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Legislative Update


WASB sends letters to legislative leaders on COVID-19 legislation and other bills

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. read more…

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Gov. Evers calls for special session on Spring Election

Gov. Evers calls for special session on Spring Election

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.

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More details on education funding for Wisconsin in federal CARES Act

More details on education funding for Wisconsin in federal CARES Act

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has compiled state-by-state estimates on what level of funding states might expect to receive from the most recent supplemental appropriations bill a/k/a the CARES Act. The bulk of the federal funding for K-12 education under the Act comes through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund while a smaller allocation goes into what is called the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. 

If the assumptions used by the CRS in making its estimates are accurate, Wisconsin can expect to receive about $221.5 million from this legislation for potential use for K-12 education purposes; however, a portion of this estimated amount could also be used for higher education purposes.

For a more detailed breakdown and analysis of the funding and the permissible uses click here.

The state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau has also prepared a memo on the CARES Act.

 

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Gov. Evers calls for special session on Spring Election

State Senate Dem leader will not seek reelection

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).  

From Wispolitics.com:

“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.” read more…

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Wispolitics: Legislative leaders say governor’s COVID-19 proposal too expensive; indicate legislature will meet soon

Wispolitics: Legislative leaders say governor’s COVID-19 proposal too expensive; indicate legislature will meet soon

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. read more…

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Gov. Evers calls for special session on Spring Election

Gov. Evers proposes sweeping state legislation ($800 million) to address COVID-19 pandemic

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.

read more…

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More details on education funding for Wisconsin in federal CARES Act

Congress passes, President signs third ($2.2 Trillion) bill in response to COVID-19 epidemic

Following passage by the U.S. House today (3/27) on a voice vote, President Trump signed H.R. 748, the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the CARES”  Act into law this afternoon.

From the NSBA:

The $2 trillion CARES Act includes a $30 billion direct investment in education, including $3 billion to be allocated to governors and used at their discretion to address the emergency, $13.5 billion for K12 education, and $14.25 billion for postsecondary institutions. The bill also makes sizable investments in childcare, nutrition, homeless youth, and more, while also providing new waiver authority to the Secretary of Education, including for assessment and accountability waivers for states; and other ESSA waivers for states, tribes, and school districts. School districts will be able to use their share of the $13.5 billion K12 allocation – which will be allocated based on the proportion of Title I funding for the most recent fiscal year – for any purposes authorized by ESSA, IDEA, Perkins CTE, and other specified uses. Districts especially hard hit by the emergency should also contact their governor about securing potential additional funding out of their governor’s share of the $3 billion in flexible funding provide to state leaders.” 

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) also provided this analysis of all three supplemental appropriation (or emergency stimulus) bills enacted in response to the current Coronavirus pandemic.  

 

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Statewide school referenda on ballot amid unprecedented election conditions on April 7

Statewide school referenda on ballot amid unprecedented election conditions on April 7

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. read more…

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NSBA federal update: K-12 provisions of COVID-19 emergency legislation

NSBA federal update: K-12 provisions of COVID-19 emergency legislation

The following is from the National School Boards Association (NSBA).  The U.S. Senate voted unanimously (96 to 0) yesterday evening to pass the measure. The House is expected to vote tomorrow.

“As you have probably heard, Congressional leaders and the White House appear to have reached agreement on a $2 trillion emergency supplemental spending bill.”

“The House is considering a number of options to vote on the legislation so they would not have to come back to Washington. One of the options includes moving the legislation through unanimous consent which does not require a vote. However, if there is a single objection, then House members may have to come back to DC and vote on the measure but other options including proxy voting and a voice vote on the floor by members present are also possibilities.

“But moving forward, here is what we know right now. The legislation contains $30.750 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund to assist states, school districts, and higher education institutions for costs related to the coronavirus pandemic. $13.5 billion is targeted to K-12 public schools with the remainder going to higher education, governors, and some special set asides. In addition to allocating emergency funding, the measure includes a number of policy provisions – including some waiver authority for the Secretary of Education – to help elementary, secondary, and postsecondary institutions navigate the crisis. This does not include IDEA waiver authority.

read more…

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PSC: Free or low-cost broadband options during health emergency

PSC: Free or low-cost broadband options during health emergency

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) has a listing of Internet Service Providers that are offering free or low-cost internet access options in response to the COVID-19 health emergency. These are important for families across the state in light of the move to virtual instruction for students statewide until schools are able to reopen.

See the current list at the PSC website to see what might be available in your area.

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