May 11, 2021

Education Advocacy Update: Assembly, Senate Take Up Bills We’re Watching

Education Advocacy Update: Assembly, Senate Take Up Bills We’re Watching Featured Image

The Assembly and Senate met May 11, taking up a number of bills we’re watching. The Joint Finance Committee met May 13.

Senate Floor Session

The Senate passed several bills we’re watching, including:

  • School Report Cards (SB-235 / AB-216). This bill requires DPI, for purposes of measuring a school district’s improvement, to exclude data derived from students who were in state care for half the year or more. A public hearing has been held by Assembly Committee on Corrections.
  • Child abuse and neglect reporting hotline (SB-238 / AB-222). This requires information on the child abuse and neglect reporting hotline to be posted in school buildings.
  • Voucher Enrollment Deadlines. (SB-302 / AB-261). Extends the DPI authority through October 31, 2021 to waive some state rules, including some deadlines for participating in voucher programs. The Assembly Education Committee has passed the bill.

Assembly Floor Session

Assembly Republicans did not attempt to to override Governor Tony Evers’ veto of bills that would restrict cautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, as it was unlikely they would have the two-thirds vote needed to do so.

The Assembly passed the following bill we’re watching:

  • Open Enrollment and Vouchers (SB-41/AB-59). Increases the income eligibility for the statewide voucher program to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, allows a pupil to submit full-time open enrollment applications to an unlimited number of nonresident school districts, and prohibits a resident school district from denying an open enrollment application if the basis for the application is that it is in the best interests of the pupil. The companion bill has passed the Senate Education Committee.

Joint Finance Committee
The Joint Finance Committee meets again on Thursday to take up the following parts of the 2021-23 state budget:
  • Board of Commissioners of Public Lands
  • Veterans Affairs
  • Educational Communications Board
  • Historical Society
  • Financial Institutions
  • Lieutenant Governor
  • Employment Relations Commission
  • Revenue – Department-wide

Signed into Law :

Holocaust Education (Act 30). This incorporates the Holocaust and other genocides into the state model social studies standards. WEAC registered in support.

Bills We’re Watching:

  • Timing of School Aid (SB-177 / AB-162) Changes the timing of equalization aid payments to school districts.  Passed by Senate Education Committee and Assembly Committee on State Affairs.
  • School Start Date (SB-182 / AB-188) Allows schools to start prior to September 1st without a waiver.
  • Transportation to Private Schools (SB-221 / AB-160). This requires Milwaukee Public Schools to pay parents who had a contract to transport their children to private schools in 2019-20 the same payment for the 2020-21 school year and allows MPS to claim state transportation aid for those payments. Passed by Senate Education Committee. The Assembly Education Committee will vote on the bill Tuesday, May 11.
  • Educational Options (SB-231 / AB-220). Specifies that the youth apprenticeship program administered by the Department of Workforce Development must be included in the list of educational options that a school provides. The Assembly Workforce Development Committee will hold a public hearing Wednesday, May 12.
  • Circulating for Co-Sponsorship:
  • School Finance (LRB-1968) Requires the DPI to maintain an expenditure portal on its website, with the items to be included recommended by a committee. Memo

In Case You Missed It:

Panel Removes Hundreds of Items from Budget Proposal

The Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee has removed a provision that would have allowed educators to negotiate with our employers, along with hundreds of other items, from the governor’s proposed 2021-23 state budget. See all items removed.


Republican leaders on the JFC released a memo listing the nearly 400 proposals the committee wouldn’t consider a day after the conclusion of public hearings on the budget, and before the deadline for Wisconsinites to submit testimony. The vote to remove the items passed along party lines.

In addition to removing the right for frontline workers including educators to negotiate, the panel removed other items impacting educators and public education, which WEAC supported in the governor’s proposal:

  • A move to address the deteriorating quality of educator health benefits by studying the state’s own employee health insurance program as a solution to save districts’ resources and ensure the financial well-being of educators.
  • Measures to require transparency and accountability from taxpayer-funded voucher schools and privately run charter schools, such as enrollment caps, teacher licensure requirements and information for local taxpayers on how much they pay for private school tuition.

Additionally, provisions to expand BadgerCare, which would have given the state a $1 billion boost in general purpose revenue and covered another 90,000 Wisconsinites. A nonpartisan approach to redistricting was also opposed by Republican leaders, who removed it from the budget.

Joint Finance Committee members Senator Jon Erpenbach, Senator LaTonya Johnson, Representative Evan Goyke and Representative Greta Neubauer offered amendments during debate on the budget bill, speaking passionately about the need to expand Medicaid and empower working families.

Send an email to the Joint Finance Committee, then contact your own representatives in support of Governor Evers’ budget proposal.

The committee will continue to work on the budget it will eventually pass onto the full Assembly and Senate for consideration. After action in those chambers, the budget goes to the governor for vetoes and signature. Generally, the budget process is complete by early July.