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Legislative Update

Capitol Watch: Senate and Assembly took floor action yesterday on several K-12 education focused bills

by | Nov 15, 2023 | Legislative Update Blog, State Issue

The Wisconsin Legislature took action this week on a number of bills focused on K-12 education. The Senate yesterday voted to approve SB 241, relating to a school psychologist loan program. The bill will now move to Assembly, where the Assembly Education Committee already voted to recommend their version of the bill for passage. In the other chamber, the Assembly voted to pass several more K-12 focused bills, including AB 223, relating to maintaining opioid antagonist in schools, and AB 575, relating to a DPI mental health training program. The Senate has not taken any previous action on either of these bills, however according to Senate rules a committee does not need to approve a bill for the full chamber to consider it.

In addition to their individual action, both the Senate and Assembly voted to pass SB 267, relating to a recovery high school grant program. The bill now moves to the governors desk for his signature. Read below for more information on these bills.

Passed by the Assembly

AB 223 — Related to maintaining opioid antagonists in schools
Passed via Voice Vote

Substitute Amendment Text:
An elementary or secondary school and its designated school personnel, and a physician, advanced practice nurse prescriber, or physician assistant who provides or administers an opioid antagonist, are not liable for any injury that results from the opioid antagonist, regardless of whether authorization was given by the pupil’s parent or guardian or by the pupil’s physician, advanced practice nurse prescriber, or physician assistant, unless the injury is the result of an act or omission that constitutes gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. The immunity from liability provided under this subsection is in addition to and not in lieu of that provided under s. 895.48.

AB 575 — Related to a DPI mental health training program
Passed via Voice Vote

Under current law, the Department of Public Instruction must establish a mental health training program under which it provides training to school district and independent charter school staff on three specific evidence-based strategies related to addressing mental health issues in schools. The three specific evidence-based strategies are 1) The Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment program, 2) Trauma Sensitive Schools, and 3) Youth Mental Health First Aid. Under this bill, DPI must annually distribute information about this mental health training program to school boards, operators of independent charter schools, and the appropriate standing committees of the legislature. Additionally, under the bill, each school board and charter school governing board must develop a plan for addressing mental health issues that arise for school staff members and pupils. The plan must include information about DPI’s mental health training program. Finally, the bill requires each school board and charter school governing board to annually distribute its mental health plan to all school staff.

Passed by the Senate

SB 241 — Related to a school psychologist loan program
Passed via Voice Vote

This bill creates a school psychologist loan program to be administered by the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB) for students who meet certain eligibility criteria, including enrollment at an institution of higher education in a program of study leading to a school psychologist career. Under the program, HEAB may award to an eligible student a loan of up to $10,000 annually for up to three years. HEAB must forgive 25 percent of the loan for each school year that the recipient is employed as a school psychologist in an urbanized county or rural area, as defined in the bill. “School psychologist” is defined in the bill as a licensed psychologist who practices in a school-based setting or an individual who is licensed as a school psychologist under rules promulgated by the Department of Public Instruction.

Moves to the Governor

SB 267 — Related to a recovery high school grant program
Passed via Voice Vote

This bill creates operational grants for recovery high schools and planning grants for schools and nonprofit organizations that intend to establish recovery high schools. Under the bill, a recovery high school is a public, private, or tribal school operating only high school grades that 1) is specifically designed for pupils in recovery from a substance use disorder or a mental health disorder that coexists with a substance use disorder and 2) awards high school credits that count towards a high school diploma awarded by the school or high school credits that will transfer and count towards a high school diploma awarded by a school district.

Under the bill, the Department of Public Instruction must annually award operational grants to eligible recovery high schools that apply for the grant. To be eligible, a recovery high school must meet the following criteria:

  1. The recovery high school must be governed by a governing board.
  2. The recovery high school demonstrates that its model is capable of supporting its anticipated enrollment.
  3. The recovery high school must employ an individual who is responsible for the recovery school’s daily operations.
  4. If the recovery high school is a private school, the private school is a nonprofit organization.
  5. The recovery high school provides evidence that it has at least one other source of funding to support its operations.
  6. The recovery high school requires prospective pupils to apply and conditions eligibility for enrollment on the following: that the pupil desires to be sober; that the pupil commits to attend the recovery high school daily; that the pupil consents to weekly drug testing; and that the pupil agrees to a 30-day probationary period at the end of which the pupil’s enrollment may be terminated.
  7. The recovery high school provides evidence-based programming to pupils.

An eligible recovery high school that applies for an operational grant must include in its application the specific grant amount for which it is applying and a budget for how it will use the grant funding it has requested. If DPI awards an eligible recovery school less than the full amount requested, DPI must provide an explanation for the reduced amount. Under the bill, if a recovery high school closes during a school year during which it receives a grant, the recovery high school is required to return any unused grant proceeds to DPI.

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