September 27, 2023

Legislators Circulating “Whole Child, Whole School” Bills

Legislators Circulating “Whole Child, Whole School” Bills Featured Image

Seven bill drafts are part of legislative Democrats’ Working for Wisconsin: Investing in Our Kids’ Education Initiative

Democrats in the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly are circulating seven bills intended to address a spectrum of issues that impact students’ learning experience.

Legislators have proposed three sets of bills under the banner of the Working for Wisconsin: Investing in Our Kid’s Education Initiative. WEAC leaders contributed to this process through numerous conversations and exchanges with legislators and in public forums over the years.

WEAC President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen says WEAC welcomes the three packages of bills, and praises legislators for taking a broader, more inclusive view of children’s learning, and acknowledging the work that public school educators do every day throughout Wisconsin.

The package includes bills that address gender, disability and identity discrimination in voucher schools, allowing retired educators to participate in the retirement system if they return to the classroom, special education, nursing and four-year-old kindergarten funding, race-based school mascots, and increased staffing at DPI.

“Teachers, support staff and parents continue to do everything we possibly can so students are successful, supported and safe,” Wirtz-Olsen said. “Ask any educator, in any school district.”

The bills’ descriptions with the numbers assigned to them by the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau:

LRB 4281: Rehiring retired annuitant participation in WRS (2021 SB 701)

LRB 4195: Disability, gender, identity discrimination protection in voucher-receiving
● Under current law, an individual may not be denied admission to a public school or be denied participation in, denied the benefits of, or discriminated against in curricular or extracurricular programs, services, or activities because of the individual’s sex, race, religion, national origin, ancestry, creed, pregnancy, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, or physical, mental, emotional, or learning disability. This bill extends this pupil anti-discrimination law to also apply to private schools participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the Racine Parental Choice Program, the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, or the Special Needs Scholarship Program. Current law requires each school board to develop written policies and procedures to implement the pupil anti-discrimination law, which must include a complaint process for violations of the law. Under the bill, the governing body of a private school participating in a parental choice program or the SNSP must develop similar policies and procedures. Under current law, if a public school official, employee, or teacher intentionally engages in conduct which discriminates against a pupil or causes a pupil to be denied rights, benefits, or privileges, in violation of the law, the Department of Public Instruction may assess a forfeiture of up to $1,000. Under the bill, DPI may also assess a forfeiture against a private school official, employee, or teacher who engages in such conduct.

LRB 4187: Special ed funding reimbursement to 90%
● This bill changes the rate at which the state reimburses school boards, operators of independent charter schools, cooperative educational service agencies (CESAs), and county children with disabilities education boards (CCDEBs) for costs incurred to provide special education and related services to children with disabilities and for school age parents programs (eligible costs). Under current law, the state reimburses the full cost of special education for children in hospitals and convalescent homes for orthopedically disabled children. After those costs are paid, the state reimburses remaining eligible costs from the amount remaining in the appropriation account at a rate that distributes the full amount appropriated. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that, in the 2023-24 school year, the reimbursement rate will
be 33.3 percent.
● The bill changes the appropriation to a sum sufficient and provides that, beginning in the 2023-24 school year, after full payment of hospital and convalescent home costs, the remaining costs are reimbursed at 90 percent of eligible costs.

LRB 4193: Removing race-based school mascots and nicknames
● Mirroring the Governor’s budget recommendations on page 497, this bill restores the law as it existed prior to the enactment of 2013 Wisconsin Act 115 governing the use of race-based nicknames, logos, mascots, and team names by school boards and authorizes the Department of Public Instruction to award a grant to a school board that terminates the use of a race-based nickname, logo, mascot, or team name that is associated with a federally recognized American Indian tribe or American Indians.

LRB 4013: SD Rev Limit adjustment for school nurses (2019 AB 460)

LRB 4192: 4k FTE count
● This bill changes how a pupil enrolled in a four-year-old kindergarten is counted by a school district for purposes of state aid and revenue limits. Under current law, a pupil enrolled in a four-year-old kindergarten program is counted as 0.5 pupils unless the program provides at least 87.5 additional hours of outreach activities, in which case the pupil is counted as 0.6 pupils. Under the bill, beginning with state aid paid in the 2024-25 school year and revenue limits calculated for the 2024-25 school year, if the four-year-old kindergarten program requires full-day attendance by pupils for five days a week, a pupil enrolled in the program is counted as one pupil.

LRB 4194: DPI Department support +10 licensing staff allocations
● Under current law, school districts must ensure that every teacher, supervisor, administrator, and professional staff member holds a certificate, license, or permit to teach issued by the Department of Public Instruction before beginning such a position. Additionally, under current law, independent charter schools must ensure that all instructional staff hold a license or permit to teach issued by DPI. While a license issued by DPI is not required to teach in a private school, DPI also issues licenses to teach to teachers in private schools. Under current law, DPI is also responsible for licensing related to public library personnel. This bill increases the number of positions for DPI by 10.0 positions in fiscal year 2023-24 and provides funding for those positions in fiscal years 2023-24 and 2024-25. The new positions are for licensing school and public library personnel.