WEAC Education Advocacy: Retirement age bill up for committee vote

Governor Tony Evers has called for a special session on school funding, laying out a plan to invest $250 million in public education while still providing property tax relief. WEAC was on hand along with other public education advocates for the signing of the executive order.
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It’s been a busy week at the Capitol, with the governor calling for a special session on school funding and signing the first of several Dyslexia bills under consideration. Here’s a wrap-up from the Senate Education Committee Friday, and what’s in store for next week – including a committee vote on a bill to raise the teacher retirement age.

Teacher Retirement Age
A Senate committee will vote Tuesday on bill to raise the minimum retirement age for teachers and other public employees in Wisconsin.

Oppose the Bill to Raise Our Retirement Age

SB 612 / AB 670 would raise the minimum retirement age for teachers to 59.5, who can now retire at 55. Under the proposal, retired public employees could work up to 36 months while collecting their pensions. The bill would apply to employees under the age of 40. While the bill would apply to teachers, a primarily female workforce, it would not apply to employees in male-dominated fields of protective services, including police officers, firefighters, most correctional officers and the state patrol.

Senate Education Committee
The Senate Education Committee met Friday, approving the following:

  •  (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 Assembly Education Committee has held a public hearing on the companion bill.
  • Open Enrollment (SB 688 / 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. The Assembly education will vote on the companion bill February 12.

Assembly Education Committee
In addition to the virtual schools and open enrollment bill, the Assembly Education Committee will also vote February 12 on the following bills:

  • Athletic Participation (AB-779 / SB 705). This bill would allow a pupil who attends a virtual charter school to participate in interscholastic athletics and extracurricular activities in the pupil’s resident school district. The bill also provides that school districts are not allowed to be members of an interscholastic athletic association unless the association requires school district members to allow home-schooled pupils and virtual charter school pupils residing in a school district to participate in school district athletics. The Senate version was sent to its Committee on Education.
  • (SB 789 / AB 849). This bill expands the part-time open enrollment program and renames it the course choice program. Under the current part-time open enrollment program, a pupil enrolled in a public school in the high school grades may attend a course at a public school in a nonresident school district. Under the bill, a pupil enrolled in an educational institution, as defined in the bill, in grades one to twelve may attend a course at another educational institution. A pupil may attend no more than a total of two courses at any one time under the current part-time open enrollment program or under the bill’s course choice program. The companion bill is in the Senate Education Committee.

The Assembly Education Committee will hold public hearings February 12 on several bills we’re watching. Testimony will be received on a package of bills relating to American Indian Studies, except for one bill (AB-108) previously introduced as part of the package that would require voucher and privately run charter schools to provide instruction in American Indian history, culture, and tribal sovereignty. The committee will also take up a series of bills related to Dyslexia that were pulled from a previous committee agenda. Among the Dyslexia package, one related bill (AB 601 / SB 552) to require new mandates for Dyslexia awareness training for school personnel is not receiving a public hearing.

Here are the bills set to receive testimony:

American Indian Studies

  • (AB-105). This bill would require the state superintendent, in consultation with the Wisconsin Indian Education Association, Inc., to develop model academic standards for American Indian studies. These standards must address certain historical and contemporary information that pupils are expected to know. At a minimum, this information must include significant events, tribal sovereignty, and culture relating to the federally recognized tribes and bands located in Wisconsin.
  •  (AB-106). This bill would require the DPI to develop informational materials related to current requirements for distribution to school boards annually. The materials would be posted on DPI’s website by September 1 of the school year beginning after the bill takes effect. DPI must update the materials in response to any changes to a school board’s obligation to provide instruction related to American Indians. The bill also requires that school boards annually provide the informational materials to school board members, school district administrators, certain individuals responsible for curriculum or staff development, principals, and social studies teachers.
  •  (AB-107). The American Indian studies requirement for teacher licensure. This bill would modify the current instructional requirement that prior to receiving licensure, a person must receive instruction in minority group relations, including tribal sovereignty of the federal recorgnized American Indian tribes and bands located in Wisconsin. Under this bill, the instructional requirement provides that a teacher license applicant must receive instruction in the culture, tribal sovereignty, and contemporary and historical significant events of the federally recognized American Indian tribes and bands located in Wisconsin.
  •  (AB-109). Requires instruction in American Indian studies in the elementary and high school grades. This bill would require school boards beginning in September 2020, as part of the social studies curriculum, to provide instruction in the culture, tribal sovereignty, and contemporary and historical significant events of the federally recognized American Indian tribes and bands located in Wisconsin at least four times in the elementary grades. The bill specifically requires that the instruction be provided at least once in grades kindergarten to 2, at least once in grades 3 to 5, and at least twice in grades 6 to 8. The bill also requires that such instruction be provided as part of the high school curriculum at least once in each of the high school grades, including at least once as part of the high school social studies curriculum. Current law requires the instruction at least twice in the elementary grades and at least once in high school.

More Dyslexia bills under consideration

  • (AB-603). This bill requires the Department of Public Instruction to annually publish Foundations of Reading test scores DPI receives from the entity that administers the test.
  • (AB 604 SB 571). This bill would require a school board to develop or adopt a program to identify and address pupils with dyslexia. The Senate version is in its Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children and Families.
  • (AB 632 / SB 578). Under this bill, beginning in the 2020-21 school year, each school board and operator of an independent charter school must assess pupils in four-year-old kindergarten through second grade for reading readiness and reading difficulties using an assessment selected by the school board or operator of the independent charter school and a voluntary questionnaire about reading difficulties in a pupil’s family history. The bill further specifies that the assessment selected by the school board or operator of the independent charter school must evaluate whether a pupil possesses age-appropriate skills in phonological and phonemic awareness, rapid automatized naming, letter-word reading, and picture-naming vocabulary. The Senate version is in its Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children and Families.
  • (AB 635 / SB 579). This bill would require, beginning in the 2020-21 school year, the board of control of each cooperative educational service agency (CESA) to employ a dyslexia specialist. The bill defines a dyslexia specialist as an individual who meets specific criteria, including that the individual has at least five years’ experience in screening, identifying, and treating dyslexia and related conditions and that the individual has received advanced training in various topics related to dyslexia and related conditions. The Senate version is in its Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children and Families.

Bills We’re Watching

  • Prohibiting Vaping on School Premise (SB 790). This bill prohibits vaping on school premise. Under the bill, “school premises” is defined as any real property owned by, rented by, or under the control of a school board, operator or governing boards of an independent charter school, or governing body of a private school. “School premises” includes outdoor spaces such as playgrounds and athletic fields. The bill defines vaping as inhaling or exhaling vapor from a vapor product, regardless of whether the liquid or other substance being heated to produce the vapor contains nicotine.