Legislative Update – July 27

WEAC Legislative Update

An Assembly bill (AB-452) referred to the education committee would terminate Wisconsin’s voucher program, including special needs vouchers, and repeal the achievement gap reduction program. Instead, the bill calls for expanding the student achievement guarantee program (SAGE).

Foxconn and the budget

The Foxconn deal was unveiled Wednesday by the U.S. president and Wisconsin governor. Wisconsin Dems urged caution, demanding that the corporation adhere to promises it makes about the number and quality of jobs and workplace safety. Here are the brass tacks about the tax credits totaling up to $3 billion over 15 years, provided by the WI Economic Development Corp.

  • The Foxconn investment is the state’s largest economic development project.
  • The factory floor area will be 20 million square feet.
  • The average salary will be $53,875 plus benefits.
  • The project requires an estimated $10 billion of capital investment to construct the facility.
  • Of the $10 billion, $5.7 billion will be sourced from Wisconsin businesses.
  • The project is estimated to include 13,000 jobs directly at Foxconn and 22,000 indirect and induced jobs.
  • The project is estimated to generate $181 million in state and local tax revenues annually, including $60 million in local property taxes.
  • Foxconn plans to be operational in 2020.
  • There will be a memorandum of understanding that will outline terms of the incentives based on expected job creation and capital investment.
  • The contract will contain clawbacks that will require the company to pay back tax credits if the jobs and investment are not kept in Wisconsin.
  • The Tax Incremental Financing District tools available to the municipality where this is located will be expanded to ensure the capital available for local infrastructure.

A special session will be called to pass an incentive package.  The WEDC document says:

  • Tax incentives will be tied to actual performance.
  • Foxconn will be eligible to earn incentives based on its actual job creation and capital investment.
  • Foxconn will be eligible for a sales tax holiday for the purchase of construction materials.
  • Incentives are projected to cost between $200 million and $250 million a year.
  • Once fully staffed, Foxconn’s payroll will be estimated at $700 million a year.
  • The maximum amount of credits Foxconn will be eligible to earn is $3 billion over 15 years:
    • Up to $1.5 billion in state income tax credits for job creation.
    • Up to $1.35 billion in state income tax credits for capital investment.
    • Up to $150 million for the sales and use tax exemption (sales tax holiday).

Milwaukee community tells school board: Class Size Matters!

A huge outpouring of support from educators, parents, students and community advocates of quality public schools convinced the Milwaukee school board Tuesday night to demand more information before acting on an administration proposal that would threaten the district’s class size reduction efforts.

Among those testifying was Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association Vice President Amy Mizialko, who said: “Money saved today by increasing class sizes will result in more substantial social and educational costs for our children in their futures.”

MTEA took to Facebook to post a series of photos, memes, videos and recaps of testimony from Tuesday night’s school board meeting. Below is a collection of some of those posts, with photos by Joe Brusky (click HERE if the images do not appear below):

Read more about the district’s plan:

Plan to reassign teachers raises class size concerns in MPS

By of the More than 100 teachers could be reassigned, pushing up classroom sizes in some early grades at dozens of Milwaukee Public Schools next year as MPS phases out of the state’s soon-to-be-defunct class size reduction program known as SAGE.

What you need to know about the shift to Achievement Gap Reduction (AGR) programs in Milwaukee Public Schools


Written by: Kim Schroeder – MTEA President

Administrators & New Furniture vs. Reduced Class Sizes with more 1:1 attention for Children

On July 1, of 2015 Scott Walker signed into law Wisconsin Act 53. This law phases out the class-size reduction program known as the Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program that provides eligible schools per-pupil funding for each low-income K-3 student. The new law replaces SAGE with the Achievement Gap Reduction (AGR) program. There is no significant difference between the SAGE funding for 2015-2016 and the AGR funding for next school year.

Currently, Milwaukee Public Schools are home to 62 of 325 Wisconsin SAGE schools that receive class size reduction funding for grades K-5 through 3rd. Under the new program, schools that were eligible for SAGE will continue to receive per-pupil funding, but they are no longer under legal obligation to limit class size as long as they incorporate suggested AGR strategies. As a result of the shift to AGR, the MPS administration has proposed an extreme plan to create 62 new positions, which can be teachers or administrators, spend tens of thousands of dollars on classroom refurbishments and eliminate over 120 front-line classroom teacher positions.


MPS has softened the impact of their original plan by giving school communities the authority to decide the role of those 62 positions. Who makes that decision is still unclear. And, while every school might want another professional, is it worth losing the class size reduction which has been a hallmark of our early childhood programs in our neediest schools?

SAGE-Schools New


There are 4 serious problems with the MPS Administration’s proposal:


  1. This plan hurts our children and families


Reviews of major research reveal that our children benefit from the 1:1 attention smaller class sizes provide. MPS’s plan will take those needed resources away from our youngest students.


Eliminating well over 120 front-line teaching positions and replacing them with 62 positions that could be administrators takes resources away from our children. This plan and its rationale are not student centered. It would take away valuable in-class support professionals that provide one-on-one attention.


Research shows that the benefits from class-size reduction are greater for low-income and minority children. Increasing class sizes will only harm our most vulnerable student population.



  1. MPS’s current proposal would increase class size for students in grades 1, 2 and 3


The move from SAGE to AGR does not require larger class sizes and leaves the decision up to each local school district. MPS will still receive per-pupil funding for all 62 former SAGE schools. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) lets school districts decide how to utilize its recommended strategies, which means there is no need for MPS to abandon limits on class size that ensure educators can give K-3 students the one-on-one attention shown to improve student outcomes.


  1. The MPS administration is engaging in an undemocratic process by trying to create 62 potential new administrator positions without school board approval


The publicly elected school board has the authority to decide how the school year 2016-17 budget will be spent, yet the district posted 62 administrator positions called Early Childhood Program Coordinators on the employee portal before the elected School Board had even approved the shift in personnel.


While the exact number of front-line teaching positions that would be eliminated is not provided, a low estimate of 2 teachers per building would eliminate well over 120 teaching positions!



  1. MPS class size ratios are already higher than nearby districts


Families desire communities with well-resourced public schools with small class sizes. When we look at MPS student to teacher ratios compared to other districts, there is a significant issue of disparity. Increasing the current class size ratio will amplify this imbalance and lead to more families fleeing the Milwaukee Public School system.


Class size ratio in other districts :


  •         Mequon is 17:1
  •         Glendale 16:1
  •         Waukesha 17:1
  •         South Milwaukee 17:1
  •         Milwaukee 21:1

If we eliminate effective class size reduction strategies, how will MPS attract or retain families?


MPS could be using the AGR resources in a way that would ensure smaller class sizes in early grades K-3 that are proven to boost student academic achievement.


Here’s what you can do:
First, call your publicly elected School Board member and Terry Falk, citywide school board director. Let the Board know the stories of the children in your classroom. Your voices and those of our families need to be heard.



Second, show up with your parents and community next Tuesday, April 12th at 5:30 p.m. for the Strategic Planning and Budget Committee of the School Board and bear witness to the value of class size reduction for our kids.

RSVP now!


Legislature votes to replace highly successful SAGE class-size reduction program with new approach

The Assembly on Tuesday approved a bill – SB 32 – that replaces the highly successful SAGE class-size reduction program with a new Achievement Gap Reduction program open to schools currently participating in SAGE after a one-year extension of contracts set to expire this year.

The new program allows a participating school to meet its obligations under the contract by using one of three strategies in K-3, or a combination of these strategies:

  1. One-to-one tutoring provided by a licensed teacher,
  2. Instructional coaching for teachers provided by a licensed teacher, or
  3. Maintaining 18:1 or 30:2 classroom ratios and providing professional development on small group instruction.

The new program requires a participating school to create performance goals, including reduction of the achievement gap between low-income students in that school and students in the same grade and subject statewide.  School boards would be required to review the implementation of, and progress toward, achieving performance objectives in each participating school every semester.

In testimony earlier this spring, WEAC President Betsy Kippers said, “Many educators across Wisconsin would say that it is premature to abandon the tried and true SAGE program, the subject of a state-funded long-term study, and replace it with a mishmash of strategies.” Read more of her testimony.

SB 32 now heads to the governor for his consideration.

Kippers urges preservation of SAGE class-size reduction program

WEAC President Betsy Kippers asked the State Legislature this week to preserve the highly successful SAGE class-size reduction program.

“Given the years of research supporting the efficacy of smaller class sizes in the early grades, I urge you to consider preserving SAGE as a separate and distinct program and prioritize adequately funding smaller class sizes so our students can reap the benefits of more individual attention,” Kippers said in testimony before the Senate Committee on Education. The committee is considering a bill – Senate bill 32 – that would replace SAGE with what the legislation refers to as the “Achievement Gap Reduction” program.  Under the new program, schools and districts that are currently participating in SAGE would be eligible to receive $2,027.25 per low-income student in a participating grade for implementing one or more of three strategies: 1) class-size reduction combined with professional development 2) instructional coaching and/or 3) tutoring for students struggling with reading and/or math.

“The strategies are poorly defined, using vague descriptors such as ‘data-informed’ and ‘data-driven’ which are subject to interpretation, meaning different things to different people,” Kippers said. “The legislation also leaves it up to the national-level Institute of Education Sciences’ What Works Clearinghouse to define for Wisconsin schools what instructional programs should be used for implementing the student tutoring strategy.”

“Many educators across Wisconsin would say that it is premature to abandon the tried and true SAGE program, the subject of a state-funded long-term study, and replace it with a mishmash of strategies,” Kippers said. “Such a smorgasbord approach would make it difficult to assess which strategies, or combination thereof, are directly responsible for improved student outcomes with each school district creating its own unique version of an achievement gap reduction program with few required parameters.

“Given the years of research supporting the efficacy of smaller class sizes in the early grades, I urge you to consider preserving SAGE as a separate and distinct program and prioritize adequately funding smaller class sizes so our students can reap the benefits of more individual attention.  Equally important is investing in professional development and ensuring access to resources and supports for teachers in SAGE classrooms, which enable teachers to adapt responsive teaching strategies to maximize the benefits of small class sizes.  This was the vision for SAGE when it was first established.”

Read Kippers’ entire testimony