December 1, 2020

Assembly Republicans Announce COVID Package

Assembly Republicans Announce COVID Package Featured Image
After hundreds of days of inaction during the surging pandemic, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Assembly Republicans say they have developed a plan. This comes on the heels weeks ago of the governor’s latest proposal to help Wisconsinites struggling to cope and stay safe.

The so-called pandemic plan includes provisions that would impact public schools, including:

  • Penalizing school districts that hold classes virtually by fining them over $371 per student and giving that payout to individual parents of students who have had at least 50 percent virtual instruction since September.
  • Limit school boards from provide virtual instruction to pupils in lieu of in-person instruction between January 11, 2021 – June 30, 2022, unless there is a two-thirds vote of the board. Any such approval would be valid for 14 days, and each extension may not be for more than 14 days.
  • Require school boards to ensure that all hours of direct pupil instruction are provided by a teacher who is physically located in a school building, beginning on January 31 and ending on the last day of the 2020-21 school term. The only time instruction could be provided by a teacher who is not physically in a school building is if the teacher submits a written exemption from a licensed physician. The exception would not apply 60 days after a vaccine for COVID-19 is widely available.
  • Authorizes additional payments to special needs voucher schools if an eligible pupil was not included in the 3rd Friday count because there was not an IEP  in place, but does have a plan in place by January 8.
  • Create immunity until the end of the school year for individuals and schools from certain civil liability for claims related to COVID-19. In addition, this would create an exemption for the death of, or injury to, an individual related to the exposure or possible exposure to COVID-19 while on school grounds, attending a school event/activity, or during transport to or from school grounds or a school event/activity for school districts and any officer, official, employee, or agent of public and private schools. The immunity would be in addition to, and not in lieu of, any immunity currently available.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous to think it’d be a good idea to punish schools at a time like this,” WEAC President Ron Martin said. “Public schools are feeding students. We’re providing computers and WIFI, so students stay on track. We’re working around the clock to make learning happen. Leave it to a lifetime politician to come up with something this harmful.”

Read the Legislative Memo

Other Provisions Included:

  • Re-establish personal electronic computing device grants for schools ($9 million), with schools that used CARES funds to purchase technology ineligible for those grants.
  • Make changes to open enrollment so districts cannot deny applications from parents who file in “best interest of students.”
  • Require districts to file statewide reports on virtual instruction, as was required for the 2019-20 school year.
  • Provide guidelines for state employees to return to work.
  • Reauthorize state employee transfers.
  • Establish limited liability for schools, businesses and local governments.
  • Require UW System to provide credit to students who assist in the COVID-19 response.
  • Create of a $100 million fund to respond to the public health emergency.
  • Double the number of local public health staff working on the COVID-19 response.
  • Offer weekly rapid antigen tests for home use.
  • Continue the prohibition of co-payments for any COVID-19 tests.
  • Establish legislative oversight of vaccine distribution plan.
  • Allow for an essential family member/caregiver to visit a loved one in nursing homes in specific circumstances.
  • Allow health service providers from other states to practice in Wisconsin
  • Create of business grants for the hospitality industry.
  • Require the Department of Workforce Development to eliminate the backlog of unemployment insurance claims.

The proposal also includes statutory changes to affect the distribution of certain COVID-19 vaccines.