Legislative Update: Republicans strip Evers’ budget of key items

The Joint Finance Committee Thursday killed a plan for $1.4 billion in federal funding that would have helped fund schools, roads and healthcare. The party-line vote to deny full Medicaid expansion was followed by a vote on a huge package of recommended budget provisions that would have increased special education funding and teacher quality measures, plus require transparency and accountability for taxpayer-funded private schools. 

EMAIL THE LEGISLATORS WHO VOTED NO!

“Wisconsin educators and parents have turned out in droves to be clear about our No. 1 priority – our students,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “Our dedication is strong – we will continue to advocate in the best interest of our students for equitable funding for public schools.”

See the interactive map on what Medicaid expansion would mean to your county

Legislative updates:

  • The Senate and Assembly will be in session May 15. The Assembly will act on a series of bills including AB-022, which would require driver education instruction to include information on spotting and reporting human trafficking.
  • Mental health. Governor Tony Evers will proclaim Friday, May 10, Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.
  • The Legislative Audit Bureauhas released a new audit of the UW System. (Full Report, Highlights)

Bills we’re watching:
For a list of all the bills in the Assembly Ed Committee, click here.
For a roundup of all the bills we’re watching, with analysis, click here.

  • Minority Teacher Loan Program AB-051. The Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee has approved this bill.

Bills Circulating for Co-Sponsorship

  • Prohibiting the Investment Board from making investments in firearms companies (LRB-3060/1). While not currently investing directly in the firearm industry, the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) has in the past been a shareholder. Prior to May of 2018, Wisconsin was just one of eleven states that continued to invest in the firearms industry. According to the filing from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission covering state’s holdings as of 12/31/17, SWIB held 400,000 shares, or $5.1 million worth, of American Outdoor Brands Corp. stock (formerly known as Smith & Wesson). 
  • Wisconsin Reading Corps (LRB-2754 Memo). Funding for Wisconsin Reading Corps. Republican legislators are circulating this bill, even though Governor Tony Evers’ proposed budget eliminates former Governor Scott Walker’s “Read to Lead” program (read more here) and funds the Wisconsin Reading Corps at $700,000 a year. 
  • Teacher Appreciation Week (LRB-3201/1). While this is just circulating now – it calls on Wisconsin to recognize this week and the important work of educators.

Legislative Update: May 3

GOP lawmakers are formally taking steps to stop Medicaid expansion and strip out key education provisions from Governor Tony Evers’ budget proposal, including school funding fixes that would result in more tax dollars actually entering our schoolhouse doors instead of being used for property tax reductions. The Medicaid expansion funding would make it possible for Governor Tony Evers to deliver on what Wisconsin voters elected him to do – increase public school funding by $1.4 billion, fix roads and ensure health care. 

The Joint Finance co-chairs have released a memo outlining 131 proposals they plan to pull from the budget when the committee meets May 9, including measures to phase out voucher schools and fix public school funding flaws. In the past, those memos have focused on policy items. But this year’s list includes items with a big fiscal impact such as the Medicaid expansion and minimum markup on gas. Here’s the Wisconsin Public Radio story.

SOME KEY ITEMS TO BE EXCLUDED FROM BUDGET CONSIDERATION:

  • Teacher Prep Time. Guarantees paid preparation time for teachers.
  • Teacher Licensing. Eliminates licenses based on fast-tracked diploma mills.
  • Rehiring Retired Teachers. Allows districts to rehire retired teachers after 30 days. 
  • General School Aids & Revenue Limits. Moves property tax credit funding to general school aids.
  • Private School Tax Deduction. Sunsets private school tuition deduction.
  • Private School Voucher, Privately Run Charters and Open Enrollment. Creates accountability and transparency for, and begins phase-out of, taxpayer-funded private school voucher programs and independent charter schools through a series of measures including capping participation, requiring teacher licensing changes, requiring accreditation and eliminating the Milwaukee city levy. Additionally, changes definition of poverty level for voucher schools and requires information about the cost of vouchers on tax bills. 
  • Student Loans. Creates student loan refinancing study committee.
  • School Safety. Transfers the Office of School Safety from the Department of Justice to the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Lead Testing. Allows revenue limit adjustment for schools to do lead testing and remediation.
  • 4K. Expands 4-year-old kindergarten throughout state.
  • Referendums. Removes limit on number of school district referendums.
  • Driver Education Aid. Provides aid to districts offering driver’s education.
  • Tech College System. Requires a two percent minimum increase in the revenue limit.
  • Teacher Grants. Creates teacher development grants.
  • Medicaid Expansion. Accepts full federal Medicaid funding.
  • Worker’s Comp. Transfers worker’s compensation hearings functions.
  • Equal Rights. Increases minimum wage, repeals right-to-work-for-less, restores prevailing wage, family and medical leave and project labor agreements.
  • Minimum Markup. Repeals the Minimum Markup of Motor Vehicle Fuel.
  • Elections. Modifies automatic voter registration and voting requirements.

$83.5 million in earmarks. There are $83.5 million in earmarks, the largest of which is $29 million to benefit Fincantieri Marinette Marine in the district of JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay. The second largest earmark was $20 million for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Walker appointees. Three Scott Walker appointees to state cabinet positions, temporarily pushed out of their jobs in the legal fight over the lame-duck session, will receive back-pay.

Governor Tony Evers signs first bill into law.The law, banning words such as “retarded” from administrative code, was advanced by Republican legislators after Evers issued an Executive Order to the same effect early in his governorship.

Bills We’re Watching:
For a list of all the bills in the Assembly Ed Committee, click here.
For a roundup of all the bills we’re watching, with analysis, click here.

  • Out-of-State Teacher License Reciprocity. AB 195 would change the way a person who has been educated and licensed to teach out of state can become licensed to teach in the state of Wisconsin. This bill would continue to allow a person who is educated and licensed out of state to begin teaching in Wisconsin with a one Year License with Stipulations.  After two successful semesters, that person would then be eligible for a License Based on Reciprocity. Furthermore, this bill would move the License Based on Reciprocity to a Tier II Provisional License. Referred to Assembly Education Committee.
  • Sparsity AidAB 196 This bill creates a new aid program for certain consolidated school districts. To be eligible for this aid, the consolidation that created the consolidated school district must take effect on or after July 1, 2020, and the consolidated school district’s maximum allowable levy rate must be greater than the lowest levy rate of the school districts that were consolidated to create the school district (underlying school districts). In general, the levy rate of a school district is the total amount of property taxes levied by the school district divided by the school district’s equalized value.
    • If a consolidated school district satisfies the above-described criteria, in the first school year following the consolidation, the consolidated school district is entitled to aid in an amount equal to the consolidated school district’s equalized value multiplied by the difference between the maximum allowable levy rate of the consolidated school district and the lowest levy rate of the underlying school districts (base aid amount). In the second school year following the consolidation, the consolidated school district is entitled to aid in an amount equal to 80 percent of the base aid amount. In the third school year following the consolidation, the consolidated school district is entitled to aid in an amount equal to 60 percent of the base aid amount. The amount of the aid continues to be reduced by 20 percent each school year so that in the sixth school year following the consolidation, the consolidated school district no longer receives this aid.
    • Current law limits the total amount of revenue a school district may receive from general state aids and property taxes in a school year. This limitation is known as a school district’s revenue limit. The new aid provided under the bill is a general state aid for purposes of school district revenue limits. As a result, the new aid reduces the amount of property taxes that the consolidated school district is allowed to levy.

Reminder of what passed out of the Assembly Ed Committee earlier this month:

  • Pupil Records (SB57 AB53). Expands pupil information allowed to be disclosed by a public school to include the names of parents or guardians. Under current law, the information that may be included in “directory data” that may be disclosed to any person (as long as a public school notifies families of the categories of information and informs families an opt out procedure) includes pupil name, address, telephone, date/place of birth, major field of study, activity/sport participation, attendance dates, photographs, weight and height as member of athletic team, degrees/awards, and most recent school attended. School districts may include all, some or none of the categories to designate as directory data. (Action Alert). The Assembly Ed Committee passed the bill on expanding the information that may be included in directory data, on a 10-5 vote. The companion bill is SB 57, and the Senate Ed Committee has not held a hearing on the bill.
  • Safety Drills. (AB 54 / SB56). Under this bill, the person having direct charge of the public or private school may provide previous warning of any of these drills if he or she determines that providing previous warning of the drill is in the best interest of pupils attending 
    the school. Currently, no advance notice is allowed. The bill passed out of committee unanimously, 15-0.
  • School Report Cards. AB 67 / SB 64, which would require school report cards to include the percentage of pupils participating in music, dance, drama, and visual arts to be amended to clarify that changes would begin with the 2020-21 school year under an amendment offered by Rep. Joel Kitchens. Under the bill, DPI would include this information for each high school and school district, along with the statewide percentage of participation in each subject. The bill specifies that this information may not be used to evaluate a school or district’s performance. The bill passed out of committee with a 14-1 vote. 
  • AB 194. Licensing for Special Education Teachers. Currently, special education teachers can have a license with stipulations for three years and then are required to take and pass a FORT examination, which can be costly, time consuming, and has no correlation with transfer of knowledge to children in the classroom. This legislation creates an additional option to the FORT exam that enables special education teachers to earn their professional license. It does not in any way change or eliminate the FORT exam; it simply creates another option. This bill was drafted in response to feedback that candidates for the professional teaching license would rather receive meaningful instruction, coaching, and feedback through rigorous coursework than memorize terms and study guides to pass a standardized test. In addition, there is compelling data which states that receiving feedback from a professor or coach directly transfers to students in the classroom, while testing does not.
    • WEAC analysis shows this bill, which contains technical errors, is almost identical to one that was circulated a couple of years back. This makes exceptions for particular license area, which could open the doors to more carving out of exceptions in specific licensing areas and lowers the standard for special education teachers, those teachers who serve Wisconsin’s most intellectually vulnerable population. 
  • Human Trafficking (AB22)Establishes industry-specific materials on the recognition and prevention of human trafficking for use in the instruction in driver education courses that provide instruction in the operation of commercial motor vehicles. This will affect new drivers only. This bill passed unanimously out of the Committee on Colleges and Universities. 

Circulating for Co-Sponsorship:

  • LRB-3051 & LRB-3128, Energy Efficiency Revenue Limit Exemption
    • These companion bills restore the ability of a school board to adopt a resolution to exceed its revenue limit by the amount spent on energy efficiency projects.

Governor Evers honored as WEAC’s 2019 Friend of Education

Governor Evers, with WEAC President Ron Martin, proudly displays the 2019 WEAC Friend of Education Award.
Governor Evers accepts the 2019 WEAC Friend of Education Award. (Photo by Tammy Erickson.)

Governor Tony Evers was awarded the 2019 WEAC Friend of Education Award at the annual WEAC Representative Assembly on Saturday in Oshkosh. The Governor made a surprise appearance before hundreds of excited delegates and thanked them for their support of him over the years and especially in his campaign for governor.

“Who would have guessed,” Evers said, “a teacher educator, a former WEAC member, would be elected Governor of the State of Wisconsin? I could not have done it without WEAC. I could not have done it without all of you,” the governor said.

“I believe, as you all believe, that what’s best for kids is what’s best for our state. I said that a million times on the campaign trail, and that’s why we won this race.”

In presenting the award, WEAC President Ron Martin said;

“It is with great personal pleasure and pride that I present this year’s Friend of Education Award to a person who has devoted his entire life to the children of Wisconsin and to ensuring that they have the very best public schools they possibly could have. A man who was a teacher and then a principal and then a district administrator – twice – and then became Wisconsin’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction. And who then – as if that wasn’t enough – decided he had to do even more to advance the cause of public education. And he did it. He became governor of the State of Wisconsin!

“Every step along the way, every day of his adult life, Tony Evers has put children first. He has made enormous personal sacrifices to advance the greater good, to help ensure that Wisconsin public schools are strong and that every student gets a quality education and a better opportunity in life.”

In nominating him for the award, National Board Certified Teacher Amy Traynor said Governor Evers has demonstrated over and over again his willingness to involve educators and citizens in education decisions and to listen carefully to them.

“He understands that the people working most closely with students are the ones who should always be part of the conversation,” Amy wrote, continuing: “Governor Evers has worked tirelessly for the last 35 years to enhance and promote public education. And now as governor he is continuing to be a friend of education and a huge advocate for Wisconsin’s kids and families!”

WEAC Representative Assembly delegates take selfies with Governor Evers as he greets them on the RA floor following his acceptance of the 2019 WEAC Friend of Education Award.
The Governor poses with members of the Green Bay Education Association.

President Martin, Vice President Wirtz-Olsen re-elected

WEAC President Ron Martin was elected to a second, three-year term (unopposed) and Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen was also tapped for another three-year term (unopposed). Other elected union members were Nicholas J. Sirek, NEA Director; Amanda Oudenhoven, Alternate NEA Director; Jesse Martinez, Minority Guarantee Representative to the WEAC Board; and Alexandra Agar-Pratt, Alternate Minority Guarantee Representative to the WEAC Board.


New Business Items

Click here for the New Business Items passed by the 2019 WEAC Representative Assembly


WEAC Resolutions

Click here for the 2019-2020 WEAC Resolutions as passed by the 2019 WEAC Representative Assembly


Outline for Moving Forward

Wisconsin Public Schools: Key Factors for Moving Forward was presented to nearly 500 educator-delegates at the annual meeting. This document, created by state officers based on academic research and discussions with WEAC members across the state, covers the restoration of professional status of educators; improvement of school conditions and climate; and establishment of educator attraction and retention policies. The next steps will be to share the solutions with WEAC members across Wisconsin. Read the paper here, and look for opportunities to get involved coming soon.

Investing in Early Career Educators and Professional Development

Supporting Professional Development and Early Career Educators was a key theme from the Representative Assembly’s actions, with the body voting to approve extra investments in educator-led courses and workshops and an affirmation of the place in our union for educators in the early stages of their careers, as well as for future teachers.

More Awards

Other awards presented at the 2019 RA include the following, with President Ron Martin’s description of each winner:

The Tenia Jenkins Activist Award

This year’s recipient of the Tenia Jenkins Activist Award is Regina Pagel, whose involvement in WEAC goes back to her days as a leader of what we then called the Student WEA. Throughout the many years since then, she has repeatedly and continuously demonstrated her deep commitment to students, teachers, education support professionals and the community – both in in Waunakee, where she teaches World Language and has served as president of the local association, and Sun Prairie, where she lives and is heavily involved in local advocacy groups. Gina is active promoting quality public schools and making life better for students through organizations that include the Sun Prairie Action Resource Coalition, an organization called Support Sun Prairie Schools, the Sun Prairie Democratic Action Team, and the Wisconsin Public Education Network. She makes a difference every day in school and in the community. In nominating her for this award, her friend and colleague Jane Weidner said; “Overall, Gina is the embodiment of the ideals recognized through this prestigious award.” Congratulations, Gina!

Education Support Professional Award

This year’s Education Support Professional Award goes to Katherine Hinson, a Special Education Paraprofessional in the Bayfield School District who is known for her compassion for her students, dedication to public schools and the union, hard work and great instincts. In nominating Kathie for this award, Lorie Erickson said she is “the most dedicated paraprofessional I have ever worked with.” … “Every day,” Lori writes, “she goes above and beyond to educate, care for and provide emotional support for some of the most struggling students in our school.” Melissa Giesregen, the Director of Special Services and K-5 Principal, says Kathie “is always one of the first paraprofessionals to recognize when a student is having difficulties and immediately takes action to remedy the situation. The students both respect and adore her.” Congratulations, Kathie!

Richard J. Lewandowski Award

This year’s Richard J. Lewandowski Award for humanitarian activities goes to Kelly O’Keefe Boettcher, an English teacher at Milwaukee’s Rufus King International High School where she is not only a personable, highly effective and extremely popular teacher but someone who has mastered the art of connecting students with the world outside the classroom. Her nominee, fellow educator Michelle Young, says OKB – as Kelly is known by her students – “stimulates rich conversations” with all students “in an ethnic, religious and economically diverse environment.” Kelly works to improve relations between students of different backgrounds in part by guiding student organizations including Jew Crew and Friends of Islam, which work to “educate and fight stereotypes and racial hatreds by encouraging students to become believers in diversity and interfaith equality.” … “OKB,” Michelle continues, “also promotes social equity and justice among African American and Hispanic students by revealing their history, acknowledging discrimination, and engaging them in courageous conversations about open-mindedness and injustice with all groups of students.” Kelly also promotes peace, equity, fairness and justice in the community through media interviews and other activities. As Michelle says, Kelly is “a positive role model for the entire school community and an individual of high-value standards who believes it is her responsibility to be an upstander, not a bystander, for social justice.” Congratulations, Kelly!

President’s Awards

President Martin also awarded several President’s Awards. The recipients were:

Joe Williams, an Ellsworth High School English teacher who has served as vice-chair on the WEAC Governance Documents Committee. He also tri-chaired the Early Career Educator Task Force. Joe was selected by delegates to the NEA RA to serve on the NEA Resolutions Committee.  

Lynn Goss, who has served on the NEA Board of Directors for 7 years. A respected ESP member, she is tapped often by NEA to train other ESP leaders. She has been on the WEAC Board of Directors, serves as Region 1 Treasurer and has a long history of leadership in her local. 

Keri Hetzel, who started her union leadership at UW-La Crosse as the local chapter president and at the same served on the WEAC Region 9 Aspiring Educators of Wisconsin board of directors. She then was selected as the President Elect and this past year led the organization. She is full of energy and ideas.

Gretchen Kubeny, who has served on the GBEA Executive Board and is a building representative. She has served as the vice chair of the WEAC Credentials and Elections Committee for the past three years. She ends her term and time as a member of the Credentials and Elections Committee.  

Deb Bell, who is Region 1 President and on the WEAC Board. She is ending her term and will not run for another term. Deb has served on many committees in her local, region and state, and has been on the WEAC Steering Committee for the NEA RA.

Randy Ebright, who currently serves as the WEAC Region 5 President and serves on the WEAC Board of Directors. During past years, Randy served on the WEAC Board of Directors representing South Central Education Association (SCEA). Randy will be retiring.

Rising Star Awards

WEAC has a Rising Star award for members who are standouts in union activism, and here are our recipients this year:

Casey Silkwood, an Early Career Educator who is a Building Representative from MTEA. She was a Tri-Chair for the Early Career Educator Taskforce and has demonstrated strong leadership and a passion for unionism.

Curtis Kadow, Co-President of the Cudahy Education Association. He participated in the NEA Leadership Summit where he excelled, and continues to become more active in his Local and Region.

WEAC Scholarships

WEAC also awarded scholarships to four children of WEAC members who are planning to pursue careers in education. The winners are:

Kyra is winner of the Kathy Mann Scholarship for minority students.

Cunningham, Dickinson, Watson Staff Award

WEAC Executive Director Bob Baxter presented the 2019 Cunningham, Dickinson, Watson staff awards to WEAC Media Relations Officer Christina Brey and Membership Coordinator Patti Westphal.

Christina Brey

Brey, he said, oversees leadership communications and newsletters across our internal platforms. She also tracks and analyzes legislation, runs WEAC’s alerts and Action Network system, represents WEAC at the Progressive Table, leads national communications and organizing trainings, manages national grant programs, leads member and potential member polling projects and handles all media inquiries.

Westphal, who has been WEAC’s Membership Coordinator for over 30 years, is “reliable, hard-working and conscientious,” Baxter said.

More photos:

Average teacher salary nationwide down 4.5 percent, NEA report finds

Wisconsin’s average teacher salary drops to 33rd in the nation

From the National Education Association

The national average teacher salary, adjusted for inflation, has decreased 4.5 percent over the past decade, according to the annual NEA Rankings and Estimates released Monday.

Wisconsin’s average teacher salary dropped to 33rd in the nation, down from 18th in the nation just seven years ago, according to the report. Wisconsin’s average teacher salary was $51,469 in 2017-18, compared to the national average of $60,477.

The report’s findings underscore why educators from Arizona to California to Texas and beyond have united in a national #RedforEd movement to advocate for the resources and learning conditions that help all students succeed.

“Across the nation educator pay continues to erode, expanding the large pay gap between what teachers earn and what similarly educated and experienced professionals in other fields earn,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Educators don’t do this work to get rich, they do this work because they believe in students. But their pay is not commensurate with the dedication and expertise they bring to the profession.”

NEA also collects data on teacher starting salaries and every year, the data show that starting teacher salaries are too low and, for the last decade, still lower than pre-Recession levels. This year is no different. The 2017-18 average teacher starting salary is $39,249. After adjusting for inflation, beginning teacher salaries have decreased by 2.91 percent in the last decade. Wisconsin’s average starting teacher salary was $38,181, which is 25th in the nation and below the national average.

The states where teachers have lost the most ground include Wisconsin and Michigan, where Scott Walker and Rick Snyder gutted bargaining rights and stripped union protections. Both governors were voted out last election. Teacher pay also has dropped dramatically in Indiana, where lawmakers require school districts to replace objective salary schedules with harmful merit pay systems.

Teachers are paid 21.4% percent less than similarly educated and experienced professionals, according to a recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report, which found that the “teacher pay gap” reached a record high in 2018. This difference between teacher pay and other college-educated professionals’ pay is partly due to the persistent gender gap in wages — across all full-time jobs in the U.S., women earn about 80 percent of men’s salaries. Historically, teaching has been a profession made up mostly of women. Today, 76.6 percent of educators are women.

The report also reveals that 63 percent of reported public school districts still offer a starting salary below $40,000. Nearly 300 districts pay first-year teachers less than $30,000 a year. And it’s not just first-year teachers: in some states, teachers will never earn professional pay. In 1,025 school districts, even the highest paid teachers, most with advanced degrees and decades of experience in the classroom, are paid less than $50,000.

“How can we recruit and retain quality teachers for our students if we don’t pay them what they’re worth?” asked Eskelsen García. “It is time to show respect to those professionals who dedicate their lives to students and building the future of our communities. Professional work deserves professional pay.”

The NEA report provides comparative state data and national averages on a host of important public education statistics, teacher salaries, student enrollment, and revenue and expenditures for the most recent school year.

Highlights from this year’s report and NEA’s salary data:

Teacher Salary

  • The national average teacher salary increased from $59,539 in 2016-17 to $60,477 in 2017-18.
  • Average teacher salaries in 2017-18 ranged from a high of $84,227 in New York to a low of $44,926 in Mississippi.
  • If one does not adjust for inflation, the national average teacher salary has increased by 11.2 percent since 2008-09. However, after adjusting for inflation, the national average teacher salary has decreased by 4.5 percent over the past decade.
  • Sixty-three percent of reported public school districts still offer a starting salary below $40,000.

Expenditure per Student

  • The U.S. average per-student expenditure in 2017‒18, based on fall enrollment, was $12,602. The following states had the highest per-student expenditures: New York ($23,894), District of Columbia ($21,001), and New Jersey ($20,171). Idaho ($6,809), Utah ($7,187), and Arizona ($8,123) had the lowest.
  • In 2018-19, expenditures per student are projected to increase by 2.5 percent to $12,920, up from $12,602 in 2017‒18. This compares with a 2.7 percent increase in total current expenditures.
  • Over the last decade, the average per-student expenditure has risen by 20.6 percent from $10,715 to $12,920. After inflation adjustment, the expenditure per student in enrollment has increased by 3.3 percent. 

School Revenues

  • School funding continues to be state and local oriented. In 2016–17, 47.0 percent of public school revenue came from state funds, while 47.1 percent came from state funds in 2017–18. Local funds contributed similar percentages in both 2016‒17 (45.1 percent) and 2017‒18 (45.4 percent). In those two years, federal funds constituted 7.9 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively, of K-12 education revenue. 

“If we’re serious about every child’s future, let’s get serious about doing what works,” said Eskelsen García. “We cannot recruit and retain the committed, qualified educators that students deserve without making a major investment in raising salaries. In order to ensure that every student has a qualified teacher in the classroom and caring professionals in schools, we must make a better investment in our educators.”

Click the following link for an interactive map showing individual state data and rankings: http://neatoday.org/redfored/#map

Find out more about Wisconsin teacher salaries at weac.org/salaries.

NEA has produced the Rankings and Estimates report for more than 70 years. The complete report can be found at: http://www.nea.org/home/44479.htm

With schools ‘at the tipping point,’ educators ask legislators to ‘do the right thing’ and pass Evers’ budget

As the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee concluded its statewide budget hearings Wednesday in Green Bay, educators continued to encourage legislators to “do the right thing” and support Governor Evers’ budget plan that supports children, public schools and our dedicated teachers and education support professionals.

“Today, I urge you to fully support the components in the governor’s budget designed to improve public education,” said Green Bay special education teacher Justin Delfosse, who is president of the Green Bay Education Association. “That includes the complete package of funding increases, preparation time for teachers, and repeal of online alternative education preparation programs for Wisconsin teacher licensure that do not require any hands-on classroom training.”

Delfosse noted that since the passage of the anti-public education law called ACT 10 in 2011, colleges of education have seen a dramatic decrease of student enrollment in teacher education programs. “This has led to a serious teacher shortage in Wisconsin, particularly in hard-to-fill positions such as special education, ESL, and bilingual,” he said.

“I tell you this because Green Bay Area Public Schools, and schools around Wisconsin are at a tipping point. Wisconsin has neglected funding for public education for too long. Wisconsin has fallen to 33rdin the country in terms of paying teachers.”

Delfosse said that students and their families “depend on us, and we are depending on you to be a part of the solution.”

“The solution,” he said, “includes funding increases outlined in the budget in front of us, and it comes with using some of that funding to restore educator pay so professionals who dedicate themselves to teaching can provide for our families and make this a career instead of a stop along the way to a family-supporting job.

“As a teacher, I go above and beyond for my students,” Delfosse said. “I’m asking you to do your part for all students in Wisconsin because our children deserve this investment.”

In addition to testifying in person when possible, such as Delfosse did, educators, parents and supporters of public education have been sending emails and submitting testimony to the committee in support of Governor Evers’ budget. Brad Klotz, a Lake Mills band teacher, communicated with the committee through a video which he posted to Facebook.

Klotz said he is concerned that as Wisconsin teachers salaries continue to fall – dropping already from 18th to 33rd among the states – that “motivated educators such as myself” will leave the profession or the state, adding to the challenges created by a growing teacher shortage.

“There is a way to fix this,” he said. “Legislature of the State of Wisconsin, we are looking to you to do the right thing here … and pass Governor Evers’ budget.”


Educators and supporters of public schools continue to advocate for school funding increases

Educators continued to advocate for public education this week as the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee held hearings on the state budget.

Educators and supporters of public education testified at those hearings, submitted written testimony and shared their thoughts through letters to their legislators and in letters submitted to local media throughout the state. There are plenty more chances to get involved in the state budget:

  • Monday, April 15: Joint Finance Committee hearing, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., University Center – Riverview Ballroom, UW-River Falls.
  • Monday, April 15: Governor’s Budget Listening Session, 6-7:30 p.m. (Doors open at 5:15 p.m.), UW-Superior, Yellowjacket Union1605 Catlin Ave., Superior. REGISTER HERE!
  • Tuesday, April 16: Governor’s Budget Listening Session, 5 p.m., Chippewa Valley Technical College – Business Education Center, Student Commons, 620 W. Clairemont Ave., Eau Claire.
  • Wednesday, April 24: Joint Finance Committee hearing, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., University Union – Phoenix Rooms, UW-Green Bay.

OR

SUBMIT YOUR TESTIMONY
BY EMAIL NOW!

This week’s budget hearings
On Wednesday, supporters of public education packed a Joint Finance Committee hearing in Oak Creek, speaking in favor of Governor Evers’ proposals to increase general public education funding as well as special education funding.

Among them was Greendale High School teacher Zach Geiger, who said he is concerned about attracting and retaining qualified teachers who provide quality education to all students. 

“I started my career five years ago and have seen teacher after teacher leave the profession in search of careers with more predictability, respect, and adequate compensation,” he told the Joint Finance Committee. “Most of these teachers were in their first five years, and I am afraid that this trend is lowering students’ access to teachers who have developed their practice over years.”

Geiger said he is also concerned at the amount of public school funding that is being allocated for private school vouchers and independent charter schools. 

“This should concern all of us because I believe public schools build successful communities of educated citizens,” he said. “The investments in education proposed in this budget are necessary to stop the damages that public education has withstood in the past eight years and re-establish teaching as an attractive profession and Wisconsin education as a point of pride.”

At an earlier hearing in Janesville, WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen said our public schools “are struggling to find teachers—substitute teachers, regular education teachers, special education teachers.”

“We’ve neglected funding for public education for too long,” she said.  “Wisconsin has fallen to 33rd in the country in terms of paying teachers. We need to increase state funding by 1.4 billion over the next two years — with a $200 per-pupil funding level for 2019-20 and $204 for 2020-21.  

“My local community passed a referendum last fall — in an attempt to solve the budget shortfalls in pay and in deferred maintenance,” Wirtz-Olsen said. “The state must do its part for allstudents in Wisconsin because our children deserve this investment. I encourage you to pass the People’s Budget – investing in our public education system, criminal justice reform, healthcare. These are the first steps to a brighter future in Wisconsin.”

La Crosse teacher Jon Havlicek submitted a column to the La Crosse Tribune providing a firsthand account of how school funding shortcomings impact his classrooms daily.

“As a Spanish teacher at Central High School for the last 21 years, I can tell you that the state has underfunded public schools for over a generation,” Havlicek wrote. ” In particular, the state has reneged on its promise to cover 66%, or two thirds, of the cost of special education services in our public schools. This cost continues to grow, as more and more students are identified as needing more support.  While private schools can and do exclude many students who need special support, public schools must not and do not shirk our duty to provide the best education we can, for ALL students.  

 “However, the state commitment to special education funding has dropped almost every year, to the point where it stands at about 25% today, far short of the promised 66%,” Havlicek wrote. “Governor Evers, in his People’s Budget, has called on the legislature to pass a budget that moves toward fulfilling the state’s obligation to these students and their families. He also campaigned on a promise to significantly increase general school funding, to make up for the stripping of support that our students and families have suffered over the last eight years.

“We can keep the world class education system we have here in Wisconsin,” he concluded, “but we need to fund it properly.”

WEAC Secretary-Treasurer Kim Schroeder, a fourth-grade teacher in Milwaukee Public Schools, asked Joint Finance Committee members to be open-minded and supportive of public schools rather than just saying Governor Evers’ budget is “dead on arrival.”

For those legislators who refuse to be open-minded, Schroeder said, “Stop. Stop saying you care about education. Stop saying you care about parents.  Stop saying you care about the children of this state. We don’t believe you anyway.”

“What matters are actions. We are tired of the false rhetoric. We are tired of you playing politics with the future of our students.  

“We are watching. The parents are watching.  And, most importantly, the students are watching.”

Voters support ‘major increase’ in special education funding

A large majority of Wisconsin’s registered voters – 74 percent – agree with Governor Evers that there should be a “major increase” in state aid for special education, according to results from the latest Marquette University Law School poll. As part of his state budget plan, Evers has proposed a $600 million increase.

Evers’ plan would increase the state reimbursement rate for special education costs from 27% to 60% and free up funding for other programs at the local school district level.

WEAC President Ron Martin has applauded Evers’ proposal, saying that years of underfunding of special education worsened under former Governor Scott Walker. “It’s incredibly important at a time when so many children have unique needs that we provide the resources needed so all kids can be successful no matter their learning style or ability,” Martin said.

In releasing its plan, the Department of Public Instruction said, “After decades of cutting or freezing support, Wisconsin provides less reimbursement to local schools for special education than any other state in the nation. In order to pay for these required services, school districts have to make difficult decisions, even reducing or cutting other opportunities for students.”

The state budget is currently being debated in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

In other results from the Marquette poll released Wednesday:

  • 70 percent said the state should accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, while 23 percent were opposed.
  • 57 percent support increasing the minimum wage, while 38 percent were opposed. Evers is calling for an increase to $8.25 an hour on January 1 and then to $9 in 2021. It would increase another 75 cents each of the following two years before being indexed for inflation.
  • 57 percent preferred to keep gas taxes and vehicle registration fees at current levels, while 39 percent supported an increase. Evers has called for an increase of 8 cents in the gas tax.
  • 41 percent supported freezing enrollment in voucher schools and a pause on new independent charter schools, while 46 percent were opposed.

Read more:

Evers’ Approval, Disapproval Both Up In Latest Marquette Poll

Public approval – and disapproval – of Gov. Tony Evers went up in the latest Marquette University Law School poll as more people familiarized themselves with the first-term governor after three months on the job. The survey also saw a slight uptick in support for President Donald Trump among Wisconsin voters and a larger jump in support for Vermont U.S.

Educators ask Joint Finance Committee to support public education funding increases and measures to attract and retain quality teachers

Advocates of public education testified in Janesville Friday at the first of four state budget hearings by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, expressing strong support for Governor Evers’ proposals to increase public education funding and to attract and retain quality educators.

“Wisconsin’s professional educators, like myself, are locked into an unfair and unrewarding economic system,” said Janesville social studies teachers Steve Strieker.

“Working conditions and professional pay have declined. A teacher shortage looms with the continued exodus of colleagues. Teacher training is being gutted and fast tracked for easy licensure. Precious public school monies have been diverted to mostly less-needy private school students in the form of vouchers. And public school funding has been slashed. This situation stinks for public school teachers, as well as the parents, and students we serve,” Strieker said.

Others testifying Friday included WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Secretary-Treasurer Kim Schroeder and Lake Mills teacher Brenda Morris.

These and other educators asked the committee to support measures proposed both by Governor Evers in his state budget plan and by the Legislature’s own Blue Ribbon Commission on school funding. They include increased special education funding, predictable revenue cap increases and salary increases to attract and retain teachers.

Other hearings scheduled are:

  • Wednesday, April 10, Oak Creek Community Center, Oak Creek.
  • Monday, April 15, University Center – Riverview Ballroom, UW-River Falls.
  • Wednesday, April 24, University Union – Phoenix Rooms, UW-Green Bay.

Find out more about the state budget at weac.org/budget.

Lake Mills teacher Brenda Morris testifies before the Joint Finance Committee (above). WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen poses with WEAC members outside the hearing (below).

Legislative Update – JFC hears from State Superintendent

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction testified on its proposed 2019-21 budget in front of the Joint Finance Committee today, Wednesday, April 3.

The DPI budget proposal, which would increase public school funding by $1.4 billion, is a move toward restoring what’s been cut over the past eight years. Democratic legislators on the committee and State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor stood their ground on the need to increase funding for students while Republican JFC members repeatedly knocked the proposal.

While the JFC is holding hearings on the governor’s budget proposal, they’ve made clear they are considering they’ll ignore his proposal altogether and instead introduce their own budget. Given public sentiment to reinvest in education, Republican leaders have said a funding increase is on table but have questioned how much money that would include – and how it would be divided between public and private voucher schools. Republican members of the JFC did point out the funding for education in their last budget, which did not restore funding they had cut previously but marked the first time they hadn’t made cuts in many years. They also spoke out against capping voucher enrollment.

Key points from the hearing:

  • “…the focus of our budget — and my agenda as Wisconsin’s state superintendent — is educational equity. Educational equity is providing each child the opportunities they need to achieve academic and personal success. It’s about fairness.” – State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor
  • “…taxpayers probably can’t afford it.” – Luther Olsen, Senate Education Committee Chairman
  • “This budget to me obviously indicates a real true investment in K-12 education, but it also underscores how much we haven’t been paying in the past budget.” – Sen. Jon Erpenbach

Some examples of how the budget advances fairness in education:

  • Increases investment in student mental health by $63 million. State support remains far short of demand and this budget significantly expands school-based services, pupil support staff, and mental health training. One in five students faces a mental health issue, and over 80 percent of these students going untreated.
  • Invests in early childhood education. All Wisconsin students benefit from full-day 4K, and there are 3K grants for the five largest school districts. To eliminate achievement gaps, Wisconsin will finally address learning deficits early. All children deserve access to high quality, developmentally-appropriate, early learning environments – no matter where they live or what their family circumstances are.
  • Establishes after-school program funding. $20 million in aid to fund after-school programming provides more children opportunities for high-quality, extended learning time.
  • Creates Urban Excellence Initiative. Multiple strategies tackle achievement gaps in the five largest school districts that educate 20 percent of all Wisconsin students.
  • Addresses the needs of English learners. Extra support, including an increase of the state reimbursement rate from 8 percent up to 30 percent by 2021, will help this population achieve academic success.
  • Funds special education for the most vulnerable students. This budget ends the decade long freeze on primary special education aid with a $606 million investment to increase the state’s reimbursement rate from 25 percent to 60 percent by 2021.

JFC takes up transportation

Along with the DPI, the Joint Finance Committee took up the governor’s proposed transportation budget. Prevailing wage and an increase in the gas tax were among questions the committee members posed to Transpo Secretary Craig Thompson. Here are the key points:

  • While Republican members of the JFC said they doubt the guv’s proposed 8 cent/gallon increase would be offset by the elimination of the minimum markup, Dems said the gas tax increase would build a path to a long-term plan to fund roads.
  • Thompson said the governor’s plan to reinstate prevailing wage will save money over time, ensure there are qualified workers on the job, and increase competition, but Republicans on the committee expressed firm desire not to bring it back – having just eliminated it.

Bills We’re Watching

  • Character Education (AB 149 / SB 138). The Assembly version of this bill was introduced Wednesday. This authorizes the Department of Public Instruction to award grants to school districts for teachers, pupil service professionals, principals, and school district administrators to participate in professional development trainings in character education. Under the bill, DPI is authorized to make these grants for 24 months.

Legislative Update: Education committee to take up student privacy and more

The Assembly Education Committee will hold public hearings on three bills at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 4, at the state Capitol. On the docket is a bill to expand student information schools can release to the public, safety drills and including arts opportunities in school report cards.

To weigh in on any of these bills, use the WEAC Action Alert!

CLICK HERE NOW TO SEND AN EMAIL
TO THE ASSEMBLY EDUCATION COMMITTEE

  • Pupil Information (AB53 / SB57). Expands pupil information allowed to be disclosed by a public school to include the names of parents or guardians. Under current law, the information that may be included in “directory data” that may be disclosed to any person (as long as a public school notifies families of the categories of information and informs families an opt out procedure) includes pupil name, address, telephone, date/place of birth, major field of study, activity/sport participation, attendance dates, photographs, weight and height as member of athletic team, degrees/awards, and most recent school attended. School districts may include all, some or none of the categories to designate as directory data.

  • Safety Drills (AB 54 / SB56). Allows the person having direct charge of the public or private school to provide previous warning of any of these drills if he or she determines that is in the best interest of pupils attending the school. Currently, no advance notice is allowed.

  • Arts Opportunities (AB67 /SB64). Requires the Department of Public Instruction to include the percentage of pupils participating in music, dance, drama, and visual arts in annual school and school district report cards. The DPI would include this information for each high school and school district, along with the statewide percentage of pupils participating in each subject. This information would not be allowed in evaluating school performance or district improvement.

To weigh in on any of these bills, use the WEAC Action Alert!

CLICK HERE NOW TO SEND AN EMAIL
TO THE ASSEMBLY EDUCATION COMMITTEE