Voters support ‘major increase’ in special education funding

A large majority of Wisconsin’s registered voters – 74 percent – agree with Governor Evers that there should be a “major increase” in state aid for special education, according to results from the latest Marquette University Law School poll. As part of his state budget plan, Evers has proposed a $600 million increase.

Evers’ plan would increase the state reimbursement rate for special education costs from 27% to 60% and free up funding for other programs at the local school district level.

WEAC President Ron Martin has applauded Evers’ proposal, saying that years of underfunding of special education worsened under former Governor Scott Walker. “It’s incredibly important at a time when so many children have unique needs that we provide the resources needed so all kids can be successful no matter their learning style or ability,” Martin said.

In releasing its plan, the Department of Public Instruction said, “After decades of cutting or freezing support, Wisconsin provides less reimbursement to local schools for special education than any other state in the nation. In order to pay for these required services, school districts have to make difficult decisions, even reducing or cutting other opportunities for students.”

The state budget is currently being debated in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

In other results from the Marquette poll released Wednesday:

  • 70 percent said the state should accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, while 23 percent were opposed.
  • 57 percent support increasing the minimum wage, while 38 percent were opposed. Evers is calling for an increase to $8.25 an hour on January 1 and then to $9 in 2021. It would increase another 75 cents each of the following two years before being indexed for inflation.
  • 57 percent preferred to keep gas taxes and vehicle registration fees at current levels, while 39 percent supported an increase. Evers has called for an increase of 8 cents in the gas tax.
  • 41 percent supported freezing enrollment in voucher schools and a pause on new independent charter schools, while 46 percent were opposed.

Read more:

Evers’ Approval, Disapproval Both Up In Latest Marquette Poll

Public approval – and disapproval – of Gov. Tony Evers went up in the latest Marquette University Law School poll as more people familiarized themselves with the first-term governor after three months on the job. The survey also saw a slight uptick in support for President Donald Trump among Wisconsin voters and a larger jump in support for Vermont U.S.

Evers to seek 163% increase in special education funding

State Superintendent Tony Evers said Monday he will seek a 163% increase in special education funding in his next biennial budget request. The request will increase the state reimbursement rate for special education costs from 27% to 60% and free up funding for other programs at the local school district level.

WEAC President Ron Martin applauded Evers’ announcement, saying that years of underfunding of special education has worsened under Scott Walker. “It’s incredibly important at a time when so many children have unique needs that we provide the resources needed so all kids can be successful no matter their learning style or ability,” he said.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Evers’ announcement was welcomed by disability-rights advocates.

“This is just such a welcome investment in our most vulnerable students, and it’s long overdue,” said Joanne Juhnke, policy director for Wisconsin Family Ties.

“We applaud any effort to champion a meaningful increase in special education funding in our state,” Lisa Pugh of the Survival Coalition of Disability Organizations in Wisconsin said in a statement. “The state investment in special education has been flat-funded for a decade, forcing local districts to make up the difference and harming students with disabilities.”

Read more:

Evers to seek unprecedented $600 million more in special education funding

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers will seek an unprecedented increase in school funding for students with disabilities in the 2019-’21 state budget, the latest in a series of announcements by Gov. Scott Walker and his top Democratic challenger as they position themselves as the most education-friendly in advance of the November election.

Special education enrollment increasing

Special education enrollment trends upward | News From Around the Web: WEAC

“The number of students receiving special education in the nation’s public schools is on the rise, according to a new federal report. There were 6.7 million kids with disabilities in classrooms across the country during the 2015-2016 school year, accounting for 13.2 percent of all students. That’…

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This article is from disabilityscoop.com and shared (via Scoop.It) on WEAC’s News From Around the Web news roundup page. Click the image above to read more.

Madison West teacher helps students with special needs find meaningful jobs

Fred Swanson

For Fred Swanson, a Madison West High School transition teacher for students with special needs, helping students graduate from high school is important but it isn’t the end of the road. Swanson goes that extra mile to help them find meaningful employment and transition into the community.

Working with Goodwill Industries, Swanson – a member of Madison Teachers Inc. and WEAC – helps place and support young adults in permanent part-time jobs.

His work is featured in an article on Channel3000.com, the website for WISC-TV, Channel 3, in Madison.

“We had kids in like (a) clerical law firm, in warehouses, in production, in the service industry, in banking, in landscaping and gardening. Indoors, outdoors, nights, weekends. We’ve been virtually everywhere,” Swanson says.

“We can just make a difference for every single individual because there’s not anybody with a disability that does not have the capacity to work in the community in a meaningful way.”

Teacher helps students with special needs find permanent part-time jobs

MADISON, Wis. – Remember when you landed your first job? The excitement? For those with special needs, it’s as exciting – maybe even more so. But it’s not always easy – they need a little help. Meet Fred Swanson of West High School in Madison.

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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 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.