Education Advocacy Update
Bill Mandates Federal Funding be Used for Mental Health Grants
The Assembly Committee on Mental Health has held a public hearing on a bill (AB 564) that would require all state agencies to post online and submit a copy of their reports on how federal pandemic relief funding to the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. The bill would also require the governor to allocate at least $100,000,000 of federal American Rescue Plan 2021 funds to the DPI for mental health grants to public schools, privately run charters and private schools. The governor’s office has said he’s already allocated all of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act funds, but some programs have not yet been announced. The bill currently lacks a Senate co-sponsor.
Bill Preventing Honesty in Teaching Advances Assembly Panel
A Republican-led Assembly committee has advanced a bill (AB 411) that would prohibit public schools from teaching students and training employees about concepts such as systemic racism and implicit bias. The measure began circulating in the state Legislature this summer amid a nationwide push among conservatives to ban the teaching of critical race theory, which argues that racism is an inherent feature of the nation’s social structures and policies.
Opponents of the bill, including WEAC, have criticized the measure as an attempt to strip local control from school districts and one that completely misinterprets the concept of critical race theory, which focuses on social and racial inequality in U.S. law and institutions.
While the bill could come before the Republican-led Legislature as soon as next week, it’s almost certain to be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
Hearing to Prevent Honesty in Teaching at College Includes Invite-Only Speakers from Far-Right
A Senate committee has held an invite-only hearing on “critical race theory,” highlighting testimony from several far-right funded outfits.
There are three Senate Bills 409, 410 and 411 – with companion Assembly bills – designed to prevent school districts and universities from providing age-appropriate, honest and complete history in K-12 schools. The bill is part of a national push against educators teaching honestly about our society in a historical context, including systemic racial inequality and how people have organized and created coalitions across race, class and gender. WEAC is opposed to these bills that would allow politicians, not the educators who know students’ names, to determine what and how to teach. The bills also prevent state employees from being required to attend anti-racism training.
Gender Identify Opt Out Withdrawn from Consideration – For Now
A bill that Republicans fast-tracked to allow parents to opt out of classroom discussions that reference LGBTQ+ issues was withdrawn from the agenda just before consideration by the Assembly, putting the item on hold for now. This bill (AB 562) received a public hearing a day after it was introduced. The bill would require schools to notify parents if they provide any programming related to sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or gender expression. Schools would also have to provide parents the ability to opt their child out of the program.
Civics Education Bill Advances
The Assembly Education Committee has passed a bill (AB 563) that would require model curriculum for grades K-12 that includes teaching a sense of civic pride and a “desire to participate regularly with government” at all levels. The bill specifies that the social studies credits required to graduate must include one-half credit of civics instruction. In part, the curriculum would need to assist students in developing civic-minded expectations of “an upright and desirable citizenry that recognizes and accepts responsibility for preserving and defending the benefits of liberty inherited from previous generations and secured by the U.S. Constitution.” The Assembly Education Committee has passed the bill.
Posting Learning Materials Online
The Assembly Education Committee passed a bill (SB 463/AB 488)that would require school boards to post online information on learning materials used in pupil instruction.
The Assembly Committee on State Affairs passed a bill (AB 435) that would require cursive writing to be incorporated into the model academic standards for English language arts. The bill also requires all school boards, privately run charter schools and voucher schools include cursive writing in elementary grades with the objective that pupils be able to write legibly in cursive by the end of fifth grade. The companion bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.
DPI School Expenditure Portal
The Assembly Government Accountability and Oversight Committee passed AB 378, that would require the DPI to maintain an expenditure portal on its website, with the items to be included recommended by a committee. A public hearing has been held by the Senate Education Committee.