards. (SB 496). Requires elementary, secondary, and post-secondary educational entities to include suicide prevention information on student identification cards beginning in 2020.  Referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Assembly Education Committee. The committee will vote on these bills:

  • Seclusion and Restraint (SB-527 / AB-585). This bill would impose additional requirements on schools. It also changes where data on incidents of seclusion or physical restraint is housed to the DPI.  The Senate has passed it.
  • Revenue Limit Ceiling (SB-437 / AB-473). This bill would create an exception to the freeze on using the low revenue ceiling adjustment after an operating referendum that failed in the 2018-19 school year if the referendum was for the cost of maintaining a new school and, at the same election, voters rejected a referendum for constructing a new building. The Freedom Area School District is the only one in Wisconsin that meets this criteria.  The Senate Education Committee has passed the bill.
  • Online Learning (SB-595 / AB-662). This would create an online early learning pilot program, with the DPI awarding a three-year contract to a service provider to administer for low-income children who live in three urban school districts and three rural school districts selected by the DPI. The Senate version is in its education committee.

    The committee will also hold public hearings on these bills:
    • New Berlin Open Enrollment. (AB 702). This bill would allow the New Berlin School District to give preference to residents of New Berlin in accepting full-time open enrollment applications.
    • Virtual Schools and Open Enrollment (AB 737). Current law limits the number of nonresident school boards to which parents may apply for a pupil to attend a public school in a nonresident school district under the full-time open enrollment program. Currently, full-time open enrollment applications for a pupil may be submitted to no more than three nonresident school boards in any school year. This bill specifies that an application submitted to a nonresident school board for a pupil to attend a virtual charter school does not count for purposes of this limitation.

Assembly Committee on State Affairs. This panel met on January 22 to take up:

  • Cursive Writing Mandate (AB 459 / SB 414)  A public hearing was held this week on the Senate version of this bill to incorporate cursive writing into the state model English language arts standards and require cursive writing instruction in elementary grades. The Assembly held a hearing on the bill earlier this month, which is estimated to cost $6 million to implement if passed. Executive action taken, passage recommended on a 7-5 committee vote.

Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. This panel met January 22 to vote on:

  • Lead Testing in Schools (SB 423 / AB 476). This bill would require school boards, independent charter schools, and voucher/special needs voucher recipient schools to test water for lead every three years. If lead is found in the water, the school must submit a remediation plan to the DPI. The bill allows a revenue limit exception for remediation of tainted water, and also authorizes loans from the School Trust Fund. SB 424 requires the same testing in recreational and educational camps and child care facilities. The Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities has not yet taken up the companion bill. Executive action taken, the bill was amended and recommended for passage.

Class Size Bill Introduced. Educators know reasonable class sizes allow us to do more for our students, yet every year it seems they keep increasing. Thursday, AB 739 was introduced. It would make class size reduction the primary focus of the Achievement Gap Reduction Program, which replaced the former SAGE program. This bill would eliminate alternative options for school boards to receive AGR funding, and instead, will require class sizes of no more than 18 pupils (or 30 pupils in classes with two teachers). Look for an Action Alert coming soon.