September 19, 2021

Education Advocacy Update

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Bills We’re Watching

Gender Identify Opt Out (AB 562) Republicans have fast-tracked this bill to allow parents to opt out of classroom discussions that reference LGBTQ+ issues. A public hearing was held a day after the bill 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. Read more, watch a short video & share our Facebook post. The Assembly Education Committee has held a public hearing. There is no companion bill in the Senate.

Civic Education (AB 563). 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 held a public hearing.

Cursive Writing (SB 431 / AB 435). on a bill that would require each school board to include cursive writing into elementary grades by including the measure in the state model English language arts standards. The Senate Education Committee and Assembly Committee on State Affairs have held public hearings.

Additional K-2 Reading Assessments (AB 446). The Assembly Education Committee has held a public hearing on a bill to require school boards to assess our youngest learners three times a year and to create a personal reading plan for K-2 students who score below the 25th percentile based on a screening assessment, calling for additional testing to identify those students. The bill does not indicate how additional assessments would be funded and draws questions – including from the Department of Public Instruction – as to how more testing will improve literacy and provide educators with necessary funding and tools to conduct increased interventions. The DPI added that the majority of federal funds, including reading teachers paid with funds from Title 1, cannot be used to comply with the language of the bill. Watch a short video from the hearing and read this related story. A public hearing has been held.

Human Growth Instruction (AB-560 / SB 555). Would require a school board that provides a human growth and development instructional program to include an explanation of the process under current law for a parent of a newborn to relinquish custody to emergency services or a hospital. The Assembly Education Committee has held a public hearing.

School Board Reporting (AB-561 ) Requiring school boards to report information regarding credit recovery courses. The Assembly Education Committee has held a public hearing.

DPI School Expenditure Portal (SB 373 / AB 378). Requires 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 and the Assembly Government Accountability and Oversight Committee has passed the measure.

Reading Test License (LRB-4524) This bill changes the Foundations of Reading test licensure requirement to allow an applicant to pass an examination identical to the most recent edition of the FORT. Memo

Preventing Employers from Providing Honest Training about Racial, Gender Equity (SB 410 / AB 414). This would prohibit state and local entities from providing employees with honest training relating to racial or gender issues. Among the concepts that would be prohibited are that one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex and that an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for acts committed in the past by other individuals of the same race or sex. The bill requires most entities to post training materials online and would withhold state funds from entities in violation. Passed by the Assembly Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, referred to Senate Government Operations, Legal Review and Consumer Protection Committee.

Raising Tobacco Age to 21 (SB 355). The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety will hold a public hearing Thursday, September 9 on a bill to raise the legal age for sale, purchase and possession of cigarettes and nicotine and tobacco products, along with providing a legal age for sale, purchase and possession of vapor products. A public hearing has been held.

Circulating for Co-Sponsorship

State Aid Payments for Students Transferring Schools. This proposal for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years would allow students to transfer between schools requiring face masks and those that do not, or between schools requiring COVID-19 vaccines and those that do not.

Under the bill, if a pupil meets transfer requirements, a payment deducted from the school district from which the student transfers must be paid to the new school. The payment amount ranges from $8,161to $13,013 depending on whether the child has special needs and whether the school the student is transferring to is private school, which is prorated if the transfer occurs after the third Friday count.

The bill specifies that, if the pupil transfers after the third Friday in September, DPI must prorate the applicable per pupil amount.  The bill requires DPI to reduce state aid or certain other amounts otherwise payable to the public or private school from which the pupil transfers by the per pupil amount DPI pays to the transferee school on behalf of the pupil. The bill also sets rules about membership in an interscholastic athletic association, to allow transferring students to participate in sports if they tranfer under this measure.