Legislative Update – November 13, 2017

Sparsity Aid. A sparsity aid package designed to help rural schools won’t clear the house in this session, the Assembly Majority Leader told a statehouse insider news publication. The $9.7 million package would have provided rural districts with 745 students or less with $400 per pupil through sparsity aid rather than the current $300. There also would have been a second tier in the program for districts with between 746 and 1,000 pupils of $100 per student. Read the Legislative Reference Bureau Memo. In saying that the proposal wouldn’t move, Representative Robin Vos said the budget has made “historic” investments in schools, and school funding won’t be revisited. Public school advocates counter the “historic” notion – noting that the per-pupil increase in the budget, made outside of the funding formula, doesn’t restore the nearly billion dollars cut from public schools since 2011.

In the Assembly last week:

  • Montessori Teaching License. AB-423 (companion bill SB-299),which would grant an initial teaching license based on completion of a Montessori teacher education program, passed the Assembly.
  • Human Trafficking + Drivers Ed. AB-540 (companion bill SB-444), which would require education instruction on human trafficking in drivers education courses, was placed on the Assembly calendar.
  • Pupil Exam Information. AB-300, which would increase/expedite the information about mandatory pupil examinations available to families, passed the Assembly.
  • Pupil Exam Opt-Out. AB-304, which would allow a pupil’s parent or guardian to opt out of certain statewide examinations, except the civics exam required to graduate, passed the Assembly.

The full Assembly and Senate are now recessed until January, but here are a number of legislative meetings planned this week, including:

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Don’t forget to take action on the proposal to eliminate Wisconsin FMLA!

WEAC supporting effort by ‘Wisconsin Family Ties’ to oppose student discipline measure

WEAC is supporting an effort by Wisconsin Family Ties to oppose the so-called “Teacher Protection Act,” a pending bill in the Legislature that presents a misguided approach to student discipline.

Wisconsin Family Ties has created a Facebook post encouraging educators, parents and other citizens to contact their legislators expressing concern about this pending measure now known as LRB-0917.

The organization says the measure:

  • Infringes on student privacy rights.
  • Encourages ineffective, punitive responses to disability-related behavior.
  • Creates detrimental linkages between out-of-school incidents and school records.
  • Expands the “school to prison pipeline”.
  • Undermines the administrative chain of command, potentially placing teachers, administrators, and school boards at odds over established policy.
  • Compromises due process rights regarding suspension for students with disabilities.
  • Disproportionately affects students with disabilities and mental health challenges.

WFT action alert is online at: http://tinyurl.com/y8688wvz

WEAC already is on record opposing the measure being advanced by Republican Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt, and has sent him a letter outlining WEAC’s concerns. WEAC instead has proposed implementation of a set of Educator Protection Principles. In addition, the School Administrators Alliance, disability rights groups, and even the WI DPI have weighed in to urge Thiesfeldt not to introduce his bill.

Legislative Update – November 6

WEAC ACTION ALERT! A bill to end Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave coverage would significantly harm Wisconsin families. Senate bill 490 would end the right to use paid sick leave while on family leave to care for a child after birth or adoption, and has many other negative impacts. The bill, which does not have a companion in the Assembly at this time, was referred to Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform. Read more, and then email the bill’s sponsors!

Here are some other bills WEAC is watching:

Character Education. SB-329/AB-419 would require professional development training in character education for teachers, principals, and school district administrators, was forwarded by the Senate Education Committee, and the Assembly version is currently in its Education Committee.

Competitive Bidding for School Districts. The Senate has voted in favor of  SB-236/AB 307, which would require a school board to advertise any project for construction, repair, remodeling or improvement of a public school building or public school facilities or for the furnishing of supplies or materials with an estimated cost greater than $50,000, and let the contract to the lowest responsible bidder. The bill would prohibit a school board from giving preference for where the bidder is located or using criteria other than the lowest responsible bidder. The competitive bidding bill has had a public hearing in the Assembly.

Drivers Education. An Assembly committee has forwarded AB540, requiring information on identifying and acting on suspicion of human trafficking in driver education courses. A fiscal estimate has been received for the companion bill, SB-444.

Financial Literacy in Schools. The Senate has passed SB-212/AB-280, which would require public schools to incorporate financial literacy into the curriculum. The Wisconsin Association of School Boards reports that school officials have worked with the authors and believe that most, if not all, districts already meet the criteria.  The bill is on the governor’s desk.

Prohibiting Discrimination. SB-328 adds gender identity or gender expression as a prohibited basis for
discrimination in employment, housing, and the equal enjoyment of a public place of accommodation or amusement; prohibits the UW System, the Technical College System, public elementary and secondary schools, and charter schools from discriminating against a student on the basis of the student’s gender identity or gender expression; and prohibits exclusion of a person from jury duty on the basis
of the person’s gender identity or gender expression.

Pupil Assessment Access. The Assembly Rules Committee moved forward on AB-488, which relates to access to pupil assessments that are required to be administered by school boards, operators of independent charter schools, and private schools participating in a parental choice program and repealing rules related to accessing pupil assessments.

Sanctuary Cities. The Senate Labor & Regulatory Reform forwarded SB-275, which would prohibit local ordinances, resolutions, and policies that prohibit the enforcement of federal or state law relating to illegal aliens or immigration status, authorizing certain elective officeholders to commence an enforcement action, providing a reduction in shared revenue payments, and creating governmental liability for damages caused by illegal aliens.

Supplemental Aid for Large-Area Districts. A bill to provide supplemental aid for school districts with a large area, AB-477, was passed by the Assembly.

Tuberculosis Screening. AB-382 / SB 382 was forwarded by the Assembly Rules Committee. The measure requires screening school district employees for tuberculosis. The Assembly will take up the bill Thursday.

Coming up:

  • The Wisconsin Economic Development Board will meet Wednesday to review the Foxconn contract in closed session.
  • The Assembly will meet Thursday. Among the items it will take up are AB-488, regarding access to pupil assessments that are required to be administered by school boards, operators of independent charter schools, and private schools participating in a parental choice program and repealing rules related to accessing pupil assessments.

Bills Circulating for Co-Sponsorship:

LRB-4670 would restore and improve on school district low revenue limits, something that was vetoed from the final budget. Read the memo.

WEAC continues to monitor legislative activity and the impact on educators and working families. Look for our updates and encourage your colleagues to sign up for them as well. Direct your questions to communications@weac.org.

Legislative Update: October 31

A bill to end Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave coverage would significantly harm Wisconsin families. Senate bill 490 would end the right to use paid sick leave while on family leave to care for a child after birth or adoption, and has many other negative impacts. The bill, which does not have a companion in the Assembly at this time, was referred to the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform. Read more, and then email the bill’s sponsors!

The state Senate returned to the floor today for the first time since approving the budget last month. Here are the items on today’s docket; look for WEAC to report out on the various measures going forward:

  • Competitive Bidding for School Districts. This bill prescribes how school districts conduct competitive bidding. Senate Bill 236/AB 307 would require a school board to advertise any project for construction, repair, remodeling or improvement of a public school building or public school facilities or for the furnishing of supplies or materials with an estimated cost greater than $75,000 (this number may be lowered based on amendments), and let the contract to the lowest responsible bidder. The bill would prohibit a school board from giving preference for where the bidder is located or using criteria other than the lowest responsible bidder.
  • Montessori Teaching License. Senate Bill 299/AB 423 would grant an initial teaching license based on completion of a Montessori teacher education program.
  • School Employee Tuberculosis Screening. SB 382/AB 382 would require screening of school district employees for tuberculosis.
  • Financial Literacy in Schools. Assembly Bill 280/SB 212 would require public schools to incorporate financial literacy into the curriculum.

More on Educator Protection Principles
WEAC would like to see principles for protecting all educators on the job, not short-sighted legislation like the proposed bill by Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt. We’re not alone. The School Administrators Alliance, disability rights groups, and even the WI DPI have weighed in to urge Thiesfeldt not to introduce his bill. Read WEAC story.

4-Year-Old Kindergarten. A bill circulating for co-sponsorship would require school boards to make 4-year-old kindergarten available to all eligible pupils beginning in the 2019-20 school year. The bill requires the Department of Public Instruction to provide state aid to each school district for the costs to operate a 4-year-old kindergarten program in the district. The bill adds this state aid for 4-year-old kindergarten to the definition of state aid for revenue limit purposes.

Another bill circulating would change to consider any 4K pupil in a district that requires full-day attendance as one pupil, instead of a half pupil. The Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce has issued its support for full funding for 4K.

The Assembly will be in session Thursday. Depending on the work it gets done, floor sessions are also scheduled for Tuesday, November 7, and Thursday, November 9. Amid the items on its schedule is AB-477 which would provide supplemental aid for school districts with a large area.

Expanding drivers ed to include information on human trafficking. The Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee will vote next week on AB 540, which would require drivers education programs to include instruction about how to identify human trafficking, and what a driver should do if something is suspected.

Other bills we’re watching:

  • SB 494 School Reports. Publication of school and school district accountability reports. Referred to Senate Education Committee.
  • SB 500 Redistricting. Legislative and congressional redistricting. Referred to Senate Elections and Utilities Committee.
  • AB 589/SB 465 Sign Language Interpreters at School Events. This bill would replace the current licensure program for sign language interpreters. Under this, an individual licensed by DPI and providing sign language interpretation services at a school or school-sponsored event is not required to be licensed by the board. The bill also includes other temporary and permanent exemptions from licensure.

Bills circulating for co-sponsorship:

LRB-0272 Memo Feminine Hygiene Products in Schools. Provision of feminine hygiene products in state and local buildings and school buildings.

WEAC calls for Educator Protection Principles that will make a difference in our schools

WEAC is a leading advocate for safe schools, through policies and funding to ensure students and staff are protected from harm. A bill draft circulated by Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt outlines potential new legislation to protect teachers, but a review by WEAC experts shows it falls short of its stated goal. WEAC is not supporting the proposed legislation, and instead is offering – from the educators’ perspective – protections that would make a difference in our classroom and schools.

READ WEAC’S PROTECTION FOR EDUCATORS PLAN

All students and staff deserve safe and welcoming schools, and that’s what Wisconsin overwhelmingly offers,” WEAC President Ron Martin said. “When violence is targeted at teachers and paraprofessionals, they must have the support they need. But this bill misses the mark.”

Martin said WEAC has collected educator input across Wisconsin to create our Protection for Educators Plan, that starts with the requirement for existing law to be enforced. The “Removal of Students from Class” (118.164), has been active in Wisconsin since 1999. But, for years, our members have reported that directives under this law are not followed by building principals and other district administrators. Many times, students are immediately returned to class after being removed. This undermines teacher authority afforded in the law but, equally important, undermines their authority in the eyes of all of their students: the disruptor and those whose instruction was interrupted.

Additionally, analysis of the proposed legislation shows the proposed legislation as presented:

  • Infringes on student privacy rights;
  • Focuses heavily on out-of-school incidents;
  • Does not clearly define “taken into custody”;
  • Potentially places teachers and administrators at odds with serious consequences over student discipline;
  • Provides no requirement for training to defuse or de-escalate in-school incidents;
  • Places little to no burden on parents or caregivers;
  • Does not address the handling of students with special education needs;
  • Will disproportionately affect students of color;
  • Includes additional, unnecessary reporting categories for suspension and expulsions; and
  • Does not attempt to address the root causes of student disruption and violence.

WEAC has notified Representative Thiesfeldt of our concerns with the plan, and shared our vision for what will really work in our classrooms and schools. Read the letter.

“Along with following current law, Wisconsin needs to do more when it comes to mental health services for students,” Martin said. “The 2017-19 state budget included a small allocation, but educators know the best way to help students is to provide them with programs and counseling that keep them involved in their school community. The best way to protect teachers from violence is to enforce current law and provide effective strategies and resources for dealing with violent and disruptive children.”

Bill would weaken grievance process for teachers

A bill that is being circulated in the Legislature –  SB 419/AB  503 – threatens teachers’ rights to access the statutory grievance procedure that includes review by an impartial hearing officer.

WEAC has issued an Action Alert.
Tell the bill’s authors about your concerns!

Note: Teachers in the Milwaukee Public School System would not be impacted by this bill, because they are not covered by the nonrenewal statute.

“The proposed change to the statutory grievance procedure would create a number of inequitable situations,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “Treating teachers unfairly results in low morale and will only worsen the teacher shortage, and that hurts students.”

Current law requires local government units, including school boards, to have grievance procedures in place that address employee terminations, employee discipline and workplace safety. The proposed change would essentially preclude access to the grievance procedure for teacher nonrenewals and any form of discipline where there is not a financial consequence – such as a letter of reprimand.

The current laws governing grievances and nonrenewals provide separate and independent rights. Under the nonrenewal law that applies only to full-time teachers, teachers have the right to a private conference with the school board prior to a decision to nonrenew. Under the grievance statute, employees must have access to a review process after a decision has been made, including a hearing before an impartial hearing officer, which allows the employee additional time and opportunity to prepare and submit testimony and evidence related to the nonrenewal. Therefore, it is critical that the legislature allow teachers access to both procedures.

Allowing teachers who have been nonrenewed access to the grievance procedure is crucial considering the stigma associated with nonrenewal. School district employers make hiring decisions based upon whether an applicant has been nonrenewed. Applicants for teaching positions posted on the Wisconsin Education Career Access Network (WECAN) are required to complete the WECAN Standard Application which asks: “Have you ever been non-renewed for reasons other than budgetary or program elimination?” Being nonrenewed suggests a teacher’s employment was ended for performance reasons or misconduct, and affects that teacher’s future employability. Thus, access to the grievance procedure is vital.

The bills have been referred to committee, and no public hearings are set. Read the fiscal estimate.

Legislative Update – October 5

A bill that is being circulated, Senate Bill 419/Assembly Bill  503, threatens teachers’ rights to access the statutory grievance procedure that includes review by an impartial hearing officer. WEAC has issued an action alert to the bill’s authors raising our concerns. Note that teachers in the Milwaukee Public School System would not be impacted by this bill, because they are not covered by the nonrenewal statute.

Read more about the proposed change that would essentially preclude access to the grievance procedure for teacher nonrenewals and any form of discipline where there is not a financial consequence – such as a letter of reprimand. The bills have been referred to committee, and no public hearings are set. Read the fiscal estimate.

‘Teacher Protection Act’ being drafted
A Capitol news source today reported that Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt is drafting what he is calling the “Teacher Protection Act.” The bill aims to give teachers information about violent crimes committed by students. WEAC is currently analyzing the proposal. Read the Legislative Reference Bureau overview.

Full summary of education provisions in state budget available
The full summary of education provisions in the 2017-19 state budget is now available.

Agreed-Upon Workers Compensation Bill
The Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council has finalized the Agreed-Upon Bill for the 2017-18 Legislative Session. This Agreed-Upon Bill will be introduced into the Wisconsin Legislature in a short period of time. WEAC and the Wisconsin AFL-CIO (which represents labor on the council) support this bill and will urge Legislators to fully support it. Wisconsin has one of the best worker’s compensation systems in the country, and this Agreed-Upon Bill will continue to strengthen it for injured workers, including educators harmed on the job.

Regarding benefits for injured workers, this bill calls for an increase for the weekly rates that is up to 150 percent larger than past increases. Specifically, the Agreed-Upon Bill includes Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefit increases for $20 per week for the maximum weekly benefit amount in 2018 and $25 per week for the maximum weekly benefit amount in 2019. The bill also adjusts maximum weekly benefits for Permanent Total Disability (PTD). Under the proposal, PTD injuries occurring prior to 1/1/2005 would have a maximum weekly rate of $711. The Agreed-Upon Bill also includes a multiplier of 15 percent of the number of weeks injured workers are eligible for if the employer does not return the injured worker to work at a wage more than 85 percent of their pre-injury wage.

Competitive Bidding for School Districts
A bill prescribing the way school districts conduct competitive bidding is moving ahead in the Senate. Senate Bill 236 would require a school board to advertise any project for construction, repair, remodeling or improvement of a public school building or public school facilities or for the furnishing of supplies or materials with an estimated cost greater than $75,000, and let the contract to the lowest responsible bidder. The bill would prohibit a school board from giving preference for where the bidder is located or using criteria other than the lowest responsible bidder.

WEAC continues to monitor legislative activity and the impact on educators and working families. Look for our updates and encourage your colleagues to sign up for them as well. Direct your questions to communications@weac.org.

Budget fallout: DPI to remove expiration date from teachers’ licenses

DPI outlines what teacher licensure changes mean for us

As a result of sweeping changes to teacher licensure included in the now-complete state budget, the DPI is reporting that anyone who holds a current professional or master license will automatically have their license converted to a lifetime license. This will be done by DPI removing the expiration date from these licenses. There will be no fee charged to the license holder for the conversion to a lifetime license and there is no action teachers need to take with the DPI at this time for the lifetime license.

In short, the PDP component of PI 34 will no longer be required. For initial educators currently in the middle of the PDP process moving toward professional status, DPI will soon issue guidance about how the transition from initial to professional status will be handled. WEAC will continue to advocate for common-sense rules that uphold the integrity of the profession.

For new teachers coming into the profession, a school district needs to certify to DPI that an individual completed 6 semesters of work as an initial teacher, after which they will fulfill requirements for a lifetime license.

Read more from the DPI.

Public hearing for bill that mandates schools to use competitive bidding

Senate Bill 236, requiring school districts to use the competitive bidding process on certain school construction projects, will be up for a public hearing October 3, and pushed to a committee vote on October 5.

Governor signs state budget, vetoes provision designed to help low-spending districts

The governor Thursday signed the state budget into law, after using his veto power on several provisions.

The budget is a mixed bag for public schools. It represents a 6 percent increase in state funding for K-12 schools – the first public school increase in six years. That includes a per-pupil increase outside of the school funding formula of $200 and $204 each year of the budget. Increases in categorical aids are also included, in areas such as mental health supports and rural school support.

The budget also continues the state’s practice of siphoning funds from public schools to subsidize private school tuition. Private school vouchers will be increased $217 per pupil each year of the budget, and the income limit is expanded to allow high-earning households to receive tax-funded tuition vouchers. Special needs vouchers are also expanded, and funding is increased substantially.

Teacher licensure is upended, and you can be sure WEAC will advocate intensely as administrative rules and procedures are developed to ensure Wisconsin students have qualified teachers and that the education professions are maintained and respected for their critical role in our democracy.

Governor Walker vetoed a provision that would have increased the amount of money school districts that spend less per student than the state average can raise in property taxes.

Kim Kaukl, who oversees the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance, was quoted in the Wisconsin State Journal as saying the vetoed provision “would have allowed these districts an opportunity to move closer to an even playing field with neighboring districts. This veto continues to punish the districts that were frugal prior to revenue caps being instituted.”

For an overview of the state budget and public schools, visit www.weac.org/budget.

Read more:

Scott Walker issues vetoes to new state budget, targeting low-spending schools, historic tax credit

Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday that he’s revising nearly 100 areas of the state’s new budget, axing a plan championed by Assembly Republicans to increase revenue for school districts that spend less than others and dramatically curtailing a popular state tax credit that helps restore historic buildings.

Legislative Update – September 20 – Committee backs bill to repeal gun-free school zones

Bill to repeal gun-free school zones passes Senate committee vote
The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety has approved SB 169, a bill to repeal Wisconsin’s “gun-free school zones” statute. The bill was met with heated debate at a public hearing in May and many news outlets have editorialized against it. The bill would allow people to carry concealed guns without getting training or state permits and in some cases bring them onto school grounds.

Updated resources explain what’s in the Wisconsin Budget
The Wisconsin Budget Project has summaries that explain in plain language what the budget would mean for schoolchildren, parents of young children and college students.

Take action now!
The proposed  $76 billion state budget is on the governor’s desk. The governor has said he will veto some measures, so this is your chance to send a letter asking him to veto bad budget provisions like restrictions on local control of school boards in referendums and the break-apart of the Racine Unified School District. Email the Governor

WEAC continues to monitor legislative activity and the impact on educators and working families. Look for our updates and encourage your colleagues to sign up for them as well. Direct your questions to communications@weac.org.