Legislative Update: October 17

Update October 21:

Governor calls special session of the Legislature starting Nov. 7. Governor Tony Evers has issued an executive order for the session, calling on lawmakers to take up “red-flag” law legislation and a bill to create universal background checks. The governor can’t force lawmakers to vote on the bills, but said it is critical that Wisconsin be responsive to the mounting calls for action to curb gun violence.

Governor sets Congressional District 7 election.

  • Nomination Papers due: December 2, 2019.
  • Special Primary, February 18, 2020.
  • Special Election, May 12, 2020.

Senate Education Committee votes Today. The Senate Committee on Education was meeting today, Thursday, October 17, to vote on:

  • Timing of equalization aid payments to school districts. (SB 415 / AB 461). Under current law, the Department of Public Instruction pays equalization aid to school districts for each school year in the following four installments: 15 percent in September, 25 percent in December, 25 percent in March, and 35 percent in June. This bill increases the percentage of equalization aid distributed in September by 2 points each school year, and decreases the percentage of equalization aid distributed in June by 2 points each school year, until the 2023-24 school year, at which time the amount of equalization aid distributed in both September and June will be 25 percent. The result is that equalization aid will be paid to school districts in four equal installments beginning in the 2023-24 school year.
  • 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 194). 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.

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

Governor’s Veto Take-Away (SJR 59). The Senate Committee on Insurance, Financial Services, Government Oversight and Courts held a public hearing on a bill to prohibit the governor from using the partial veto to increase state expenditures. In the last budget, Gov. Tony Evers used his veto powers to raise an additional $65 million in K-12 education spending by increasing state aid for individual students by $63 a year. The resolution must first pass two legislative sessions and be approved in a statewide referendum before taking effect.

Circulating for Co-Sponsoring

  • UPSTART Early Education Program (LRB-3590). This would establish an early education pilot program called UPSTART, which is used in some other states. Under the three-year program ($500,000 a year), the DPI will select three urban and three rural school districts to participate, and only children who qualify for free and reduced lunch would be eligible. The bill also would require the provider who won the contract for the pilot to contribute $500,000 of its own money over the course of the pilot. In introducing the bill for co-sponsorship, authors Jeremy Thiesfeldt and Alberta Darling cited standardized test scores for the reason to establish this program, noting in their memo “60% of Wisconsin students are not even proficient in reading or math. Wisconsin’s achievement gap between white and minority students continues to be one of the highest in the country.” WEAC is currently analyzing the proposed program in other states.
  • Reading Readiness (LRB-4298 Memo). Assessments to evaluate reading readiness. 
  • Teacher Grants (LRB-3034 Memo). Grants for teachers who receive certain credentials in advanced structured literacy and making an appropriation. 
  • Teacher Prep Requirements (LRB-3816 Memo). Requirements for teacher preparatory programs in this state, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, and requiring the exercise of rule-making authority. Deadline: Wednesday, October 23
  • Reading Test Scores (LRB-3840 Memo). Publishing Foundations of Reading test scores. 
  • Pupils with Dyslexia (LRB-4140 Memo). Programs to identify and address pupils with dyslexia in public schools. 
  • Dyslexia Training (LRB-3839 Memo). Requiring an online dyslexia awareness training for school district employees. 
  • Dyslexia Specialist (LRB-4568 Memo). Requiring each cooperative educational service agency to employ a dyslexia specialist. 

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