February 2, 2024

Ed Advocacy Update: Tell the Senate Committee Not to Leave Students of Color Behind

Ed Advocacy Update: Tell the Senate Committee Not to Leave Students of Color Behind Featured Image

Action Alert: Contact Senate Committee Considering End to Minority Teacher Loans

The Senate Colleges and Universities Committee has held a hearing on a bill (SB 596) to end the Minority Teacher Loan Program and all race-based criteria for state-funded programs. The loan program helps educators of color complete teaching degrees, so students have more educators who look like them. The Assembly has already passed the companion bill. The governor has signaled he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

WEAC is opposed to the bill, with WEAC President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen saying, “Students need and deserve to have a diverse representation of teachers and education support professionals throughout their academic careers. It takes intention and resources to build a diverse staff in every school.”

Email the Senate Committee

Assembly Education Committee OKs Bills Requiring Cursive, Civics

The Assembly Ed Committee has passed two bills requiring:

  • Cursive writing to be taught in elementary grades;
  • Civics education to be included in elementary and high school

In addition, the committee passed AB-919 to provide funding for the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, which provides resources for educators and students.

The committee has also held public hearings on:

  • AB 977: Teaching human trafficking prevention and teacher training to identify victims;
  • AB 984: A pilot school-centered mental health program in four schools;
  • AB 1005: A change to student-teaching requirements; and
  • AB 1017: Releasing funding under the new reading law, Act 20

More on AB 1017: This bill releases ACT 20 funding to the DPI, beginning the implantation process on the various portions of the bill. Read more about the bill and download our explainer.

Several groups are trying to secure a trailer bill to change the requirement that the new reading screener must be implemented at the start of next school year – since the DPI projects that it will announce the screener in August. Districts won’t have time to train educators, test technology or break contracts with existing providers in time for school to start. The trailer being sought would allow districts to phase in the new screener, instead of mandating its use in 2024-25.

GOP 4K Kindergarten Plan Introduced

WEAC has several concerns about this bill (SB 973 / AB 1035). Initial analysis indicates this would have serious implications for public school funding and would result in some of our youngest learners receiving instruction from childcare staff who are not licensed teachers nor employed by school districts. Further, the bill can be equated with a voucher program for childcare centers, as money from public schools would be siphoned to private childcare centers. It should be noted that public school 4K is currently funded by the state at 50 percent.

Act 20 Reading Law Funding Considered

A public hearing was held on AB 1017, a bill to release ACT 20 funding to the DPI, beginning the implementation process on the various portions of the bill. Read more about the new law and download our explainer.

Hearing Held on Bill Requiring Legislature to Sign Off of Spending Federal Funds

The Senate Colleges and Universities Committee has also held a hearing on the GOP proposal requiring the Legislature to sign off on the use of federal funds, usurping the current authority of the governor to expend the funds. The amendment is up for its second consideration and was designed after Republican leaders expressed dissatisfaction over how Governor Evers spent COVID-19 funds, including funding to public schools to keep students learning.

Childhood Obesity Bill Package

The Assembly Committee on Health, Aging and Long-Term Care has held public hearings on several bills stemming from the Assembly Speaker’s Task Force on Childhood Obesity. One of the bills of particular concern for education stakeholders would mandate hours of activity for students.

More Bills We’re Watching

  • SB 754: Passed by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety. It would change the prohibition on carrying a firearm on school grounds in cases where private schools are located in places of worship. So, if a worship center has a written policy allowing guns, they could receive an exemption from the ban. Note this affects private schools only.
  • SB 367: Guaranteeing admission to the top 5 or 10 percent of high school graduates to a UW institution has passed a Senate committee. It would require schools to use GPA ranking to select the students. The Assembly has passed the bill but would need to take action given a Senate amendment.
  • AB 914: Allowing schools to stock inhalers for medical emergencies has passed in the Assembly. The bill would provide some liability protections for schools that choose to stock them.
  • AB 442: Ending work permit requirements for 14- and 15-year-olds was passed out of committee. WEAC is opposed.
  • AB-889: Expanding prohibition of using cell phones (except emergencies/hands-free) to school zones during school hours or whenever a child is Passed out of the Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety.