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On Thursday, May 30, the Assembly Committee on Education met to vote on one bill (dyslexia guidebook) and hold a public hearing on three others (school meals,  special education licensure & teacher licensure reciprocity).

Executive Session: Assembly Bill 110 was recommended for full passage by the Assembly on a party-line vote after an amendment was unanimously approved by committee  members.

This bill requires the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to develop a  guidebook regarding dyslexia and related conditions.  The guidebook is to be developed by an advisory committee, whose membership shall be determined in consultation with the International Dyslexia Association—Wisconsin Branch, Inc. (IDA), and the Wisconsin State Reading Association, Inc. (WSRA).  Representatives from IDA and WSRA also serve as cochairpersons on the advisory committee. The amendment bars people from serving on the committee if they have a financial interest in certain reading products/screening tools.

Democrats argued that the guidebook was too narrowly focused on dyslexia and the strategies for treating dyslexia rather than the wider scope of reading difficulties that students experience.

Public Hearing: Assembly Bill 84 would require schools to provide a”quality” school meal  to each student who requests one, regardless of their ability to pay for the meal,  in an effort to prevent “lunch shaming” students in front of their peers.  Among our concerns are that this an open-ended and potentially expensive mandate that would create additional costs for schools or school districts and/or reduce local flexibility to hold down costs.

Under the bill, a school would not be able to provide the pupil an alternate meal that is not “reimburseable” by the state or the USDA.   The bill also includes mandates on school debt collection but does not contain any additional funding to help school meal programs cope with the new mandates.

While the WASB does not support shaming students as a tactic for compelling payment for unpaid meal charges, we do have serious concerns with aspects of this bill that would remove local  policymaking and local control and could impose a potentially substantial unfunded mandate on schools.

The WASB also expressed serious concerns that the bill could incentivize irresponsible behavior by parents.  School meal programs are expected to be both financially self-sustaining and run on a non-profit basis. They operate under the expectation that families that can afford to contribute will pay an appropriate portion of the cost of their children’s meals.  This bill, as written, could undermine that.  View WASB’s written testimony here.

We hope to work with the bill’s author to improve the bill. Several other groups, including the School Administrators Alliance, the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools  and School Nutritionists Association hold similar concerns.

Assembly Bill 194 removes the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT) as a requirement for initial licensure as a special education teacher if they successfully complete a course
in the teaching of reading and reading comprehension.  This bill was requested by school administrators and WASB registered in support of this bill.

Assembly Bill 195 allows teachers from other states to gain a higher level of licensure based on reciprocity.  The WASB did not take a position on this bill.

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