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Legislative Update


Updates on key bills affecting K-12 education

The 2019-20 legislative session is nearing its final stages. The state Assembly plans to meet twice—on Tuesday (2/18) at 1:00 p.m. and again on Thursday (2/20) and then adjourn for the year. The Senate plans to meet on Wednesday (2/19) next week and likely once more in March before adjourning.

The pace of legislative activity inside the Capitol has really picked up within last few weeks. Despite the short window for getting bills passed, lawmakers are still introducing new bills, and some of those are receiving committee hearings and being scheduled for floor votes, while many others likely will not advance. Numerous bills that had been previously introduced and been given hearings are at long last being voted out of committee, often with amendments. It can be a challenge to keep up with the flurry of activity. To help you, we’ve compiled a short non-exhaustive list of some of the bills that have drawn our attention.

Recent legislative activity on these bills affecting K-12 education include:  read more…

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Assembly GOP members unveil tax cut proposal for state surplus funds

The new GOP package, unveiled this morning, is centered around a $250 million income tax cut. The plan also includes putting money toward debt payments and tax cuts for manufacturers. Gov. Tony Evers had previously called for $250 million to go to public schools.

The legislators stated it was their plan for the package to be introduced as companion bills in both houses, have a hearing before the Joint Finance Committee on Monday, Feb. 17 and be on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Feb. 19 and then to the Assembly floor on Thursday, Feb. 20. It is widely expected that next week will be the last floor days of the 2019-20 session for the Assembly. Gov. Tony Evers would then have the choice of signing the package into law or vetoing it. read more…

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OSS: $50 million in federal school safety grants available; upcoming training

From the Office of School Safety (OSS):

The United States Department of Justice has announced that the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) has $50,000,000 in grant funding available for programs that keep students safe. The STOP School Violence Prevention Program provides funding to improve school security through evidence-based school safety programs.

Please note that this is a federal grant program and is not administered by any Wisconsin state government agency. For more information on COPS Office funding, please visit https://cops.usdoj.gov/svpp. read more…

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More details on Governor’s plan; what would it mean to your school district?

As we posted previously, Gov. Evers last week called for a special session of the legislature to take up a plan to invest a portion of state surplus funding in K-12 education. The governor’s proclamation calls for the special session to convene at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11, 2020, which is tomorrow. 

We now have more details of the plan, including district by district breakdowns for the additional proposed special education reimbursement aid, as well as the proposed sparsity aid increase.

See below more specific details of the plan:

read more…

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Public hearing next week on dyslexia & American Indian studies bills

The Assembly Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on Wednesday, February 12 at 9:46 a.m. in Room 417 North, State Capitol. The committee, chaired by state Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), is scheduled to take public testimony on several bills relating to American Indian studies and reading instruction/dyslexia. 

The American Indian studies bills come from recommendations of the Joint Legislative Council’s Special Committee on State-Tribal Relations. These bills would require the DPI to both adopt model academic standards for American Indian studies and provide school boards with more guidance on the subject, and would increase current requirements on school boards to mandate more specific and more frequent instruction on American Indian studies in specific grade bands. read more…

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John Ashley statement on Gov. Evers’ call for K-12 investments

WASB Executive Director John Ashley issued the following statement in reaction to Gov. Evers’ call for a special session of the legislature to take up a plan to invest a portion of state surplus funding in K-12 education:

“We commend Gov. Tony Evers for calling for the investment of surplus state funds into our local public schools, and specifically into special education and mental health services and into furthering the goal of providing two-thirds state funding of public schools. These resources are vital to the mission of public school districts to serve all students and ensure they are college and career ready.  Many of these priorities are recommendations from the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding.

“On behalf of school board members throughout the state, who are serving more than 850,000 public school students, we encourage the Legislature to approve these additional investments in our students.”

Relevant WASB member-approved resolutions: read more…

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Gov. Evers calls for investments in school mental health, special education and sparsity aid

Gov. Tony Evers has called a special session of the legislature to take up a plan to invest a portion of state surplus funding on K-12 education. From the Wisconsin State Journal:

“…Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has called for investing a portion of the state’s more than $400 million in extra tax revenue in increased education funding and a tax cut.

“On Thursday, Evers proposed a $250 million investment that would include a commitment to two-thirds funding in statewide K-12 and spending on school-based mental health and special education aid, which includes $10 million in sparsity aid. He also called for $130 million in property tax relief through the equalization aid formula.

read more…

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President advocates for school choice tax break in State of the Union

From EdWeek:

President Donald Trump used his State of the Union Address Tuesday to urge Congress to greenlight a plan that would provide federal tax credits for scholarships to private schools and other education services, offering the largest stage yet for one of his administration’s key education priorities.

“The next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream,” Trump said.  “Yet, for too long, countless American children have been trapped in failing government schools.” read more…

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Dyslexia bills pulled from public hearing agenda; bill expanding part-time open enrollment added

As we previously posted, the Assembly education committee was scheduled to hold a public hearing on seven bills related to reading instruction and dyslexia. Those bills have been pulled from the agenda, while another bill has been added. Assembly Bill 849, authored by education committee chair Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) & Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), expands the part-time open enrollment program and renames it the course choice program. The expansion would bring in additional educational institutions and expand the number of grades that may participate from just high school to grades 1-12 (see our previous post). 

The Assembly Committee on Education will now hold a public hearing on Thursday, February 6, 2020 at 9:46 AM in room 412 East, State Capitol. The public hearing will begin immediately following a committee vote on Assembly Bill 737. The committee will take testimony on the following bills: read more…

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Public hearing tomorrow on lead testing bill with new amendment

Bipartisan legislation that would require lead testing of drinking water in schools will have a public hearing on Tuesday, February 4 at the State Capitol. The Assembly Committee on Energy & Utilities, chaired by Rep. Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin), will meet at 1:30 pm in room 225 Northwest. 

Assembly Bill 476 authored by Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) is the companion bill to Senate Bill 423 authored by Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) and would address lead in school drinking water by requiring testing and, if necessary, requiring that contaminated water sources be taken offline and replaced with clean water sources. However, the bill provides no state funding for this purpose and leaves it to schools and communities to address the costs associated with these mandates, which are largely unknown. read more…

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