Legislative Update: October 11

The Cap Times headline: When life gives you lemons, 🍋 give yourself unlimited veto override power. The media outlet reports the Assembly’s move to take unlimited attempts to override a veto by the governor left a sour taste in the mouths of Democrats. Read more here.

This Just In: The governor has announced the 2019 Capitol Christmas Tree theme. It’s CELEBRATE SCIENCE.

Senate Education Committee to take key votes Thursday. The Senate Committee on Education will meet Thursday, October 17, to vote on:

  • Character Education (AB 149 / SB 138). This 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 is authorized to make these grants for 24 months. The Assembly Education Committee has not yet taken up the bill.
  • Special Education Licensure (AB 164 / SB 183). 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. Passed Assembly.
  • Kindergarten Enrollment Counts (SB 408 / AB 465). This bill changes how a pupil enrolled in a four-year-old kindergarten is counted by a school district for purposes of state aid and revenue limits. Under current law, a pupil enrolled in a four-year-old kindergarten program is counted as 0.5 pupil unless the program provides at least 87.5 additional hours of outreach activities, in which case the pupil is counted as 0.6 pupil. Under the bill, if the four-year-old kindergarten program requires full-day attendance by pupils for five days a week, a pupil enrolled in the program is counted as one pupil.
  • Feasibility studies for consolidation or grade sharing (SB 409 / AB 456). This would require the Department of Public Instruction to award grants of up to $10,000 each to consortia of school districts to be used for a professional financial analysis of how school district consolidation or entering into a whole grade sharing agreement would affect the school districts.
  • 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.
  • Shared Services (SB 413 / AB 441). This bill creates a categorical aid for a school district that enters into an agreement to share administrative personnel services with other school districts or a local unit of government. To be eligible for the aid, the school district must pass a resolution approving participation in the shared services aid program. The amount of aid a school district receives under the shared services aid program is based on the administrative positions that are shared under the agreement.
  • Dyslexia Guidebook (AB 110). This bill would create a panel to develop a Dyslexia guidebook for schools. The bill outlines the composition of the development team, including one member who represents the largest statewide labor organizationrepresenting teachers and is a classroom teacher at an elementary school.

The Senate met Tuesday, advancing the minority teacher loan program, a bill expanding the information schools can release as ‘directory data,’ one about school emergency drills, and a proposal on out-of-state teacher license reciprocity.

  • Minority Teacher Loan 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. Already passed Assembly.
  • Pupil Records (SB57 AB53). Expands 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. Local school districts retain the right to determine what is considered directory data, choosing to include all, some or none of the categories.
  • 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. Passed Assembly, companion bill referred to Senate Education Committee.
  • Out-of-State Teacher License Reciprocity (AB 195 / SB 184). 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. Already passed Assembly.
  • 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.”
  • 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. 
  • Human Trafficking (AB22 / SB 25)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.

To contact your elected officials on any of these issues, use the “Find Your Legislators” link at www.weac.org/take-action.

Assembly Met Thursday
The state Assembly has sent several bills to Governor Tony Evers’ desk, including one that would allow minors to operate temporary stands without a license. The Assembly also sent the guv a bill that would require municipalities and Marquette University to continue paying the health insurance premiums of the surviving spouse or children of a law enforcement officer who dies in the line of duty. Another headed to the governor would extend the life of two tax incremental districts by 10 years to 37. The Assembly also approved 87-9 a resolution expressing support for basing F-35 fighter jets at the Air National Guard Base in Madison. All nine members who voted against the resolution were Democrats, including Melissa Sargent and Chris Taylor, of Madison. Fellow Madison Democrat Sheila Stubbs supported the resolution, which cleared the Senate via voice vote on Tuesday. 

“Blue Ribbon” bills
The Senate and Assembly Committees on Education held a joint public hearing last week on a series of bills created as a result of the Legislature’s Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding. The bills were generally supported, but it’s not certain if they will move in committee or how they would be funding. The proposals were part of the governor’s original 2019-21 budget bill but pulled out of the proposal by the Republican legislative majority. WEAC has not taken a formal position on the bills, having no opposition to the proposals.

It’s a key time to contact your elected officials on the bills, so click here to see the full slate of bills and email the Senate and Education committees. 

Legislative Democrats announce priorities
Wisconsin legislative Democrats have announced their legislative priorities for the remainder of the 2019-20 legislative session. Their agenda, called “Forward Together.” Included in their priorities are:

  • Increase special education funding
  • Fair funding for rural schools
  • Expand access to early child education and full day 4K
  • Make college affordable
  • Address student local debt
  • Strengthen workforce development programs at technical colleges
  • Replace lead pipes
  • Raise the minimum wage
  • Increase access to affordable child care
  • Broaden paid family leave options
  • Ensure equal pay for equal work
  • Secure retirement

Bills Introduced:

Suicide Prevention

Grants for peer-to-peer programs (SB 498 / AB 525). The bill was referred to the Senate Education Committee. This bill:

  1. Requires the Department of Public Instruction to establish a competitive grant program to award grants up to $1,000 (with renewals for up to three additional years) to support peer-to-peer suicide prevention programs in public, private, and tribal high schools.
  2. Awards grants to support an existing peer-to-peer suicide prevention program or to implement a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program at a high school. However, for the purposes of awarding grants, the bill requires DPI to give a preference to applications to implement peer-to-peer suicide prevention programs.
  3. Each high school for which a grant is awarded, DPI may award the governing body of the high school up to $1,000. The bill further specifies that DPI may renew a grant for an individual school for up to three additional school years.

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. 

Voucher Changes

SB 495 has no companion bill in the Assembly. The bill was referred to the Senate Education Committee.This bill makes the following changes to parental choice programs:

  1. Under current law, a private school may accept applications from pupils to attend the private school under the statewide parental choice program for the following school year from February 1 to April 20. The bill changes the application period to begin on the first weekday in February and end on the third Thursday in April.
  2. Under current law, a private school that receives applications from pupils for the statewide parental choice program must, no later than the May 1 immediately following the application period, report the number of applicants to the Department of Public Instruction so that DPI may determine whether a pupil participation limitation has been exceeded. The bill changes that reporting deadline to the first
    weekday in May.
  3. Under current law, a private school participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the Racine Parental Choice Program, or the statewide parental choice program must annually provide DPI with evidence that the private school remains accredited for the current school year, including a letter from an accrediting entity that confirms that the private school is accredited by that entity as of the date
    of the letter. The bill requires that a private school must submit a “notice” from an accrediting entity, rather than a “letter.”

Revenue Limit Adjustments for Energy Efficiency (SB 494). Eliminates the restriction that a school board must have passed a resolutionbefore January 1, 2018, and makes the energy efficiency revenue limit adjustment available to a school board that adopts a resolution to use the revenue limit adjustment on or after date on which the bill becomes law. There are several other changes, which you can view here.

Retirement Security 
On the heels of Governor Tony Evers’ appointment of State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski to lead the Wisconsin Retirement Security Task Force, the Legislative Reference Bureau has released, “Retirement Security in Wisconsin.” 

American Indian Studies
With the start of a new school year, WEAC President Ron “Duff” Martin has been a frequent guest in member classrooms to share Native American history and stories. Additionally, the governor proclaimed one day as Indigenous People’s Day in Wisconsin. It’s a good reminder to check out a series of bills that were introduced earlier this session:

  • American Indian Studies (AB-105).Model academic standards for American Indian studies.
  • American Indian Instruction (AB-106). Informational materials related to a school board’s obligations to provide instruction on American Indians.
  • American Indian Studies (AB-107). The American Indian studies requirement for teacher licensure.
  • Private School American Indian Instruction (AB-108). Requires private schools participating in a parental choice program and independent charter schools to provide instruction in American Indian history, culture, and tribal sovereignty.
  • American Indian Instruction (AB-109). Requires instruction in American Indian studies in the elementary and high school grades.

Quick Reads

Legislation easing transferring college, tech school credits passes Assembly

Find all the bills we’re watching at www.weac.org/bills