Legislative Update – September 20

The Senate and Assembly education committees both met this week, and a “Red Flag Law” proposal began circulating in response to gun violence. To contact your elected officials on any issue, use the “Find Your Legislators” link at www.weac.org/take-action. For more information or to get even more involved, email Christina Brey, WEAC Public Affairs

Red Flag Law. Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul are welcoming a bill circulating by Democrats Representative Melissa Sargent and Senator Lena Taylor to allow police to seize the weapons of an individual identified by a judge to be at extreme risk of being a threat to themselves or others. Evers urged lawmakers to support the red flag law (LRB-4383), adding that if Republicans oppose it he may call a special session. Polls show the majority of Wisconsinites favor the measure. 

The Senate Education Committee will vote Tuesday on two bills for which it held public hearings this week: 

  • School Board Meeting Notice  (SB 160 / AB 170). This changes 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.” 
  • Out-of-State Teacher License Reciprocity  (SB 184 / AB 195). 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.  This bill has already passed in the Assembly.  

This week, the Senate Education Committee also held a public hearing on the following bills: 

  • Character Education  (SB 138 / AB 149). Would authorize the Department of Public Instruction to award grants to  school districts for teachers, pupil service professionals, principals, and school  district administrators to participate in professional development trainings in  character education. Under the bill, DPI would be authorized to make these grants for 24  months. 
     
  • Special Education Licensure  (SB 183 / AB 164). This bill is almost identical to one that was circulated a couple of years back. This makes exceptions for particular license area, which could open the doors 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.  This bill has already passed in the Assembly. 

The Assembly Education Committee has approved the following bill: 

  • 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 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 testified in favor of this bill. The Senate Committee On Universities, Technical Colleges, Children & Families is set to vote on the bill Wednesday, Sept. 25.

The Senate Committee On Universities, Technical Colleges, Children & Families will vote Wednesday on the following bills:

  • 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 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 testified in favor of this bill.
  • Human Trafficking (AB22 / SB25). Establishes industry-specific materials on the recognition and prevention of human trafficking for use in the instruction in driver education courses that provide instruction in the operation of commercial motor vehicles. This will affect new drivers only.
  • Minority Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program. (AB 51/SB 55). Provides for statewide expansion of a program offering loan forgiveness for minority teachers who teach in schools that have at least 40 percent minority students. Right now, only teachers in Milwaukee schools are eligible for the program.

Assembly, Senate Floor Sessions. The state Assembly will be on the floor  Oct. 10 with meeting dates for November yet to be announced. The Senate has asked senators to keep open  Oct. 8  and  Nov. 5 for floor dates. Available for scheduling: 

  • School Report Cards.  (AB 67 / SB 64).  Would require 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.  
  • Safety Drills.  (AB 54 / SB 56) Under this bill, the person having direct charge of the public or private school may provide previous warning of any of these drills if he or she determines  that providing previous warning of the drill is in the best interest of pupils attending  the school. Currently, no advance notice is allowed.  
  • Pupil  Records (SB57 / AB53). Would expand pupil information allowed to be disclosed by a public school to include the names of parents or guardians. Under current law, the information that may be included in “directory data” that may be disclosed to any person (as long as a public school notifies families of the categories of information and informs families an opt out procedure) includes pupil name, address, telephone, date/place of birth, major field of study, activity/sport participation, attendance dates, photographs, weight and height as member of athletic team, degrees/awards, and most recent school attended. School districts may include all, some or none of the categories to designate as directory data. 
  • Free state park admission for fourth graders  (SB 212). This would waive the fee for fourth grade students and their families on an  annual vehicle admission state parks. A family would receive only one annual waiver, should they have more than one child. 
  • Minority Teacher Program. (AB 51/SB 55). Provides for statewide expansion of a program offering loan forgiveness for minority teachers who teach in schools that have at least 40 percent minority students. Right now, only teachers in Milwaukee schools are eligible for the program.