Legislative Update – April 24

Special education funding. This bill (SB 211) increases state aid to school districts for special education and school age parents programs provided by the school district to no less than 33 percent of the school district’s certified, eligible costs. It is referred to the Senate Education Committee. Learn more.

WRS bill. This bill (SB 190), introduced this week, combines two proposals introduced by Sen. Duey Stroebel into one bill, which would raise the early retirement age from 50 to 52 for protective services employees and from 55 to 60 for general employees.  Furthermore, the bill would change the calculation for a participant’s final average earning from the highest 3 years to the highest 5 years.  Both of these changes would apply to new employees hired after the passage of the bill. Read more and see the bill history. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection, which Sen. Stroebel chairs.

Matching funds for deposits to school long-term capital improvement trust funds. This bill (SB 192), part of a package of bills relating to limits on school district funding referendums requires the Department of Public Instruction to provide matching funds for deposits that a school board makes to a long-term capital improvement trust fund. Under the bill, if a school board increases the levy limit for operating costs or capital costs, the school board is required to refund to DPI any matching funds it received during the 10 school years immediately preceding the resolution. If a school board fails to refund the amount of the matching funds to DPI within 12 months, DPI must reduce the school district’s state aid to cover the amount due. Learn more.

Referendum restrictions on local control: voting by common, union high school districts. (SB 191) prohibits common and union high school districts from voting on a resolution to exceed the revenue limit of a school district at a special meeting. Learn more.

Referendum restrictions on local control: number of years a school boards can go to voters. Under this bill (SB 195), a school board would only be able to seek approval from voters in the school district to increase the revenue limit for five consecutive school years. Learn more.

Referendum restrictions on local control: When a board can schedule a vote. This bill (SB 194) limits school boards to schedule a referendum for the purpose of increasing the school district’s revenue limit only concurrent with a spring election or with the general election and only if the election falls no sooner than 70 days after the date on which the board adopts and files a resolution to that effect. Learn more.

Referendum restrictions on local control: What a board must include on referendum ballot. This bill (SB 187) requires a school board to include specific financial information on a referendum ballot, including the total amount of debt to be issued, the total amount of interest and related debt service costs to be incurred, and the sum of the principal, interest, and related debt service costs. Read more.

ESSA & the WI Legislature. The state Department of Public Instruction is working on a plan it needs to submit to the feds to comply with the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, requiring participation by educators and other stakeholders. A bill, AB 233, received a public hearing this week and would require DPI to first submit its plan to the Assembly and Senate education committees for approval by May 15, letting lawmakers propose changes before it goes to the federal government for approval. See the bill history.

Final Joint Finance Committee Budget Hearing. The Legislature’s budget-writing panel concludes public hearings this week, and then is expected to debate the final version through May during which time the panel votes on budget items. The governor continues his statewide tour to tout his K-12 education budget.

Coming Up in the Legislature

April 24

  • Senate Committee on Education. The panel will hold an executive session on bills related to recovery charter schools and a mental health training program. Click for the agenda. Here’s a summary of the bills:
    • AB 11 authorizes the director of the Office of Educational Opportunity in the University of Wisconsin System to contract for the operation of a recovery charter school, insurance coverage of mental health treatment provided by a recovery charter school, and making appropriations.
    • AB 6 authorizes the director of the Office of Educational Opportunity in the University of Wisconsin System to contract for the operation of a recovery charter school, insurance coverage of mental health treatment provided by a recovery charter school, and making appropriations.

Recent Developments

April 20

  • Tech ed equipment grants. A fiscal estimate was received for SB 125, which provides technical education equipment grants for school districts, provides an exemption from emergency rule procedures, and grants rule-making authority. View Bill History

Don’t see something in the wrap-up? Looking for more information? Contact Christina Brey.

‘My students deserve a quality education,’ special education teacher tells legislators

Supporters of public education packed into the auditorium of Marinette High School for a Joint Finance Committee state budget hearing.

Kandace Larsen, a special education teacher at Marinette High School, stood up for her students Friday in testimony before the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.

“I am here to speak as an educator in support of public education, but more importantly, I am here to speak for my students – many of whom are not able to speak for themselves,” she said at a state budget public hearing at Marinette High School.

“Public education has seen many cuts in funding in recent years and Special Education funding has been frozen for a decade. What does this mean for my students? It means less staffing for those students who need it the most, because districts can’t afford the personnel needed to provide the support for those students who need the most,” Larsen said.

“It means larger class sizes, and less classroom materials. Many of my students come from low income families, families in which budget cuts affect the most. I have purchased pencils, notebooks, food, clothing, laundry soap, bar soap, shampoo, etc., out of my own pocket for students in my classroom who are in need, because these are some of the basic items they need in order to be successful at school.

“My students deserve a quality education – one that will prepare them for the future. They all hope to obtain jobs once they graduate from high school, a goal that can be difficult to achieve with a disability. Freezes and cuts in funding make it difficult for public schools to prepare students for the workforce, leaving the future for these students uncertain.”

Larsen asked the committee to restore funding to public schools through a $300 per-pupil increase to the revenue limit and by increasing state special education funding, which has been frozen for ten years, to 30% of costs.

She was one of many educators, parents and concerned citizens to express support for better education funding. Her husband, Brian Larsen, an Oconto special education teacher, said school districts, including his, “have been in a perpetual ‘cut the budget’ mode” since 2011, still resulting in deficit budgets year after year.

“What does this mean for our children? What does this mean for their future? It means students will have less access to a quality public education,” he said. “It means our children have fewer opportunities to learn. It means students will be unprepared for college, as well as the workplace.

“This puts the future of our children in jeopardy, and sets them up for failure. As an educator, I work hard to set my students up for success, and the state budget should also promote my students’ success.

“My students want to go to college. They want to obtain jobs, have families and own a home. They want to be members of their communities,” he said. “They need a quality public education to make their dreams happen.”

The Joint Finance Committee wrapped up its hearings Friday. It is expected to begin voting on budget provisions about May 1.

Read/watch more on the Wisconsin Public Education Network Facebook page.

Legislative Update – April 21

Governor signs bill on local governments’ labor agreements. While the Joint Finance Committee pulled the union-busting portion of the governor’s budget that would prohibit project labor agreements, the bill came forward as separate legislation. It moved quickly through the Legislature and was signed into the law as Act 3. Read more.

Voucher Transparency Bill

The Wisconsin Voucher Taxpayer Transparency bill (SB 183) requires property tax bills include information on the amount of any net reduction in state aid to the home district as a result of pupils enrolled in any of the state’s school voucher programs. Read about the proposal (proposed by Democrats) and see a couple quick points to consider when explaining why transparency makes sense:

  • The voucher program gives parents a choice on sending their child to a private school using public taxes. Taxpayers have never been given a choice on whether they want their tax money funding private education with no representation.
  • Public schools were legislated long ago to pay for non-public schools’ transportation, special education, Title I and 4K. State funding for private schools comes on top of those millions in tax dollars already being diverted from public schools.
  • Taxpayers pay for privately run charter schools that aren’t in their districts. How can taxpayers continue to fund these separate systems that don’t provide opportunity to all children?

Budget Hearings
After testimony wraps up this week, the Joint Finance Committee will begin executive sessions to deliberate on a final budget. See the budget bill it will be working off of, AB 064 and SB 030. The Joint Finance Committee is tentatively looking at May 1 for its first executive session on the guv’s budget, according to the offices of the co-chairs.

A Wisconsin Permitless Carry Bill has been referred to the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety. It has not received a public hearing yet. The spotlight this week was on Senate Bill 169, which would repeal the requirement to obtain a concealed carry permit in order to carry a concealed gun in public.

The proposed bill also dangerously lowers the bar for carrying hidden handguns in public, allowing criminals, teenagers, and the dangerously mentally ill to carry concealed firearms with no required safety training. Further, the bill significantly reduces the effectiveness of school gun free zones. Read this news article and see more details here. Among other things, the bill would:

  • Arm Wisconsin Teens — While federal law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing a handgun from a registered firearm dealer, 18-21 year olds can legally own handguns in Wisconsin. This law allows 18-21 year olds or anyone else who can legally own a firearm to carry it concealed without a permit or training.
  • Eliminate the State Gun Free School Zones Law — This bill would mandate schools “post” if they want firearms kept off school grounds or out of their buildings, and reduces the penalty for illegally carrying a firearm in that school to a misdemeanor or no more than $1000 fine. Creates a no-training concealed carry permit that gets around federal firearm restrictions protecting school zone. (Non-partisan Legislative council memo 3-6-17).

The Week in Review

April 20

  • The Senate Committee on Education held public hearings on two special session Assembly Bills.
    • AB 11 authorizes the director of the Office of Educational Opportunity in the University of Wisconsin System to contract for the operation of a recovery charter school, insurance coverage of mental health treatment provided by a recovery charter school, and making appropriations.
    • AB 6 authorizes the director of the Office of Educational Opportunity in the University of Wisconsin System to contract for the operation of a recovery charter school, insurance coverage of mental health treatment provided by a recovery charter school, and making appropriations.
  • The Assembly Committee on Education held public hearings on several bills:
    • AB 95: Allowing school board members to refuse salary.
    • AB 250: Alternative education grants.
    • AB 251: Modify rules for DPI grant programs.
    • AB 233: Submitting a state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act.
  • The Assembly Committee on Education also accepted comment on the following:
    • Disposition of funds (PI 20)
    • Driver Education (PI 21)
    • Precollege Scholarships (PI 22)
    • Commencement of School (PI 27)
  • The Assembly Committee on Education met in executive session after the public hearings to take up alternative education grants (AB 250) and DPI grant program rules (AB 251).

April 19

  • Broadband Expansion. The Assembly Energy and Utilities Commission passed AB-123, the information technology block grant program, the broadband expansion grant program, waiving fees and appraisals, and making appropriations.

April 18

April 17

  • Every Student Succeeds Act state plan. The Assembly Education Committee scheduled a public hearing on AB 233, relating the state’s requirement to submit a plan under the new federal education law. View the bill history.
  • Career and technical education incentive grants. The Department of Workforce Development scheduled a public hearing for AB 192, concerning grants and appropriations for career and technical education incentive grants. See the fiscal estimate and companion bill (SB127), along with the bill history.
  • Alternative education grants. A public hearing and executive session were scheduled on AB 250, regarding alternative education grants.

Emergency rules now in effect

  • EmR1623. Emergency licensure changes to PI 34. (August 22, 2016 – May 19, 2017).
  • EmR1624. Robotics competition grants. (September 2, 2016 – May 29, 2017)
  • EmR1630. Revisions to the special needs scholarship program. (November 1, 2016 – May 29, 2017).

April 13

INTRODUCED IN THE SENATE

  • SJR-035 Workers’ Memorial Day. Proclaiming Workers’ Memorial Day was referred to Senate Organization.

INTRODUCED IN THE ASSEMBLY

  • LRB-0932Memo Primary Voting. Authorization for electors to vote in the primary of more than one political party.
  • LRB-1836Memo Worker’s Comp. Council Composition. The composition of the Council on Worker’s Compensation.
  • LRB-3035Memo Retaliation Against Public Employee. Retaliation against a public employee by a public officer and providing a criminal penalty.
  • LRB-1924Memo State Mandate Funding. Creation of a Joint Committee on State Mandates and required funding of state mandates.

Don’t see something in the wrap-up? Looking for more information? Contact Christina Brey.

Teacher asks legislators to put voucher program to a statewide vote

La Crosse teacher John Havlicek asked legislators Wednesday to put the private school voucher program to a statewide vote. In testimony before the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee at a hearing in Ellsworth, Havlicek first read the names of nearly 100 people whose testimony supporting public education over vouchers was given to him to present to the committee (read some of that testimony here). Then he said:

“Nowhere in the history of our state – in the history of our country – has the public ever actually voted to approve vouchers, opportunity scholarships, or whatever we’re calling them. The research is clear, these (vouchers) do not benefit those students, they do not benefit those schools, other than their bottom line, and they hurt public education.

“If you’re so confident that we should have vouchers in Wisconsin, that we should be increasing the funding and that the voucher program should be expanded, I would ask you to put it to a statewide referendum. Put it to a vote!”

State Senator Lena Taylor posted this video on her Facebook page:

The Wisconsin Public Education Network posted this image of the binder holding testimony from 86 people supporting public education:

 

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen joins other educators and parents in asking legislators to support full funding of public schools

WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, a Marshfield teacher, joined other educators and parents Tuesday  at the Joint Finance Committee hearing in Spooner, asking legislators to support full funding of public schools. “As a teacher, I support children and their dreams, and I make all professions possible,” she said. “As legislators, I ask you to make our public school students and those dreams your priority.”

Heather DuBois-Bourenane from the Wisconsin Public Education Network captured this and other video from Tuesday’s testimony:

Public Education Advocates Flood Milwaukee Joint Finance Committee State Budget Hearing

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Just in case GOP legislators on the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) had forgotten how dramatically their last state budget hurt Milwaukee Public Schools, parents, students, educators, and community members came to the April 5 State Fair public budget hearing to remind them.

Public education supporters arrived early to the Milwaukee JFC hearing from all over Southeastern Wisconsin (Photo: Joe Brusky).

The hearing provided a steady flow of public education supporters who, one-by-one, stepped up to the microphone to testify in support of fair and equitable public schools. The last two-year state budget that passed, not only continued the massive cuts to Wisconsin’s public schools by over $2 billion dollars, but it also snuck in the Midnight Takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools. By inserting the non-fiscal Takeover plan into an Omnibus state budget bill at the last minute, legislators knew they could pass the controversial provision without holding public hearings. The Takeover was eventually defeated by a popular uprising against it and the sham Takeover Czar it empowered over the city’s democratically elected school board. But, the residents of Milwaukee have not forgotten, nor are they willing to allow it to happen again in the next budget.

Members of the Joint Finance Committee were seated above public hearing attendees and were separated by a yellow barrier fence (Photo: Joe Brusky).

The JFC is mandated to hold hearings around the state, and usually a wide array of issues are spoken to. This year, the one issue that came up again and again was public education. Kilbourn Elementary teacher Shari Redel took a personal day out of the classroom to speak up for her MPS students who currently receive thousands of dollars less in per pupil funding when compared to their suburban school counterparts:

MTEA member and Kilbourn Elementary teacher Shari Redel speaks before the JFC. Every time a public education supporter spoke, other advocates wearing “Go Public” t-shirts stood in support (Photo: Joe Brusky).

As a proud Milwaukee Public School teacher for the past thirty years and as the parent of a child who attends public school in a suburban district, I see firsthand the funding disparities, such as the unequal access to specialist teachers, lack of fully resourced libraries, large class sizes, and even the quality of hot lunch. I love my child very much, but I love my students too. It literally breaks my heart to know that my students are treated as less than because many are impoverished. I am asking you to raise the revenue limits so my students have the same opportunity as my own child.

The funding disparities that Redel speaks of have real consequences as Wedgewood teacher Julie Meyer attested to:

MTEA member and Wedgewood Park teacher Julie Meyer testifies before the JFC (Photo: Joe Brusky).

My principal made the choice to fund a social worker, yet because of that choice I have thirty-nine students in my class. We should not have to make that kind of a choice. We should have well funded public schools so I can address the needs of all my students with a smaller class size and I can have a social worker to address those imminent student needs. I ask you to please maintain the budgeted request for a $200 increase per pupil. Thank you!

MPS parent Jenni Linse Hofschulte registered her outrage over the last few state budgets included many public education killing provisions:

MPS parent Jenni Linse-Hofschulte speaks in favor of fair and equitably funded public schools (Photo: Joe Brusky).

These measures were not measures that were asked for by the constituency and parent and students in our state. In the next budget cycle the voucher scheme cap was expanded, but without accountability, a measure not being asked for by the constituency. In the next budget cycle, voucher accountability, as promised, never arrived and funding for our public schools was not restored, and finally in the cloak of darkness came the gifts of the OSSP otherwise known as the Milwaukee Takeover, a measure that was not being asked for by Milwaukeeans. I could have stood hear and asked for a lot today, but my request is really fundamental, please do not use the budget and Omnibus to strip local control and force measures on our schools. Show my 6 year old that you value and respect our voices, our community, and our public schools.

Another public school parent shared a story of how her desire to find the best education for her child with special needs led her to stumble upon why handing public dollars to private institutions only hurt public school children:

A public school parent and supporter of “Save Our Schools – Wauwatosa” testifies on what she discovered when she inquired about sending her child with special needs to a private school (Photo: Joe Brusky).

By the time Sam was four he finally found the right therapists to begin helping him and they told me to get him a public school evaluation. Prior to making that appointment I had called and toured several private schools to see what kind of services they could provide for Sam and his special needs. Each school’s representative told me they could not accommodate a child with special needs. So I was unsure if a public school could help if a private school couldn’t and I began to worry. I nervously called the Wauwatosa School District…and I was immediately put at ease as they reassured me that Tosa could meet our needs. Sam is now 9 years old, thriving at school, learning from incredible teachers on how to use coping strategies for any frustrations that pop up. This is the power of public school! I ask that you raise the revenue cap, providing $300 per year per student, and pause voucher school expansion until they have the same accountability measures as all publicly funded schools.

Students were also present at the Milwaukee JFC hearing. A group of students from Youth Empowered in the Struggle collectively stepped to the microphone to speak as well:

Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES) students testify before the JFC on how budget cuts have hurt them and their teachers (Photo: Joe Brusky).

Today, we are here to demand that you fund our schools and stand up to Scott Walker, who already cut state tuition for undocumented students. This makes it harder for us to attend college. Our schools are underfunded and that is not a coincidence. We are Black and Brown working class students who live in impoverished communities. The lack of funding in our schools contributes to the school-to-prison-pipeline. How are we supposed to be productive citizens when you keep taking resources away from us? We are tired of being told their no money for art programs. We are tired of having to share worn down textbooks from the 1980s. Our teachers should not have to use their checkbooks to better serve us.

Students, parents, educators, administrators, and community supporters spoke all day long in support of a state budget that respected Milwaukee Public Schools and other public districts in our region. Public education advocates kept tally of speakers throughout the day. Of the 216 total speakers, an astonishing 73 spoke in favor of a strong public education budget that respected MPS, but will the legislators be listening this time?

Public education advocates set up camp on the State Fair parking lot outside the Milwaukee JFC public hearing, where these posters were hanging for all arriving to see (Photo: Joe Brusky).

 

YES Students Testify Before the Joint Finance Committee from MTEA Union on Vimeo.

Educators, parents ask legislators to prioritize public schools over vouchers in state budget

Educators and parents are asking members of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to provide more funding for public schools that educate all children and pull back funding for private voucher schools.

“I am very concerned that there is an increase in funding for the unaccountable voucher program in the budget,” La Crosse teacher Mary Ender Stutesman writes in testimony presented to the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee. “The voucher system with its lack of accountability – not only for the quality of education received by students but for the quality of teaching practiced there – does not improve our democratic goal of quality education for all.”

Stutesman was among several La Crosse Education Association members who presented written testimony. The Joint Finance Committee is re-writing Governor Walker’s state budget proposal and is conducting hearings this month.

“I am a firm believer in public education, and it pains me to see more money taken away from the public school system and given to the voucher system,” writes La Crosse teacher Lisa Colburn. “The public schools serve all students, regardless of their income, their ability or their disadvantages. Voucher schools not only pick and choose their students, they also remove students who struggle in their system. Those students are sent back to the public schools, where educators as always do their best to educate those students.”

In addition, Colburn added, students who attend voucher schools “do worse on standardized tests than their public school peers,” and many voucher schools have shut down, “taking state money and leaving the children behind.”

La Crosse teacher Bryan Morris asks legislators to provide equity in school funding. “By using the per-pupil funding method, you will be leaving our neediest districts and students behind,” he writes. “Please consider funding based upon needs rather than a one-size-fits-all method.”

“Each year our budgets are tighter and tighter, and the priority of education can no longer focus on what is best for kids because districts are struggling to pay the basic necessities such as lights, heat, bus transportation and office supplies,” writes La Crosse teacher Rose Kulig. “Despite tight budgets and high needs, we find money that used to be used for public schools being used to support vouchers to fund private schools that used to operate without the use of tax dollars. To me it seems our current situation will only get worse as more money is allocated for vouchers and less for public schools.”

La Crosse teacher Eric Martin writes that since 2010 in particular, “budgets have been brutal, and teachers have been asked to do more than ever while simultaneously acting as a political punching bag.”

“It is a testament to the excellence of our state’s educators that districts like ours in La Crosse have been able to still serve their students at a high level with the care that students deserve.”

Martin noted that fewer young people are going into the teaching profession and it’s not very difficult to connect the dots between that trend and “the way public education has been vilified by many in Wisconsin.”

“Wisconsin students deserve better from their state than they have received over much of the past decade,” Martin writes. “Wisconsin’s public schools have always been among the very best in the United States. We must continue to invest in them and pursue wise policies which will keep them that way for the sake of our most precious resource – our young people.”

La Crosse teacher Chad Wilkinson writes that he has taught in both the public and private school systems and that “one of the things that made teaching easier in the private school system was the ability to remove the worst kids, the kids that were tough to educate, and send them to the public school system.”

“Vouchers take money from the institution that needs it the most. In the public system, we get ‘those’ kids. We work hard to get them to graduate and succeed.”

La Crosse teacher Daniel Kaczmarowski notes that the governor’s budget proposal increases vouchers by $217 per pupil while increasing funding for public school students by only $200 per pupil. “If it is decided to continue down the road of funding more and more voucher students, our public schools will suffer as the state will not be able to afford its obligation, and districts will have to cut services for students. Stop throwing my tax dollars to (private) schools that, on average, achieve the same or worse than our excellent public schools in Wisconsin.”

La Crosse parent Andrew Stutesman writes that he is troubled by the “meager increase contained in the budget for public schools that educate every child.”

“This increase does not keep pace with inflation, while costs go up every year,” he writes. “Every year we have more students, with more profound challenges, that need more support. Yet, every year we end up decreasing that support. We have fewer social workers, fewer guidance counselors, fewer librarians, and fewer enrichment programs such as world languages and the arts. …

“I urge you to create a budget that does what government is supposed to do: provide for the least among us so that they, too, can participate in the American dream: a cultural, social, economic, and political success of our wonderful state!”

Wausau teacher Robert Hughes also emphasizes the need to support public education.

“Public schools are the one place in society where everyone gets a seat at the table,” Hughes writes. “People with diverse backgrounds have a right to a quality education, from certified public education teachers. We can make Wisconsin strong again by fully funding public schools, and breaking down barriers for the next generation.”

Legislative Update – April 13

WEAC budget overview updated
The WEAC budget overview at www.weac.org/budget is now updated to reflect changes made by the Joint Finance Committee, which pulled 83 non-fiscal items from the governor’s original proposal. Take a look at what remains and plan to submit testimony to the JFC, contact your legislators and send a letter to the editor. Also, the Senate Democrats have released their latest budget infographic.

Bill seeks to reduce number of union representatives from Council on Worker’s Compensation
A proposal (LRB-1836) circulating by Rep. Duey Stroebel would reduce the number of union representatives on the Council on Worker’s Compensation. Under the bill, the proportion of representatives of employees who are representatives of organized labor on the council must be the same as the proportion of employees in this state who are union members, which Stroebel puts at 8 percent of Wisconsin employees. The bill says organized labor must have at least two representatives. Currently the voting members of the Worker’s Compensation Council are made up of 5 members representing employers and 5 members representing employees, as well as one designated employee of the Department of Workforce Development to serve as chairperson. Though statute requires the current 5-5 breakdown, the statute does not specify what type of labor shall be represented. All five of the seats designated for employee representatives are currently filled by organized labor representatives.

Prevailing wage bill circulating
Just after a bill (LRB-2889) began circulating to repeal prevailing wage legislation in Wisconsin, a Koch-funded group called “Concerned Veterans for America” went live with an ad urging its passage. The stand-alone bill was introduced after the Joint Finance Committee pulled a similar policy item from the governor’s budget proposal on which it’s basing its budget deliberations. The bill extends prevailing wage restrictions beyond Wisconsin Act 55 enacted last session to also prevent local governments from enacting their own prevailing wage requirements. Prevailing wage has been in place since the Great Depression. Read this related news article.

Minimum hours of instruction
A bill eliminating required hours of instruction in some public schools was introduced with “accountability,” according to its author, just after a budget provision from Gov. Scott Walker doing the same thing was pulled by the Joint Finance Committee.

Farm-to-school elimination

  • A part of the current budget proposal eliminates the farm-to-school coordinator position and 15-member farm-to-school advisory council, a proposal that is drawing media attention this week.

The Week in Review

April 13

  • Outcomes-based funding. The Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee held an informational hearing with invited speakers only on outcomes-based funding in higher education. See WisPolitics story and contact your legislators.

April 12

  • August sales tax holiday. A bill to create a sales tax holiday in August (AB 232) was referred to the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means. The bill would allow a two-day period where sales and use tax would be lifted on items including clothing, computers and school supplies – under certain price points. See more.
  • UW Regents, WTCS Board appointments. The Senate Universities and Technical Colleges Committee held a hearing on appointments for the UW Board of Regents (Michael Jones, Robert Atwell) and the Wisconsin Technical College System Board (Hunter Kautz).

April 11

  • Career and technical education incentive grants. A fiscal estimate was received for SB127, concerning grants and appropriations for career and technical education incentive grants. View Bill History.
  • Technical education equipment grants. A fiscal estimate was received for SB125, relating to grants and providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, granting rule-making authority and making an appropriation. View Bill History.
  • Crediting military service under the WRS. A fiscal estimate was received for SB136, which expands coverage under the WRS in certain circumstances. View Bill History.

April 10

  • Nutrition education. A bill modifying nutrition education standards (AB 215) was introduced. The bill expands standards to include nutritive value of foods and healthful diets and modifies the conditions requiring a nutrition education component be part of the health education graduation requirement. The bill was referred to the Assembly Committee on Education.

On the Forefront

Joint Finance Committee budget hearings start again next week. All hearings start at 10 a.m. For support in testifying at a hearing, contact Christina Brey, breyc@weac.org.

  • Tuesday, April 18 – Spooner High School, Spooner
  • Wednesday, April 19 – Ellsworth High School, Ellsworth
  • Friday, April 21 – Marinette High School, Marinette

Don’t see something in the wrap-up? Looking for more information? Contact Christina Brey.

Legislative Update – April 11

Prevailing wage bill circulating
A bill (LRB-2889) is circulating to repeal prevailing wage legislation in Wisconsin. Last session, Wisconsin Act 55 was signed into law, repealing prevailing wage for local public works projects. Under this bill, restrictions would go further, eliminating prevailing wage altogether in the state, except where required by federal law.

Bill would make it a crime to offer someone a bribe of employment for not seeking office
A bill introduced this week (AB 223) would make it crime to offer employment in exchange for not seeking an elective state or local office. The bill comes after a state superintendent candidate in the spring election offered a deal to drop out in exchange for a government job and private driver. Both candidates lost their bids for office, but no criminal action could be taken under current law.

Are you ready for the next wave of budget hearings?
Public education is likely a big topic at the next wave of Joint Finance Committee budget hearings. If you’re able to attend a hearing, email Communications@WEAC.org so we can be sure to capture your testimony. All JFC hearings run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Tuesday, April 18 –Spooner High School auditorium, 801 County Hwy A, Spooner
  • Wednesday, April 19 – Ellsworth High School gymnasium, 323 W Hillcrest St, Ellsworth
  • Friday, April 21 –Marinette High School auditorium, 2135 Pierce Avenue, Marinette

Democratic Budget Hearings on Saturday, April 22
While the official budget hearings are being held during day, when educators are working with students, Democratic leaders are hosting listening sessions at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 22, to collect input.

  • Democratic Budget Listening Sessions, 10 a.m., Saturday, April 22
    • Dodgeville City Hall, 198 E. Fountain Street, Dodgeville
    • UW-Marathon County, 518 South 7th Avenue, Wausau

83 policy items pulled, but bad proposals still exist
You’ll remember that last week, the committee pulled 83 policy items from the budget they’re working from, but there are plenty of bad policies that still need to be addressed, including tying increased public school funding to Act 10 requirements, cutting the farm-to-school program to bring fresh produce to students and risky self-insurance for state employees.

Requiring legislative party caucuses to follow the open meetings law
A bill (AB 228) introduced this week would require legislative party caucuses to follow the open meetings law. Primary sponsors of the bill include 15 Democrats and one Republican, Ed Brooks (Reedsburg).

On the Forefront

  • Insiders are expecting Republicans to caucus this week for an up-down vote this week on the Constitutional Convention.

Don’t see something in the wrap-up? Looking for more information? Contact Christina Brey.

Legislative Update – April 10

Budget hearings ‘up north’ next week
Public education grabbed the spotlight at last week’s Joint Finance Committee budget hearings last week, and the next round is expected to reap more of the same – especially given the funding plight that has been plaguing rural schools in northern Wisconsin as a result of state cuts to schools over the past two biennial budgets. If you’re able to attend a hearing, email Communications@WEAC.org so we can be sure to capture your testimony. Watch video clips

This is your chance to have your voice heard, and we’re hearing that attendance has been relatively light, so please consider taking part in this important part of the process. All JFC hearings run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Tuesday, April 18 –Spooner High School auditorium, 801 County Hwy A, Spooner
  • Wednesday, April 19 – Ellsworth High School gymnasium, 323 W. Hillcrest St, Ellsworth
  • Friday, April 21 –Marinette High School auditorium, 2135 Pierce Avenue, Marinette

Don’t Overlook Democratic Budget Hearings on Saturday, April 22
While the official budget hearings are being held during the day, when educators are working with students, Democratic leaders are hosting listening sessions at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 22, to collect input. These are great opportunities to have your voice heard by legislators and media.

  • Democratic Budget Listening Sessions, 10 a.m., Saturday, April 22
    • Dodgeville City Hall, 198 E. Fountain Street, Dodgeville
    • UW-Marathon County, 518 South 7th Avenue, Wausau

Special Education Bill
Co-sponsors are being sought for LRB-0640/1 relating to increasing funding for special education. This bill increases state aid to school districts for special education and school age parent’s programs provided by the school district to no less than 33 percent of the school district’s certified, eligible costs.

Tech College Call to Action
WEAC technical college instructor members have launched an action alert to urge lawmakers not to support “performance-based funding” for technical colleges. Learn more and contact your legislators here.

Voucher School Referendum Bill
Four Democratic legislators are advancing a bill to give property taxpayers the final say on whether they want to be on the hook for tax dollars taken directly out of public schools to fund vouchers. The bill would require a referendum to pass before voucher schools can take state aid out of a public school district. The 2015 state budget changed state law to divert state funding to voucher schools at a rate much higher per student than public schools receive.

On the Forefront

  • Insiders are expecting Republicans to caucus this week for an up-down vote on the Constitutional Convention.