Judge Rebecca Dallet wins Supreme Court race

Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet – recommended by the WEAC Board – won a 10-year seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court Tuesday. WEAC had cited Dallet’s 10 years of judicial experience, support for the role of unions in the workplace, and support for public education as a core value. Dallet, who won with 56% of the vote, will be seated in August.

Voters also overwhelmingly decided to keep the State Treasurer’s Office, a position supported by public education advocates. The vote to eliminate the State Treasurer’s Office was 61% to 39%.

“The pendulum is swinging back to Democracy; it’s time and we’re not slowing down,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “Wisconsin educators voted with their students in mind, and we’ll always vote for our students. Next up are June’s long-awaited special elections in Senate District 1 (eastern Wisconsin) and Assembly District 42 (south-central Wisconsin) and then the important November General Election, which includes the governor’s race.”

Wisconsin educators recommended Rebecca Dallet for the Supreme Court based on her qualifications including 21 years of experience on the bench, another sign that voters are soundly rejecting the Scott Walker agenda, Martin said. “Social studies teachers like me join voters across the state in taking the first steps to returning to three separate branches of government and Democracy,” Martin said.

Also on Tuesday, voters decided 66 local school referendums, and results indicated voters were overwhelmingly supportive of spending for public school improvements. The five largest referendums in the state passed – $65 million Chippewa Falls, $60 million in D.C. Everest, $48 million in River Falls, $32.5 million (two referendums) in Sparta, and $32 million in Plymouth. Of the nine largest referendums, seven passed and one of the others – in the Beloit Turner School District – is headed for recount after losing by only two votes. With results of 50 of the 66 referendums in, voters approved 45, or 90%, of them.

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Bice: Gov. Scott Walker a big loser among 5 takeaways from Wisconsin’s spring election

Here are a few quick thoughts on Tuesday’s spring general election results: 1. Gov. Scott Walker got the message – loud and clear: The biggest losers in the state on Tuesday were the St. Louis Cardinals ( walk-off homer by Ryan Braun), the Boston Celtics ( swatted away by Giannis) and Walker.

Rebecca Dallet beats Michael Screnock in race for Wisconsin Supreme Court

MADISON – Rebecca Dallet bested Michael Screnock Tuesday for a seat on the state Supreme Court, shrinking the court’s conservative majority and giving Democrats a jolt of energy heading into the fall election. It marked the first time in 23 years that a liberal candidate who wasn’t an incumbent won a seat on the high court.

Wisconsin voters choose to keep state treasurer’s office

Wisconsin will continue to employ a state treasurer after voters rejected a call to eliminate the position Tuesday. Republicans said the position is unnecessary, but backers argued it is an important check on other elected officials. Elimination of the office of state treasurer.

Under court order, Walker schedules special elections to fill vacant legislative seats

After losing three court rulings, including one by the State Appeals Court, Governor Walker on Thursday reluctantly called special elections to fill two vacant legislative seats, and Republican legislative leaders dropped their efforts to circumvent current law in an attempt to delay the elections to November.

As a result of the Wednesday and Thursday developments, general elections will be June 12 to fill seats that were vacated in late December when Walker appointed Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, and Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, to administrative positions. Walker and Republican leaders wanted to leave those seats vacant until November, but state law requires the governor to call special elections “as promptly as possible.” The lower court ruling gave Walker until noon Thursday to call the special elections. Walker – through the Department of Justice – appealed, but after the Court of Appeals ruled against them Wednesday, they opted not to take the case to the State Supreme Court.

In making its ruling Wednesday, the Appeals Court said: “Representative government and the election of our representatives are never ‘unnecessary,’ never a ‘waste of taxpayer resources,’ and the calling of the special elections are as the Governor acknowledges, his ‘obligation’ to follow.”

Republicans – who reportedly feel their party is more likely to win the elections in the fall – have been working on a bill that would change state law and allow them to leave the seats vacant for now and delay the elections until November. Their hope was to get the courts to delay their rulings long enough for the Legislature to hold an extraordinary session to pass a new law that would allow them to leave the seats empty until November.

On Wednesday, the Senate Elections Committee held a hearing on the bill that would change the law, and Democrats voiced strong opposition. “It’s ludicrous but it’s not funny,” said Kathleen Finnerty of Sturgeon Bay, who chairs the Door County Democratic Party and lives in one of the vacant districts. “It couldn’t be more transparent as to what is happening here. You’re afraid of having a Democrat elected into this position.”

The bill planned for the extraordinary session would have removed the provision in state statute requiring special elections to be called “as promptly as possible.” The bill would also would have created a new requirement that would mean legislative vacancies occurring after early December of odd-numbered years would not be filled until the regular November election the following year.

“Democracy depends on fair elections,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “That’s third-grade social studies. If our high school seniors need to take a civics test to graduate, is it too much to ask our elected leaders get it right?”

Assembly passes school safety package and sends it to the governor for his signature

The State Assembly on Thursday passed a package of school safety measures and sent it to Governor Walker for his signature. The measures would establish a new Office of School Safety at the state Department of Justice and give it $100 million to provide one-time grants to school districts for security measures.

The bill also requires public and private schools to conduct annual school violence drills and requires reporting of school violence threats by teachers, school administrators, counselors, other school employees, physicians, and other medical and mental health professionals.

In a separate vote, the Assembly passed a measure to strengthen background checks for sales of long guns such as rifles and shotguns. That measure goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain.

The Legislative actions capped a week in which school safety issues took center stage, and educators pushed for broader approaches to addressing school violence.

In testimony submitted Tuesday to the Assembly Education Committee, WEAC President Ron Martin said the solution to school violence is not more guns but proper resources to address issues that include student mental health, school safety improvements, staff training and common sense gun laws. “While the package of bills under consideration appropriates funding for more armed guards, more equipment, more reporting requirements, it is imperative the committee recognizes what is missing,” Martin said. “The package of bills under consideration by the committee contains not one of the recommendations for safe schools forwarded by those of us who work in and with them.”

Also, leaders of Madison Teachers Inc., the Madison school district and Dane County asked Governor Walker and the Legislature to listen to students and our communities and address school safety by focusing on how we can support students and schools.

Public education supporters urge NO vote on elimination of State Treasurer

Supporters of public education are encouraging Wisconsin residents to VOTE NO on eliminating the State Treasurer’s Office in the April 3 election. Among other duties, the State Treasurer helps oversee School Trust Funds, which, among other things, provide significant funding for school libraries and technology. Elimination of the State Treasurer would concentrate more power in the governor’s office.

According to the website SaveOurFiscalWatchdog.org, which is organizing a VOTE NO campaign on the constitutional amendment to eliminate the State Treasurer, every state has a Treasurer or equivalent office. According to the website:

“The Treasurer, as the State’s financial officer, helps to oversee the school trust funds. Because the Office of the Treasurer is not involved in the state budget process run by the Governor and the Legislature, it serves as the ideal custodian to protect the integrity of these funds. The authors of our constitution did this intentionally and created permanent funds and the State Trust Fund Loan Program to support Wisconsin’s public education system. …

“There has been a concerted effort to consolidate power within Governor’s administration by transferring many of the responsibilities previously held by the Treasurer to the Department of Administration and the Department of Revenue – both led by the Governor’s appointees. We have seen firsthand how this concentration of power not only removes critical checks and balances, but also erodes the financial strength of these public education funds.”

Find out more at SaveOurFiscalWatchdog.org.

Read more:

This is an 11.0101(10)(b)(1) communication with WEAC members.

WEAC President Martin asks legislators to focus on more school resources, fewer guns

WEAC President Ron Martin

In testimony submitted Tuesday to the Assembly Education Committee, WEAC President Ron Martin said the solution to school violence is not more guns but proper resources to address issues that include student mental health, school safety improvements, staff training and common sense gun laws.

The committee held a hearing on six school safety bills the governor has submitted in advance of a Special Session of the Legislature. The Assembly plans to convene in Special Session Thursday to vote on the bills.

“While the package of bills under consideration appropriates funding for more armed guards, more equipment, more reporting requirements, it is imperative the committee recognizes what is missing,” Martin said. “The package of bills under consideration by the committee contains not one of the recommendations for safe schools forwarded by those of us who work in and with them.”

Martin noted that WEAC has put together a package of Principles for Student Safety and that the principles contained in that package are reflected in the beliefs shared by the Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and many other groups representing students, parents and public safety.

This graphic compares plans from the Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association, WEAC and DPI, and the governor:

Read President Martin’s entire testimony:

March 20, 2018

Public Testimony
Special Session Assembly Bills 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
Ron Martin, Eau Claire Middle School Teacher
President, Wisconsin Education Association Council

The Wisconsin Education Association Council has a long history of working collaboratively with education stakeholders around solutions to keep our schools safe for students and staff. We are the professionals who dedicate ourselves every day, face-to-face, to pupils – tasked with the moral obligation to meet their academic, emotional and social needs. We take that obligation seriously, and offer our testimony on the series of bills under consideration today. As the experts in education – as the individuals who would partner with police to implement the proposals at hand – we have critical perspective that should be considered. Our Association intends to fill that void of educator voice with our testimony, as we were not consulted prior to introduction to this series of bills, and because other education stakeholders do not possess the depth of knowledge gained from our daily interaction with students.

Our Association has been forthcoming with our recommendations for student safety at school. Those principles are reflected in the beliefs shared by the Wisconsin Police Chiefs Association, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and many other groups representing students, parents and public safety. Fewer guns aimed at our schools. Well-resourced schools with access to mental health professionals and counselors. Sustainable funding to accommodate safety improvements for all schools – not only a few. Ongoing training for school staff to meet the needs of a student body increasingly impacted by trauma outside of the schoolhouse doors. Common-sense laws for individuals who buy and own guns.

While the package of bills under consideration appropriates funding for more armed guards, more equipment, more reporting requirements, it is imperative the committee recognizes what is missing. The package of bills under consideration by the committee contains not one of the recommendations for safe schools forwarded by those of us who work in and with them.

Special Session Assembly Bill 1 provides funding for armed security guards, but no funding for professionals best suited for preventing violence in the first place. Mental health professionals, psychologists and counselors are critical members of the school staff, yet as a result of state aid cuts our students are woefully underserved.

AB 1 also provides for limited grants for physical upgrades in some schools, while others would be unable to afford updates under the revenue caps. We urge the committee to reject AB 1 and instead embrace legislation that provides revenue cap exemptions for school and public safety expenditures, along with sufficient funding for school mental health personnel, school resource officers, trauma informed care programs and community-school mental health partnerships.

Special Session Assembly Bill 2 creates an office of school safety under direction of the Department of Justice. Educators believe collaboration on the front end, through a statewide school safety center in partnership with the Department of Public Instruction, would better prevent and address violence in our schools.

Special Session Assembly Bills 3, 4, 5 and 6 call for new requirements and rules, but do not achieve what educators, parents and police professionals know to be necessary to keep our students safe. Our children are depending on elected leaders to provide more. Expanded mental health screenings, prevention programs and common-sense gun laws are what our students are calling for, and we urge you to listen. If not to us – the educators who dedicate our lives to them – listen to the students.

Resources are limited, and we believe wise investments are needed in school safety. We urge you to weigh each of the bills in front of you by asking whether they are aimed at preventing violence and whether they will lead to a systematic and sustainable approach to safety for every Wisconsin student. We absolutely believe the bills presented to you do not meet that threshold.

CONCLUSION

We urge the Committee to reflect on the collective input of students, parents, teachers, support staff and police. We are the professionals who know our students best. We are at the forefront when it comes to school safety solutions. It is our responsibility as teachers to let you know that these proposals will not result in more positive student experiences, nor will they solve the issue of violence which is not isolated to schools but instead is a community problem. Please consider this written testimony carefully and embrace long-term, sustainable, prevention-minded solutions for school safety.

 

MTI, Madison school district and Dane County leaders ask state to provide the supports needed for safe schools

Leaders of Madison Teachers Inc., the Madison school district and Dane County have asked Governor Walker and the Legislature to listen to students and our communities and address school safety by focusing on how we can support students and schools.

The governor has called on the Legislature to conduct a special session on school safety and has introduced a package of safety provisions. (Compare the governor’s plan to WEAC’s Safe Schools Solutions.)

In a letter the governor and legislators, the Madison and Dane County leaders noted that the governor’s school safety proposal “lacks any common sense gun safety provisions like universal background checks in order to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”

“We ask that you listen to our students and our communities by putting forth a proposal with a long term commitment to school safety, with common sense safety legislation on guns, and wraparound services for our students,” they wrote. “School safety is not a political issue – please start listening to our students and local communities and provide the support our students deserve.”

Read the entire letter:

Governor Walker and Legislators,

We are writing to voice our collective concern about the Governor’s proposal for school safety. In recent days, our students have made it clear that we need to act. The proposal, unfortunately, is out of touch with what we have all heard our communities and our students ask for.

School districts are constantly reviewing and improving systems for school safety. While we appreciate funds being made available for safety improvements, we need the same, long-term commitment from the state, which requires more than one time funding during an election year. The proposal also lacks any common sense gun safety provisions like universal background checks in order to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and instead gives authority for distributing funds to our Attorney General, who believes it is a good idea to arm teachers.

We ask that you listen to our students and our communities by putting forth a proposal with a long term commitment to school safety, with common sense safety legislation on guns, and wraparound services for our students. School safety is not a political issue – please start listening to our students and local communities and provide the support our students deserve.

Sincerely,

James Howard, Madison School Board President

Jennifer Cheatham, Superintendent

Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive

Douglas Keilor, Exectutive Director, MTI

Andy Waity, MTI President

Kerry Motoviloff, MTI Board Member

Tell your elected leaders to co-sponsor Wisconsin Student Safety Solutions

As many students nationwide participated in a National School Walkout against gun violence, educators throughout Wisconsin wore orange Wednesday to demonstrate their support for common sense gun legislation. This is a good time to tell your legislators to co-sponsor the Wisconsin Student Safety Solutions legislation, which includes the principles for safe schools forwarded by the state Department of Public Instruction in partnership with WEAC. Click the link below to ask your legislators to sign on now:

Take Action Now:

Support School Safety Solutions

Wisconsin Representative Sondy Pope has introduced a package of bills aimed at keeping students and staff safe. The bills reflect the principles for safe schools forwarded by the state department of public instruction in partnership with WEAC, calling for solutions that improve social and mental health – not pointing more guns at schools.

Read more about the Wisconsin Student Safety Solutions:

WEAC partners with DPI to advance policy for safe schools

Read more about Wear Orange Day and the National School Walkout by students:


Legislative Update – March 12 – Governor signs bill increasing sparsity aid

Assembly Bill 835 – which increases the sparsity aid per student – was signed into law Monday by Governor Walker. Beginning in 2019, the bill increases the sparsity aid per pupil amount from $300 to $400. Under the bill, the appropriation for sparsity aid would be increased by $6.5 million in 2019. Sparsity aid increases were vetoed by the governor in the 2017-19 state budget, but he has since changed his position.

The bill will also increase the revenue limit ceiling for school districts to $9,400 in the 2018-19 school year, with the ceiling increasing by $100 each year until it reaches $9,800 in the 2022-23 school year. The current revenue limit ceiling is $9,100.

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Schools with low budgets, rural locations to get extra funding, under bill signed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

MADISON – Wisconsin schools with small budgets or rural locations could get additional funding, under legislation signed by Gov. Scott Walker. The Republican governor also said Monday that he wants the state to provide additional money to improve safety in schools in the same way the federal government helped improve safety in airports.

 

 

Legislative Update – February 26

The Assembly and Senate, and committees, continued acting on a large number of bills last week, as they hustle toward recess.

Here are some updates to catch you up on last week’s happenings:

Thiesfeldt bill. AB-693 was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee on a party line 5-3 vote and was passed by the Assembly. A companion bill, SB 821, was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Education Committee. The Assembly committee incorporated an amendment to allow teachers to terminate their employment without penalty in certain cases of “physical assault” or violent crime. The bill, introduced by Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, severely threatens student privacy under the guise of protecting teachers. WEAC continues to monitor. Read this column by teacher Andy Waity, president of Madison Teachers Inc. Take Action Now!

Guns in School. A Wisconsin legislator is circulating a proposal called the Private School Carry Act. The bill would allow anyone with a concealed-carry license to carry that gun on school grounds, and, if the school board passes a policy, those guns could be concealed-carried into buildings. Under the proposal, if a school district doesn’t allow it and someone forgets they have a gun strapped to their ankle or other part of their body, the penalty is decreased to a forfeiture (which isn’t really a crime), instead of the current felony. The deadline for legislators to sign onto the proposal was Friday.

Usurp local control on workplace standards. The Assembly Local Government Committee passed AB 748 / SB 634 on a 6-3 vote. The bill pre-empts a local municipality from enacting a local living wage, fair scheduling standard, and a host of other measures that would improve the lives of working people. The bill has already been passed by the Senate Labor Committee. 

Dual Enrollment. AB 851 / SB 711  requires the University of Wisconsin System to award grants to school districts, independent charter schools and voucher schools to support dual enrollment programs taught in high schools. Under the bill, grants are awarded to assist high school teachers in meeting the minimal qualifications necessary to teach dual enrollment courses. The grants would end after June 30, 2022.

Sparsity Aid. Assembly Democrats introduced an amendment to a bill to increase sparsity aid / low revenue ceiling. The amendment calls for a  School Safety Plan Revenue Limit Exemption, a timely and useful amendments for our members. Under the exemption plan, school districts would receive a revenue limit exemption for certain school safety expenditures made under a school safety plan equal to the greater of $40,000 or $100 times the number of pupils in the school district. It is estimated that districts would utilize $60 million in revenue limit authority related to this item.

Nutrition Education. The Assembly passed SB159 /AB-215, which would require a school board to modify its instruction about nutrition to include knowledge of the nutritive value of foods and the role of a nutritious diet in promoting health. Current law requires school boards to provide instruction about the vitamin content of food and food and health values of dairy products. The bill also requires a nutrition education component be incorporated into the health education credit requirement to receive a high school diploma.

Introduced in Senate:

Academic excellence higher education scholarships. SB840 addresses the awarding of academic excellence higher education scholarships to pupils of public and tribal high schools with enrollments of at least 20 but fewer than 500 pupils, and not more than ten scholarships to be awarded statewide to seniors from public or tribal high schools enrolling fewer than 20 pupils and to seniors from private high schools enrolling fewer than 80 pupils. Scholarship deadlines for these schools are also impacted. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Education.

Rural teacher grants. SB 841 would create a grant program to encourage eligible teachers to teach in schools operated by eligible rural school districts. To be eligible, a teacher must be nominated by her school district and submit a claim for financial assistance. The teacher must include a commitment to use the financial assistance to repay student loans. The maximum grant amount is $1,000 for the first school year, $2,000 for the second school year, $2,000 for the third school year, $2,000 for the fourth school year, and $3,000 for the fifth school year. Districts would be limited to four eligible teachers in the grant program each year.

Phasing out vouchers. AB 968 would provide for new regulations under Wisconsin’s voucher programs, and eventually phase them out altogether. This bill prohibits a pupil who has attended a private school under any voucher program and who has completed the highest grade level at that private school from attending any other private school under vouchers. Also, beginning in the 2020-21 school year, no new voucher school may added. Additionally, no pupil may attend a private voucher school unless the pupil was attending that private school under the program in the 2019-20 school year. Finally, beginning in the 2020-21 school year, no private school may accept pupils under the voucher program unless the school was participating in the program in the 2019-20 school year, and no pupil may attend a private voucher school unless the pupil was attending that private school under the program in the prior year.

County jailers and the WRS. SB 577, which would classify county jailers as protective occupation participants under the Wisconsin Retirement System and under the Municipal Employment Relations Act, was referred to the Senate Committee on Government Operation, Technology and Consumer Protection. While the bill would likely not have a cost impact on the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, there is insufficient knowledge as to whether this bill would increase or decrease county costs.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding has scheduled its next public hearing for Monday, March 5, 2018, in La Crosse. The hearing will begin at 1:30 p.m. and conclude at 6:00 p.m. The hearing will take place at the: North Woods International School N2541 Sablewood Rd. La Crosse.

 

WEAC PAC recommends Dallet for Supreme Court

The WEAC Political Action Committee voted Sunday to recommend Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet for State Supreme Court.

The committee noted that Dallet:

  • Has 10 years judicial experience.
  • Supports stronger judicial recusal rules.
  • Believes unions play an important role in today’s workplace.
  • Believes a right to a public education is a core value.
  • Believes courts should stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves.
  • Is concerned with the use of outside special interest money to buy seats on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The next step is for the WEAC Board to consider the recommendation. WEAC members are encouraged to provide feedback on the PAC recommendation by clicking on this link.