Legislative Update: Republicans strip Evers’ budget of key items

The Joint Finance Committee Thursday killed a plan for $1.4 billion in federal funding that would have helped fund schools, roads and healthcare. The party-line vote to deny full Medicaid expansion was followed by a vote on a huge package of recommended budget provisions that would have increased special education funding and teacher quality measures, plus require transparency and accountability for taxpayer-funded private schools. 

EMAIL THE LEGISLATORS WHO VOTED NO!

“Wisconsin educators and parents have turned out in droves to be clear about our No. 1 priority – our students,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “Our dedication is strong – we will continue to advocate in the best interest of our students for equitable funding for public schools.”

See the interactive map on what Medicaid expansion would mean to your county

Legislative updates:

  • The Senate and Assembly will be in session May 15. The Assembly will act on a series of bills including AB-022, which would require driver education instruction to include information on spotting and reporting human trafficking.
  • Mental health. Governor Tony Evers will proclaim Friday, May 10, Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.
  • The Legislative Audit Bureauhas released a new audit of the UW System. (Full Report, Highlights)

Bills we’re watching:
For a list of all the bills in the Assembly Ed Committee, click here.
For a roundup of all the bills we’re watching, with analysis, click here.

  • Minority Teacher Loan Program AB-051. The Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee has approved this bill.

Bills Circulating for Co-Sponsorship

  • Prohibiting the Investment Board from making investments in firearms companies (LRB-3060/1). While not currently investing directly in the firearm industry, the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) has in the past been a shareholder. Prior to May of 2018, Wisconsin was just one of eleven states that continued to invest in the firearms industry. According to the filing from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission covering state’s holdings as of 12/31/17, SWIB held 400,000 shares, or $5.1 million worth, of American Outdoor Brands Corp. stock (formerly known as Smith & Wesson). 
  • Wisconsin Reading Corps (LRB-2754 Memo). Funding for Wisconsin Reading Corps. Republican legislators are circulating this bill, even though Governor Tony Evers’ proposed budget eliminates former Governor Scott Walker’s “Read to Lead” program (read more here) and funds the Wisconsin Reading Corps at $700,000 a year. 
  • Teacher Appreciation Week (LRB-3201/1). While this is just circulating now – it calls on Wisconsin to recognize this week and the important work of educators.

With schools ‘at the tipping point,’ educators ask legislators to ‘do the right thing’ and pass Evers’ budget

As the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee concluded its statewide budget hearings Wednesday in Green Bay, educators continued to encourage legislators to “do the right thing” and support Governor Evers’ budget plan that supports children, public schools and our dedicated teachers and education support professionals.

“Today, I urge you to fully support the components in the governor’s budget designed to improve public education,” said Green Bay special education teacher Justin Delfosse, who is president of the Green Bay Education Association. “That includes the complete package of funding increases, preparation time for teachers, and repeal of online alternative education preparation programs for Wisconsin teacher licensure that do not require any hands-on classroom training.”

Delfosse noted that since the passage of the anti-public education law called ACT 10 in 2011, colleges of education have seen a dramatic decrease of student enrollment in teacher education programs. “This has led to a serious teacher shortage in Wisconsin, particularly in hard-to-fill positions such as special education, ESL, and bilingual,” he said.

“I tell you this because Green Bay Area Public Schools, and schools around Wisconsin are at a tipping point. Wisconsin has neglected funding for public education for too long. Wisconsin has fallen to 33rdin the country in terms of paying teachers.”

Delfosse said that students and their families “depend on us, and we are depending on you to be a part of the solution.”

“The solution,” he said, “includes funding increases outlined in the budget in front of us, and it comes with using some of that funding to restore educator pay so professionals who dedicate themselves to teaching can provide for our families and make this a career instead of a stop along the way to a family-supporting job.

“As a teacher, I go above and beyond for my students,” Delfosse said. “I’m asking you to do your part for all students in Wisconsin because our children deserve this investment.”

In addition to testifying in person when possible, such as Delfosse did, educators, parents and supporters of public education have been sending emails and submitting testimony to the committee in support of Governor Evers’ budget. Brad Klotz, a Lake Mills band teacher, communicated with the committee through a video which he posted to Facebook.

Klotz said he is concerned that as Wisconsin teachers salaries continue to fall – dropping already from 18th to 33rd among the states – that “motivated educators such as myself” will leave the profession or the state, adding to the challenges created by a growing teacher shortage.

“There is a way to fix this,” he said. “Legislature of the State of Wisconsin, we are looking to you to do the right thing here … and pass Governor Evers’ budget.”


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.

Educators ask Joint Finance Committee to support public education funding increases and measures to attract and retain quality teachers

Advocates of public education testified in Janesville Friday at the first of four state budget hearings by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, expressing strong support for Governor Evers’ proposals to increase public education funding and to attract and retain quality educators.

“Wisconsin’s professional educators, like myself, are locked into an unfair and unrewarding economic system,” said Janesville social studies teachers Steve Strieker.

“Working conditions and professional pay have declined. A teacher shortage looms with the continued exodus of colleagues. Teacher training is being gutted and fast tracked for easy licensure. Precious public school monies have been diverted to mostly less-needy private school students in the form of vouchers. And public school funding has been slashed. This situation stinks for public school teachers, as well as the parents, and students we serve,” Strieker said.

Others testifying Friday included WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen, WEAC Secretary-Treasurer Kim Schroeder and Lake Mills teacher Brenda Morris.

These and other educators asked the committee to support measures proposed both by Governor Evers in his state budget plan and by the Legislature’s own Blue Ribbon Commission on school funding. They include increased special education funding, predictable revenue cap increases and salary increases to attract and retain teachers.

Other hearings scheduled are:

  • Wednesday, April 10, Oak Creek Community Center, Oak Creek.
  • Monday, April 15, University Center – Riverview Ballroom, UW-River Falls.
  • Wednesday, April 24, University Union – Phoenix Rooms, UW-Green Bay.

Find out more about the state budget at weac.org/budget.

Lake Mills teacher Brenda Morris testifies before the Joint Finance Committee (above). WEAC Vice President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen poses with WEAC members outside the hearing (below).

Governor Evers visits classrooms, helps celebrate Read Across America

The day after delivering his pro-public education State Budget Address at the Capitol in Madison, Governor Evers hit the road and visited schools throughout the state, in part reading to students to help celebrate NEA’s Read Across America.

In the pictures below, he is visiting Schulte Elementary School in Racine, WEAC Region 3 member Diane Barnett’s class at Lincoln Elementary School in Appleton, and the jump rope team after-school program run by WEAC Region 4 member Mark Shuda at La Crosse’s Southern Bluffs Elementary School. Students there focus on healthy lifestyles and choices. The governor’s proposed budget – for the first time ever – creates funding especially for after school programs.

In this final picture below, Governor Evers poses with WEAC Region 4 members (left to right) Michelle Powell, Jill Schams and John Havlicek.

Governor Evers supports public schools, educators in his first State Budget Address

Governor Tony Evers Thursday night unveiled a state budget increasing state funding of public K-12 schools by $1.4 billion over the next two years, requiring that teachers receive preparation time as part of their workday, and achieving two-thirds state funding of education without raising property taxes. 

In addition, he made the case for higher educator pay, saying, “Wisconsin pays our public school teachers less than the national average… We need to do our part to make sure our educators know that the work they do is valued and to use these funding increases to do everything they can to keep our talented educators here in Wisconsin.”

“Governor Evers listened to the people and is making public schools a priority,” said Ron Martin, a teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “Through this budget, he reveals the heart of an educator — embracing opportunity for all students, protecting the most vulnerable among us, and respecting the noble profession of teaching.”

Governor Evers’ Biennial Budget

Teacher Quality. There are several initiatives that demonstrate respect for the education professions:

  • A requirement that teachers receive 45 minutes or a single class period each day of preparation time.
  • Repeal of alternative education preparation programs for Wisconsin teacher licensure, such as the American Board of Certified Teachers.
  • Allows districts to rehire retired teachers after 30 days without a contract. That retiree may not participate in the state retirement system, to prevent “double-dipping.”

School Funding. The budget represents a 10 percent increase — $1.4 billion – in state spending for schools:

  • Returns the state to two-thirds funding of public schools in 2020 by transferring high poverty aid into general equalization aid, increasing the low revenue ceiling from the current $9,400 to $9,700 in 2020 and to $10,000 in 2021, and transferring funding from the levy tax credit and first dollar credit.
  • Reforms the state’s broken school funding system to help districts of all sizes, including revenue limit fairness so lower spending districts can catch up and all districts can plan for the future.
  • Eliminates delayed equalized aid payments to districts.

Special Education. Provides $606 million over the biennium in special education funding and categorical aid, increasing the reimbursement rate from 25 percent to 60 percent. (Click here for one-pager) This includes:

  • $7 million over the biennium additional funding for special education transition readiness grants.
  • Repeals actual cost basis payment calculation for special needs students who open enroll.

Student Mental Health and School Safety. Nearly $64 million more for student mental health funding, a tenfold increase. The budget also moves the Office of School Safety to the Department of Public Instruction instead of the Department of Justice.

  • $150,000 for the Youth Risk Behavior Survey
  • $26 million each year for annual school climate surveys
  • Expanded Trauma Sensitive Schools first aid training
  • $22 million in reimbursements for general mental health
  • $7 million each year for mental health collaboration grants

English Language Learners. Several funding options are available to school districts, ensuring students get the help and attention they need.

  • $35.3 million over the biennium for bilingual/bicultural aid
  • $2.5 million in 2021 in new support grants for dual language and ELL support
  • $2.4 million in aid to school districts that do not receive bilingual/bicultural aid, with $100 per learner to provide support
  • $3.4 million in 2021 to provide $100 per learner in schools at lower levels of English proficiency

Rural Schools. Sparsity aid is increased and gaps are closed to help rural schools.

  • Transportation aid is increased by $220,000, upping the reimbursement rate is increased for students traveling over 12 miles

Urban Schools. The budget funds achievement initiatives in Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Green Bay and Racine.

  • $5 million in early childhood grants for 3K
  • $7.2 million to expand summer school grants
  • $1.2 million for district grants for teachers who work in high poverty schools
  • $500,000 for the Wisconsin Urban Leaders Program
  • $2 million for collaborative community partnerships

4-Year-Old Kindergarten. Fully funds 4K and expands it statewide by 2021.

After School Programs. Creates the first funding stream for after-school programs.

Drivers Ed. Creates a categorical aid for drivers education programs, at $200 per pupil who completes a designated program.

Urban Initiatives. The budget eliminates language allowing school takeovers in Milwaukee, to align with the governor’s plan to phase out vouchers and privately run charter schools. Other initiatives include:

  • Grants for MPS and UW-Milwaukee to train, place and support math teachers.
  • Vouchers and Privately Run Charters. Freezing enrollment in private school voucher programs beginning in the 2021-22 school year, suspend the creation of new independent charter schools until 2023 and creating new minimum standards for teacher licensing and school accreditation for private schools. The number of available vouchers would be frozen beginning in 2021. There are currently about 28,000 students using vouchers in Milwaukee and 10,000 in other parts of the state combined. Roughly 600 schools participate in the program, which has been growing. According to the governor’s office, the state’s voucher programs grew 8.7 percent in the 2018-19 school year, while costs grew about 12 percent. The estimated total cost of vouchers in the current school years is roughly $302 million. Accountability and transparency. Requiring annual property tax bills to provide information about how much state aid school districts are losing because of private school vouchers, also called “voucher transparency.”

UW System & Tech Schools. The budget continues a freeze on in-state tuition at University of Wisconsin (UW) System schools that has been in place since 2013, and also:

  • Provides the UW system an additional $150 million
  • Allows Wisconsin residents who entered the country without legal permission to pay in-state tuition rates
  • Requires technical colleges and the UW System to offer early college credit programs at no charge to school districts

Student Loan Refinancing. The governor’s plan would also set aside $50,000 to study the feasibility of creating a refinancing authority to allow Wisconsin students to refinance their college loans.

Grants. A number of new grants and enhancements are included:

  • Tribal language revitalization grants
  • Minority teacher grant program to encourage teachers of color to go into the profession
  • $250,000 per year in robotics grants
  • Recommends using current year freshman enrollment instead of membership base to calculate district computer and school performance improvement grants
  • Eliminates grants for information technology, redirecting the funding to other IT programs
  • Water filtration grants for schools are included, for water bottle refill stations

School Nutrition. The budget fully funds the school breakfast program and expands the facilities that qualify for it, along with fully funding the milk program, and also creates a coordinator position between the departments of public instruction and agriculture.

Libraries. Funding for public libraries is enhanced, including that for Badger Link and services for the blind. Adjustments are made to the Common Schools Fund.

Reading. The budget eliminates former Governor Scott Walker’s “Read to Lead” program (read more here). Instead, Governor Evers funds the Wisconsin Reading Corpsat $700,000 a year. 

Gifted & Talented. Funding is up $762,000 in 2020 and 2021, totaling over $1.5 million.

Referendum. Allows districts to hold over two referendums in a calendar year.

Technical Education. There are shifts in the departments that oversee some grant programs are located, along with a new DPI position to coordinate programs being transitioned, including:

  • Career and Technical Education will be moved to the Department of Workforce Development.
  • Technical Education Equipment will be moved from the DWD to the DPI.
  • Teacher Development Training and Equipment grants are merging and staying at the DWD.

Other state budget proposals:

Workers Rights. Repeal private sector right-to-work-for-less law and reinstate prevailing wage on state projects.

  • The governor called it a beginning to undo the harm that’s been done to organized labor. In an appearance after the budget unveiling, the governor said the state will now work to champion workers, collective bargaining and local control. He also voiced his goal of family supporting jobs that are labor friendly and willing to work with unions.
  • He also proposed to increase minimum wage to $8.25 on Jan. 1, 2020, and to $9 on Jan. 1, 2021, with additional 75-cent annual increases in 2022 and 2023. A task force would study ways to work toward a $15 minimum wage.

Child Welfare. Use tribal gaming revenues to fund a $1 million increase in grants for child welfare services for tribes over the next two years and earmark an additional $640,000 in tribal gaming revenues to prepare architectural plans for a proposed $8 million, 36-bed youth wellness/treatment center to treat opioid addiction for tribal and nontribal members.

Health Care. Provide $28 million for “Healthy Women, Healthy Babies” initiatives aimed at improving women’s access to health exams and addressing racial disparities in maternal and child health.

Juvenile Justice. Indefinitely delaying closing the state’s embattled youth prison, coupled with increasing the age for charging juveniles as adults from 17 to 18, beginning in 2021.Under the governor’s plan, closure of the Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls would be delayed until whenever new, regional facilities are developed to house the inmates. Evers’ plan also includes a roughly $200 million increase in state funding for building new regional youth prisons and expanding an existing facility in Madison. According to the Evers’ administration, Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that allows 17-year-olds to be criminally charged and tried as adults.

BadgerCare.The state could receive additional federal Medicaid funding first made available by the federal Affordable Care Act.According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), the decision by the previous administration not to accept this funding resulted in a cumulative net loss to the state of more than $1 billion in federal funding. Expanding BadgerCare coverage from people who earn up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) to people who earn up to 133 percent of the FPL would generate roughly $200 million in increased federal funding each year because it would by substantially increase the percentage of costs reimbursed by the federal government from about 58 percent to about 90 percent.

Gas tax. Studies indicate the state’s roads and highways are demonstrably worse shape than those of our neighboring states. Gov. Evers’ nominee to fill the Department of Transportation Secretary position estimates the state needs an additional $360 to $400 million per biennium just to maintain the current condition of the state highway system, not counting the additional funding needed to provide road aids to local governments or rebuild portions of the Interstate system within the state.

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.

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.

 

State budget sent to governor is a mixed bag; WEAC advocates for several vetoes

With the governor likely to act soon on a state budget that includes a funding increase at long last for public schools, WEAC members are pleased elected officials have responded to the public’s call to increase funding for public schools. And while educators are welcoming the positive aspects of the budget document, they are also advocating for several vetoes on provisions that do not serve students well. Those include:

Energy Efficiency
The proposal halts the ability for districts to exceed revenue limits for energy efficiency measures for one year. Last year, 120 districts utilized the exemption to enact long-term cost-saving measures. The governor, who originally sought to eliminate the exemption, says he’ll veto the program entirely when he takes up the budget.

Referendum Restrictions
Restrictions to local school referendums in the budget would tie the hands of local school boards when it comes to raising funds to keep schools afloat for students. Under the plan, referendums would only be allowed on the regularly scheduled election days – spring primary and general each year and the partisan primary and general in even-numbered years, or the second Tuesday in November of odd-numbered years. The governor says he plans to veto the ability to go to referendum in November of non-election years.

Voucher Income Expansion
Income limits would be expanded for state-funded private school tuition vouchers in the statewide program. The current limit is $44,955 for a family of four in 2017-18. That would go to $53,460. Expanding the income limits would add an additional 550 students in 2018-19. Local school districts have to pay for those vouchers, and in the budget plan would be allowed to raise local property taxes. Statewide, that could signal an additional $30 million in property taxes.

Special Needs Vouchers
Elimination of Prior Year Open Enrollment Requirement. Pupils would no longer have been denied under the open enrollment program in order to receive a special needs voucher. That change alone is estimated to increase the number of pupils in the program by 50 next year, and increase voucher payments by $621,400. The school districts the pupils live in would pay for the voucher tuition, but would be allowed to raise local property taxes to cover the private school price tag.

Eliminate Prior Year Public School Enrollment Requirement. Beginning next year, current private school students would receive tax-funded tuition under the special needs voucher program. Law now says they had to be enrolled in a public school the prior year. It is estimated that the change could increase the number of pupils participating in the program by 200 pupils next year and increase voucher payments by $2.5 million. Again, school districts would be allowed to raise local property taxes to cover the private school price tag.

Voucher PaymentsIn the first year a pupil receives a special needs voucher, the private school would receive $12,000 from the public school district. The following year, the private school would receive the greater amount of these two scenarios:

  • Either the actual costs incurred by the private school the year before based on what they file with the DPI to document what it cost to implement the child’s most recent IEP or services plan (as modified by agreement between the private school and the child’s parent) plus related services agreed to by the private school and the child’s parent that are not included in the IEP or services plan; or
  • A flat rate of $12,000.

This is a no-win for taxpayers, with private schools in the voucher program required to provide little to no accountability for meeting student needs or being fiscally responsible. State aid would be siphoned from local public school aid and shifted to private schools up to 150 percent of the per-pupil payment (again allowing school boards to raise local property taxes to make it up). Special needs voucher costs above the 150 percent would result in the state shifting tax dollars to cover the private school tuition bill, up to 90 percent above the remaining amount.

Privately Run Charter Schools
Allows any UW Chancellor and any technical college district board to authorize independent charter schools anywhere in the state.

Racine Unified Break-Apart Plan
Similar to the failed takeover maneuver aimed at Milwaukee Public Schools, Republican lawmakers included a break-apart plan that targets the Racine Unified School District. The proposal would allow a break-apart czar to be appointed by politicians and, if students score low on standardized tests, would give the district one year to improve test scores before allowing villages to create their own school districts.

Alternative teacher preparation programs
Initial teaching licenses would be awarded to anyone with a bachelor’s degree and who has completed an alternative certification program (aka online licensing factories that refuse to meet minimum standards set by the legislature). Under the measure, the certification program must be operated by a provider that is a non-profit organization under the internal revenue code, that operates in at least five states and has been in operation for at least 10 years, and that requires the candidate to pass a subject area exam and the Professional Teaching Knowledge exam. This opens the door to outfits such as the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, which operates in Florida, Arkansas and Tennessee, to name a few. The Board’s website promotes its program as a way to earn teacher certification in less than one year, without taking on debt or returning to school. Student teaching is not required as a basis of certification.