SIGNED INTO LAW
State Budget (Act 58). Governor Tony Evers’ original budget included measures to better support students and public schools, but the Republican-led Joint Finance Committee presented him with stripped budget proposal. The governor signed the Republican-proposed budget with significant partial vetoes and a commitment to provide more COVID federal funds to schools, which he has done.
Voucher Enrollment Deadlines (Act 56). Extends the DPI authority through October 31, 2021 to waive some state rules, including some deadlines for participating in voucher programs. ✅
Holocaust Education (Act 30). This incorporates the Holocaust and other genocides into the state model social studies standards. WEAC registered in support. ✅
CESA Employees (Act 144). The bill allows CESA employees to choose to be paid over 12 months. WEAC was the only group to register support. ✅
Virtual Charter School Attendance (Act 18). Allows a student to attend a fully virtual charter school offered by a nonresident school board or charter school during the 2021-22 school year. 🚫
COVID Plan (AB-1). Includes an array measures to address the pandemic. Provisions impacting public schools include a requirement for a two-thirds vote by school boards to provide virtual lieu of in-person instruction between January 11-June 30, 2022. The vote to extend virtual instruction would have to occur every 14 days; provide flexibility for rehiring retirees in critical positions; prohibiting employers from requiring vaccinations and providing immunity for schools and other entities from civil liability. 🚫 Read more about it here.
Expanding Vouchers, Open Enrollment (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. 🚫
Posting Learning Materials Online (SB 463/AB 488). Would require school boards to post online information on learning materials used in pupil instruction. The learning materials would be required to be organized by subject area, grade level and teacher. Districts wouldn’t have to post teachers’ lesson plans under an amendment to the bill, though the materials covered would include syllabi, outlines and handouts. 🚫
Preventing Honesty in Teaching: K-12 Schools. (SB411/AB411). Would prevent educators 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. 🚫
Athletic Participation by Virtual Charter Students (SB 39/AB 62). Would allow students in virtual charter schools to participate in athletics and other extracurricular activities in their resident school districts. 🚫
Minor Work Hours (SB 332). Would expand permissible work hours for minors under the age of 16. 🚫
The following bills failed to pass during the session:
Gender Identify Opt Out (SB 598 / AB 562) This bill would allow parents to opt out of classroom discussions that reference LGBTQ+ issues. 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.The Assembly Education Committee has held a public hearing. The companion bill was referred to the Senate Education Committee.
Civics 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 passed the bill.
Cursive Writing (AB 435 / SB 431). This 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 Assembly Committee on State Affairs will hold a public hearing on the bill September 22 and the bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee.
Preventing Honesty in Teaching: Higher Education. (SB409/AB413). Would prevent educators 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 the bill to allow politicians, not the educators who know students’ names, to determine what and how to teach. Referred to Senate Universities and Technical Colleges Committee and Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee. 👎🏻
Transgender Athletic Participation (AB 195 / SB 323 & AB 196 / SB 322). These bills would limit transgender athletic participation. The bills affecting college students were referred to the Assembly Committee on Human Services, Children and Families & Senate Committee on Human Services, Children and Families (the Senate has conducted a public hearing). The bills affecting K-12 students were referred to the Assembly Human Services, Children and Families Committee & the Senate Committee on Human Services, Children and Families (which has held a public hearing on the bill). 👎🏻 Learn more.
African American History (AB 273). Requires model K-12 curriculum on African American history. 👍🏿 There is no companion Senate bill.
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. Public hearing held by the Assembly Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, referred to Senate Government Operations, Legal Review and Consumer Protection Committee. 👎🏼
LBGTQ+ Task Force (SB 443 / AB 467). This would create a task force to study the legal and societal barriers to equality for transgender, intersex, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming individuals. Referred to Senate Government Operations, Legal Review and Consumer Protection Committee and Assembly Organization Committee. 👍🏿
Indigenous People’s Day (AB 705 / SB 704). This would change the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. 👍🏿
Armed Police in Certain Schools (AB 969). Would mandate armed police in certain schools, using federal school pandemic relief funds. This bill would force the Madison and Milwaukee school districts to employ armed school resource officers. WEAC fundamentally believes decisions that so directly impact students and staff should be made by a locally elected school board and that lawmakers should be focused on supporting families in these districts instead of spending funds intended for learning, meals and safety measures on armed officers. 👎🏼
Withholding Funding for Virtual Schools (AB 964). Would punish districts for remote learning during the pandemic. Our students don’t need punishment. They need support.
Restrict School Board from Closing Buildings (SB 6). Would place new restriction on school boards’ ability to close buildings and mandate a requirement for full-time, in-person options for all students. Passed out of Human Services, Children and Families Committee. 👎🏼
September 11 Observance (SB 398 / AB 405). Adds September 11 to the list of observance days in schools. Referred to Assembly Education Committee, passed by Senate Government Operations, Legal Review and Consumer Protection Committee. 👍
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 & Assembly education committees.
Breastfeeding (SB 493 / AB 476). Requires employers to provide break time and accommodation for a breastfeeding employee to express breast milk. Referred to Senate Labor and Regulatory Reform Committee and Assembly Labor and Integrated Employment Committee. 👍🏽
REPORTS, TESTING & REGULATIONS
Additional K-2 Reading Assessments (AB 446 / SB-454). The Senate Education Committee held a public hearing October 6 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 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 Assembly hearing and read this related story. A public hearing has already been held in the Assembly.
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. Passed Senate, public hearing 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. Passed Senate, Referred to Assembly Education Committee.
Pandemic Funds for Mental Health (AB 564). This bill would require all state agencies submitting a federal report on spending of federal pandemic funds to submit a copy to the Joint Finance Committee and post the report online. It also requires 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 and DPI would be required to submit reports to the JFC on the amount of federal funds received by the DPI and schools, descriptions of how the funds were spent and the funds that remain unspent. Those reports would be required to be posted online, as well. Referred to Assembly Committee on Mental Health.
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. Passed by Senate & Assembly.
DPI School Expenditure Portal (SB 373). Requires the DPI to maintain an expenditure portal on its website, with the items to be included recommended by a committee. Referred to Senate Education Committee.
Appointment of State Superintendent (SJR 78). This Senate Joint Resolution would take away the right of voters to elect the State Superintendent and other statewide positions, instead creating a system where the governor would nominate an individual before the Senate had authority to approve or deny the appointment.
Two bills on rehiring retired teachers are circulating in the Legislature, one introduced by democrats and the other by republicans. The bills would allow a WRS teacher annuitant to return to work as a substitute teacher and continue to receive his or her annuity. The only difference between the two bills is the date of expiration.
Rehiring annuitant teachers (SB 793). This is one of two bills on rehiring retired teachers that are circulating in the Legislature, one introduced by democrats and the other by republicans. The bills would allow a WRS teacher annuitant to return to work as a substitute teacher and continue to receive his or her annuity. The only difference between the two bills is the date of expiration. 👍🏿