October 24, 2023

Ed Advocacy Update: Committees Took Up Several Bills on October 26

Ed Advocacy Update: Committees Took Up Several Bills on October 26 Featured Image

Committees Took Up Several Bills on October 26
– Assembly Colleges & Universities Committee to take up ban on race-based financial aid.
– Assembly Education Committee to take up Native American school bills, indoor air quality, administrators without DPI licenses & a school psychologist loan program.

Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee
Eliminating Race-Based Criteria for College Scholarships, Grants & Loans (AB 554). WEAC is speaking out against a fast-tracked Assembly bill that would end the use of race-based criteria for all state-funded financial aid programs, instead making them available to all students with financial need. The bill is up for a public hearing by the Assembly Colleges & Universities Committee on October 26, just days after it was introduced. There is currently no companion bill in the Senate, and the governor has signaled he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk. See WEAC.org article for more information and e-mail the members of the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee to tell them not to erect more barriers for students of color and public schools.

Assembly Education Committee
The committee is set to vote on the following bill:
Hiring School District Administrators Not Licensed by DPI (AB 342 / SB 335). This bill would allow school boards to employ a school district administrator not licensed by the DPI.

Public hearings will be held on the following bills:

Indoor Air Quality (AB 434 / SB 444). This bill requires the Department of Health Services to establish an indoor air quality inspection and evaluation program for public school buildings used by pupils. Among requirements of the bill, DHS may perform random inspections of a public school building used by pupils, must respond to complaints about the air quality and post inspection results including known potential health consequences of any problems identified with air quality in the building and any identified potential sources of air quality issues. Results must also be reported to the complainant and at an open meeting of the school board. The DHS would be required to assist the school in developing a reasonable plan to address any air quality issues.

School Psychologist Loan Program (AB 234 / SB 241). This bill would create a school psychologist loan program for students pursuing a school psychologist career. Eligible students could receive a loan of up to $10,000 annually for up to three years and 25 percent of the loan would be forgiven for each school year the recipient is employed as a school psychologist in an urbanized county or rural area.

American Indian Studies Package
– Incorporates American Indian studies into model academic standards, with the state superintendent working in partnership with the Wisconsin Indian Education Association. (AB 209 / SB 198)
– Explicitly address an American Indian student’s right to wear traditional tribal regalia at a graduation ceremony or school-sponsored event. (AB 210 / SB 199)
– Requires school districts to report the numbers, ages and tribal affiliation of American Indian children attending the schools of the school district. (AB 212 / SB 201)
– Provides an option for a federally recognized American Indian tribe or band to decide whether each applicant for a lifetime license is qualified to receive the lifetime license. (AB 214 / SB 203)

Bills We’re Watching:

In addition to a package of bills introduced by Democrats as the “Tenant Protection Package” and continuation of childcare affordability bills, including some educator workforce measures, dozens of others are on our radar. Last week, WEAC collaborated with our partners to oppose two bills, one banning transgender youth from participating in women’s’ sports teams and the other penalizing doctors who provide gender-affirming care. We gave a thumbs up to a bill that would require voucher school accountability and to another to increase public school special ed reimbursements to 90 percent. We’re giving a thumbs down to a package of Republican bills designed to push a false narrative about public schools and libraries – a tragic effort to attack public education for purely political purposes. More on all of that below.

Local Voter Approval of Voucher Funding (AB 516 / SB 503). This bill would require school district voters to pass a referendum approving the use of taxpayer funding for private school vouchers before the amount is siphoned from a local school district. Currently, voters have no say in the system that sends tax dollars intended for public schools to private voucher schools. This bill would only apply to Racine and statewide voucher systems.

Special Ed Reimbursement (AB 527 / SB 506). This bill would change the special ed reimbursement rate to 90 percent, rather than the 33.3 percent rate for 2023-24.


Circulating for Co-Sponsorship:

Anti-Book Banning. Would prohibit government or government-funded institutions from banning books, ensuring that citizens have unrestricted access to diverse literary materials. A similar law has been successfully enacted in Illinois, setting a noteworthy precedent that reinforces a commitment to upholding constitutional rights.
Remote proctoring of certain pupil assessments. Would allow the Forward Exam to be administered through remote proctoring has a remote proctoring policy that meets certain requirements.
Initial License for K-5 Teacher, Reading Teacher, Reading Specialist. Under current law, an applicant for certain initial teaching licenses, as a condition for receiving the license, must pass an examination identical to the Foundations of Reading test, commonly called the FORT, in addition to all other requirements for licensure by the Department of Public Instruction. Current law also provides an exception to the FORT requirement for an applicant for a special education initial teaching license, under which the applicant may demonstrate to DPI that the applicant completed a course of study in the teaching of reading and reading comprehension, rather than passing the FORT. This bill extends the exception currently available to applicants for all licenses to which the FORT requirement applies. Under current law and the bill, a teacher who passes the FORT exam must notify DPI and DPI must add a notation to the teacher’s license indicating that the teacher passed the FORT.
License to teach based on working as a paraprofessional in a school district. This would require the DPI to issue a provisional license to teach to an individual who has worked as a paraprofessional for at least three days per week for at least one school year in a classroom and is recommended by administrators. The individual could only teach in that school district and must be mentored by a teacher who has taught for at least three years in the district. A lifetime license would be issued after six semesters of teaching.
Licensed Based Equivalency. This bill addresses this teaching license pathway that was removed by the DPI in 2022. This bill would not change any element of the previous program but would put the program into law rather than under the DPI’s scope. Requirements for this license were 1) a bachelor’s degree; 2) six semesters of teaching experience, which may include experience in a public school, private school, postsecondary institution, or industry setting; and 3) completion of a standards-based assessment program approved by DPI and an assessment approved by DPI of the individual’s knowledge, skills, and disposition. Finally, the bill specifies that an individual who obtains a provisional teaching license under this pathway is eligible for a lifetime license if the individual successfully completes six semesters of teaching experience under the license.
Textbook, curricula & instructional materials inspection. This would require districts to fulfill a request by any school district resident to inspect items within 14 days. Current law allows this practice, but this bill puts a deadline on when materials must be made available for inspection. The bill defines “curriculum” as a curriculum plan adopted by a school board to comply with state law and defines “instructional material” as any course content or resource included in a curriculum. The bill also requires districts to post a list all adopted textbooks on their websites, and states it doesn’t limit anything available under open records law. The co-sponsorship memos reads, “In school districts across the state, there are parents that feel as though their public schools are teaching things contrary to fact… The purpose is to appease parents that want to ensure that their children are being taught fact not fiction, while also taking teachers out of the firing line.”
Parent notification for library materials. This bill requires public libraries to develop and implement a policy under which the custodial parent or guardian of a child who is under the age of 16 is notified of each document or material the child checks out from a public library as soon as is practicable, but no later than 24 hours after the checkout. Under current law, parents can request notification, but this would require notification for all patrons under 16. This legislation also requires a school board to annually notify parents and guardians of pupils enrolled in the school district of whether or not the school board provides pupils access to Badger Link. The co-sponsorship memo says, “Rep. Dittrich has had multiple constituents reach out to her regarding children in her district allowing kids to check books out they do not approve of… As the focus on literacy strengthens, parents could be even more involved.”

The Department of Public Instruction has released the 2023-24 General School Aids. The release includes the certified general school aid amounts for each school district, the 2023-24 student enrollment numbers for independent charter schools and voucher schools. Of 421 districts, 247 (59 percent) will receive more aid than last year; 168 (40 percent) will receive less.” See 2023-24 Certification – General Aid Summary.