Legislative Update – April 19

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will again take up a case about the independent authority of the elected state superintendent. The Court is responding to a lawsuit from the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) over the DPI’s independent rule-making authority. State Superintendent Tony Evers won a case affirming his independent authority in a 5-2 ruling back in 2016, with conservatives in the majority on the bench. “Educators are scratching their heads at this latest move by the far-right to play by different rules than our Constitution calls for,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, a middle school social studies teacher. Read more.

School Funding Commission Public Hearing is Monday in Oshkosh
Details for the next public hearing for a school funding commission created by the Legislature have been announced:

  • Monday, April 23, 2-6 p.m., CESA 6, 2300 Highway 44, Oshkosh. Invited testimony will be heard, and then the public may make comment. The time limit for comments is five minutes each.

Other hearings are set:

  • Monday, May 7 – Tomahawk
  • Monday, May 21 – Turtle Lake
  • Monday, June 4 – Madison

Bills signed into law
The governor has signed a slew of bills, including the child tax rebate and sales tax holiday. Check out the status of the bills we are watching at www.weac.org/bills.

Here’s a list of recently-signed bills:

School board elections. Changes the signature requirement for nomination of candidates to school board in school districts that contain territory lying within a second class city, allowing a reduction in the number of signatures required on nomination papers submitted by school board candidates. Act 321

Supplemental aid. Provides for supplemental aid for school districts with a large area. Act 300

Availability of state practice tests. Requires the Department of Public Instruction to make available, upon request, practice examinations or sample items related to knowledge and concept examinations required to be administered under state law. The bill also would repeal the chapter of the administrative code that DPI promulgated to implement current law. Act 335

Usurp local control on workplace standards. Preempts 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. Act 327

Merit Scholarships. Provides merit scholarships for UW-Stevens Point students. Act 314

College Credit in High School. Excludes certain college credit in high school programs from the Early College Credit Program. Act 307

Career and Tech Ed Grants. Provides career and technical education incentive grants for school districts and completion awards for pupils and makes an appropriation. Act 336

Robotics League Grants. Extends robotics league participation grants to middle schools. Act 315

Funding-Related Bills That Passed This Session
It’s hard to keep track of everything that passed in the long Legislative session that has just concluded. That’s why WEAC is providing a wrap-up of various bills that passed, and didn’t, in various areas impacting public education. Here’s a round-up on funding-related bills:

PASSED

Sparsity Aid. An increase in sparsity aid per student will begin in 2019, raising sparsity aid per pupil amount from $300 to $400 — an increase in sparsity aid appropriation of $6.5 million in 2019. Sparsity aid was vetoed by the governor in the 2017-19 state budget, but he changed course at the end of the Legislative session.

Supplemental aid. Provides for supplemental aid for school districts with a large area. Act 300

DID NOT PASS

Common School Funds. This bill would have eliminated the authority of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands to make state trust fund loans, broaden the authority of the BCPL to delegate its authority to invest state trust fund moneys, and remove certain restrictions on the use of common school fund income moneys. As educators working in schools with shoestring budgets, we know the Common School Funds are often the only monies available to keep our school libraries running. Voters soundly rejected eliminating the role of state treasurer in the April election, which oversees the Common School Funds for libraries.

Excluding capital improvements from shared cost. This bill would have excluded expenditures from either a school district’s general fund or debt service fund that are authorized by a capital referendum from the school district’s shared cost if the school district is a negative tertiary school district. In other words, a negative tertiary school district would not lose equalization aid for capital expenditures that exceed the tertiary guarantee and are funded by referenda. The bill included protections for some school districts in areas with high property wealth and per-pupil spending from seeing general aid deductions in the school funding formula in cases where voters approved capital projects.

Revenue limit adjustment for workforce development improvements. This would have created a school district revenue limit adjustment for workforce development improvements to support vocational or technical education. Any school board that received a petition and adopts a resolution to initiate workforce development improvements would be allowed to increase its revenue limit by the amount the school district spends on the improvements in a school year, including amounts spent for a 20-year-max debt service on a bond, note, or state trust fund loan used to finance the improvements. The petition would be filed jointly by the president of a local chamber of commerce or a chamber of commerce and a regional workforce development board.

Special Education Funding. This called for state funding of special education at 33 percent.

WEAC Election Update – Who’s not running again?

Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, is the latest Wisconsin legislator indicating he won’t seek re-election this fall. Kleefisch has served in the Legislature since 2004. Here’s an overview:

Assembly

  1. Joel Kleefisch (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-32
  2. Tom Weatherston (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-62
  3. Andre Jacque (R) – Not seeking re-election to the AD-2, running for SD-1.
  4. Dale Kooyenga (R) – Not seeking re-election to the AD-14, running for SD-5
  5. Adam Jarchow (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-28
  6. Jesse Kremer (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-59
  7. Tom Weatherston (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-62.
  8. Kathy Bernier (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-68, running for SD-23.
  9. Terese Berceau (D) – Not seeking re-election to AD-77
  10. Eric Genrich (D) – Not seeking re-election to AD-90, running for Mayor of Green Bay
  11. Dana Wachs (D) – Not seeking re-election to AD-91, running for Governor
  12. Lee Nerison (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-96

Senate

  1. Leah Vukmir (R) – Not seeing re-election to SD-5, running for U.S. Senate
  2. Terry Moulton (R) – Not seeking re-election to SD-23
  3. Kathleen Vinehout (D) – Not seeking re-election to SD-31, running for Governor

U.S Congress

  1. Paul Ryan (R) – Not seeing re-election to CD-1.

Supreme Court to consider DPI’s independent authority again

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will again take up a case about the independent authority of the elected state superintendent.

The Court is responding to a lawsuit from the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) over the DPI’s independent rule-making authority. State Superintendent Tony Evers won a case affirming his independent authority in a 5-2 ruling back in 2016, with conservatives in the majority on the bench.

“Educators are scratching their heads at this latest move by the far-right to play by different rules than our Constitution calls for,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, a middle school social studies teacher.

In fact, the court’s conservative majority gave no explanation for why it is taking the case. The decision puts the case on a fast track, bypassing the court of appeals. Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson disagreed with taking up the case again, saying the issue had been addressed in Coyne v. Walker. Madison Teachers Inc. and WEAC were successful in asserting the state constitution gives the state superintendent authority to set education policy for the state. Back in 2016, Justices Bradley, Abrahamson, David Prosser and Michael Gableman agreed.

Gableman, who is retiring, will be replaced this summer by Rebecca Dallet. Meanwhile Prosser has been replaced by Governor Walker appointee Dan Kelly.

Oral arguments are set for May 15, and the Court said it would initially take up only the narrow issue of who will represent Evers in the case – whether it has to be the governor’s pick, Attorney General Brad Schimel, or if Evers can use a DPI attorney who is not tied to the governor.

Schimel is closely aligned with the governor, and Evers is one of several Democrats running for the seat this fall.

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.

Read more:

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: