The WASB recently sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos detailing our positions on K-12 related provisions in Governor Evers’ COVID-19 legislative proposal.
First, the WASB opposes provisions restricting layoffs and requiring school districts to continue to pay employees during school closures for a public health emergency on local control grounds.
Given the widely reported issues schools are having with finding an adequate supply of teachers and other school personnel, we want to make it clear that school boards and districts value their employees. And while we understand not wanting to put people out of work, local school boards and district administration must have maximum flexibility to navigate school closures due to this pandemic and to utilize resources to maximize student learning primarily through online applications. To facilitate this new educational programming, a district may need to add staff in one area or reduce staff in another area. (more…)
From the Governor’s office:
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today signed Executive Order #73 calling the Legislature to meet in Special Session on Sat., April 4, 2020 at 4 p.m. to take up changes to the upcoming spring election. Gov. Evers is urging the Legislature to take up legislation allowing an all-mail election, to send a ballot to every registered voter who has not already requested one by May 19, and to extend the time for those ballots to be received to May 26. …
The governor previously proposed legislation that had several provisions aimed at making voting easier and more accessible during the public health emergency. A brief summary of that legislation is available here for review. Additionally, Gov. Evers called for the Legislature to act on this issue in a video, available here.
Executive Order #73 is available here.
This comes after a ruling and order by a federal judge to extend the acceptance of absentee ballots and state Republicans announcing their intention to appeal that decision.
Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) announced today in a statement she will not be seeking reelection to the state Senate. Her announcement is the latest in a string of retirement announcements in the state legislature including longtime Education chair Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and the longest serving legislator in the country, Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison).
“Shilling, 50, beat then-GOP Sen. Dan Kapanke, of La Crosse, in a 2011 recall election to claim the Senate seat after 11 years in the Assembly. Her fellow Dem senators then elected her minority leader starting with the 2015 session as she navigated the caucus through the final term of GOP Gov. Scott Walker and the first two years of Dem Gov. Tony Evers.
“Kapanke has already announced plans to run again for the seat, which is a top target for Republicans this fall.” (more…)
From WisPolitics.com … — Having already declared Gov. Tony Evers’ first proposal too expensive, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said today he hopes to have the Senate meet virtually “in the next couple of weeks” to take up legislation addressing COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the Assembly was committed to meeting “soon.”
But Evers today implored lawmakers to act sooner, saying waiting “weeks and weeks” doesn’t help serve state residents in the “best way possible.”
The statements from Fitzgerald and Vos came after the guv’s office over the weekend released a draft of legislation to address the pandemic. In a memo, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau pegged that bill’s price tag at $706.2 million, not counting a sum sufficient appropriation for the Department of Health Services to address a public health emergency. A WisPolitics.com tally of the proposals listed in a governor’s administration document showed the provisions totaled over $800 million. (more…)
Over the weekend, Gov. Evers released a proposed joint resolution to extend the public health emergency indefinitely as well as draft state legislation tackling a number of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s office also put out a chart that goes through each portion of the bill. In addition, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau composed a summary memo.
Of particular note to school leaders, the bill would:
- grant DPI authority to waive state requirements (including school and district report cards for the 2019-20 school year);
- prevent school districts from laying off staff during a public health emergency; and
- allow a WRS annuitant who is hired during a public health emergency by a school district (or other public employer) to elect to not suspend his or her annuity for the duration of the declared public health emergency if the position for which the annuitant is hired is a critical position.
As of now, the April 7 spring election is still on as scheduled. That being said, this election will be held in unprecedented conditions and uncertainty.
In the midst of all of the uncertainty, a number of school districts have referendum questions on the ballot. It remains to be seen what the impact of the public health emergency on voter turnout will be and how the economic impact of closing businesses and putting people out of work will impact their willingness to support school referenda. It is safe to say school boards never contemplated these complications when they voted to place these questions before their districts’ voters. (UPDATE: Gov. Evers has called for mailing absentee ballots to all voters.)
From the Wheeler Report: More than 10% (48) of Wisconsin’s 421 public schools are holding a total of 57 referendum questions on April 7. That includes: 27 schools seeking to issue debt, 8 schools seeking to exceed their revenue cap on a recurring basis and 22 schools seeking to exceed their revenue cap on a non-recurring basis. (more…)