Assembly Education Committee to Hold Hearing September 19th

By John Forester | September 13, 2019

The Assembly Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on the following bills at 10:00am on Thursday, September 19th in Room 417 north, State Capitol.  Please contact the SAA with any comments or questions regarding these bills.

AB-115 School Hours (Ott, Jim) An emergency exception for high performing school districts to the number of hours of direct pupil instruction requirement.

AB-368 School Revenue Adjustment (Quinn, Romaine) The school district revenue limit adjustment for declining enrollment and the prior year base revenue hold harmless adjustment.

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SAA, WASB, WiRSA Urge Prompt Action on Tobacco 21 Legislation

By John Forester | September 13, 2019

The SAA, in collaboration with WASB and WiRSA, issued this news release today urging legislators to take action on Tobacco 21 legislation.

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Senate Education Committee to Hold Hearing Next Tuesday

By John Forester | September 12, 2019

The Senate Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on the following bills at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 17th in Room 330 Southwest, State Capitol.  Please contact SAA Executive Director with any comments or questions regarding these bills.

Senate Bill 138:  Relating to: professional development training in character education for teachers, pupil service professionals, principals, and school district administrators, granting rulemaking authority, and making an appropriation.

Senate Bill 160:  Relating to: the method for providing notice of a special meeting of a school board.

Senate Bill 183:  Relating to: requirements for initial licensure as a special education teacher.

Senate Bill 184:  Relating to: a license to teach based on reciprocity and granting rule-making authority.

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DPI Releases Wisconsin Student Assessment System Results

By John Forester | September 12, 2019

From …

About four in 10 Wisconsin students were proficient or advanced in the 2018-19 school year as standardized test scores in English and math declined, according to data the Department of Public Instruction released today.

For English, reading and writing, 39.3 percent of students met proficiency standards on the Wisconsin Forward Exam, down from 40.6 percent in 2017-18 and 42.7 percent in 2016-17.

In math, 40.1 percent met the proficiency standard, down a point from the previous year.

The scores will be used as DPI puts together reports cards on Wisconsin schools.

Meanwhile, ACT scores dropped for 11th graders, who had an average of 19.5. That was down from 19.7 in 2018 after the average had been 20 in each of the two prior years. All 11th graders take the test, which is used to measure preparedness for college.

The state’s achievement gap between white and minority students narrowed slightly. But that was due largely to a decrease in performance by white students. For example, the percentage of white fifth graders who rated proficient or advanced in English dropped 4.6 percentage points, while scores were down 1.6 points for African American fifth graders.

In giving reporters an overview of the numbers, DPI officials said they show a need for more resources for schools. DPI spokeswoman Elizabeth Tomev said the state is seeing an uptick in the number of students coming into schools with trauma or mental health issues.

The budget Gov. Tony Evers signed in July will pump an additional $570 million into schools over the next two years. That follows a 2017-19 budget then-Gov. Scott Walker signed that included an increase of nearly $640 million.

“Students are coming into school with more challenges than ever before, and they deserve nothing less than our full support,” Tomev said in a media call.

See DPI News Release here.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Coverage here.

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Tiffany Launches 7th CD Campaign

By John Forester | September 10, 2019

From …

State Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua, formally launched his campaign for the 7th CD today, vowing to be “the ally President Trump needs to keep moving our country forward.”

Meanwhile, a Wausau thoracic surgeon is now looking at a run, as is an aide to U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh.

Tiffany said in a statement the president needs a “proven conservative with a track record of getting things done,” touting the “tough choices” he’s made in the Legislature, where he’s served since 2011.

“I don’t plan to go to Washington looking for a fight, but I can guarantee I will never back down from one,” Tiffany said.

Tiffany has four stops planned today in the district and another three tomorrow as he formally announces his bid. The first is the Al-Gen Dinner Club in Rhinelander, which is owned by GOP state Rep. Rob Swearingen.

Stephan Thompson, whose past campaigns include conservative Brian Hagedorn’s win in this spring’s state Supreme Court contest, will serve as Tiffany’s general consultant in the race.

Though Tiffany is the first candidate to formally get into the race, others are moving closer to bids.

Surgeon Fernando “Fritz” Riveron posted on social media that he is weighing a run, while a GOP source said Jason Church, an Army vet who serves as Johnson’s northwest region director, has been making calls to stakeholders in the district.

Riveron wrote in his post that he’s troubled by a “national dialogue on healthcare by people who don’t understand it at the ground level” and the “mainstream acceptance of socialism by many of our youth and its support by Democrats.” Riveron was born in Cuba, but left the country when he was 5.

“My life has been blessed by the opportunity and bounty of this great country,” he wrote. “The American dream has been a reality for me, and I deeply care that it be preserved for the next generation. I am prayerfully considering this daunting challenge and the opportunity to serve this community that has done so much for me and my family.”

Meanwhile, conservative activist Luke Hilgemann has decided against a bid, saying it was not the right time for a run and he will support Tiffany.

“Knowing that a proven conservative who won’t bend to Washington’s will like Tom Tiffany is running for the seat made my decision even easier,” Hilgemann said.

GOP state Rep. Romaine Quinn, who’s been weighing a bid for the past two weeks, said yesterday he wasn’t ready to make an announcement on whether he will get in.

Dems who have said they were considering a run include: state Sen. Janet Bewley, of Mason; Wausau attorney Christine Bremer Muggli; former state Sen. Pat Kreitlow, of Chippewa Falls; and state Rep. Nick Milroy, of South Range.

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Weston, has announced plans to resign Sept. 23. Gov. Tony Evers hasn’t said yet when he plans to call a special election.

See Tiffany’s release here.

See the text of Riveron’s post here.


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Raising the Age for Tobacco Products has Bipartisan Support

By John Forester | August 21, 2019

The following news article from The Wheeler Report highlights legislation aimed at raising the age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21.  As we reported to SAA members on August 5th, we are part of the coalition supporting this legislation.

From The Wheeler Report . . .

On August 2, Sens. Marklein, Bewley, Darling, Olsen and Shilling along with Reps. Spiros, Crowley, Dittrich, Myers, Oldenburg, Rodriguez, Rohrkaste, Sargent and Vruwink circulated a bill to raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products. The bill has now completed circulation and is waiting for leadership in both houses to be referred to committees for a public hearing.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “Almost 90 percent of adult daily smokers started smoking by the age of 18, and about 2,000 youth under 18 smoke their first cigarette every day in the United States. In fact, use of tobacco products, no matter the type, is almost always started and established during adolescence when the developing brain is most vulnerable to nicotine addiction.”

The Tobacco-21 website states that 18 states have passed T-21 legislation, including: Illinois, Ohio, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Arkansas, Texas, Hawaii, Utah, California, Oregon, Washington. The site also says Wisconsin “spends 14% of the CDC recommended amount on tobacco prevention, though it does have a higher than average tax of $2.52 per pack.”

In an interview with The Wheeler Report, Sen. Marklein said he introduced the bill out of health concerns for Wisconsin’s youth, saying he’s heard from parents, school administrators, and school personnel all who said it needs to be out of the reach of school age students.  Marklein highlighted that 80% of students will be 18 before they graduate from high school, making it easy for kids who aren’t 18 to know someone and find someone who is legal to purchase the tobacco for them.  Marklein said he remembers when Wisconsin raised the drinking age in Wisconsin from 18 to 21 and said it was the same reasoning, that it was too easy for kids in high school, and in some cases middle school, to know someone who was old enough to buy for them.  Marklein said raising the legal age to 21 makes it harder for young people to have access to tobacco. When asked, Marklein said the bill is just being introduced and he kept the bill clean, but he is willing to discuss a “grandfather clause” or a military exemption if there is enough support for those items. Marklein said he has not spoken with Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald about the bill yet. Marklein said the bill had around 30 cosponsors, and said he found it interesting that the organizations and groups supporting the bill were so broad, including:

Marklein said he has not heard any opposition to the bill so far.

Rep. Sargent told the Wheeler Report, “Without question, tobacco use and nicotine addiction continues to have negative implications on public health and longevity in our state. Although our society has come a long way from the days of total tobacco dependence, with new technologies and marketing techniques, harmful smoking alternatives are on the rise. By raising the legal age of selling, purchasing, and possession, nicotine and tobacco products, and updating our statutes to include e-cigarettes and vapors, we can deeply reduce the rate of smoking in our state. This crucial bill has been given a jacket this week and has not yet been assigned to committees, but I am excited to work with a group of bipartisan lawmakers in developing a comprehensive plan to move this legislation forward.”

While the bill had yet to be introduced, several lobbying organizations registered on the topic, including:

A letter of support for the T-21 legislation sent to legislators by American Heart Association, UW Health, Marshfield Clinic, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Marshfield Children’s Hospital, and UW Health American Family Children’s Hospital says, “Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States…We applaud Senator Marklein and Representative Spiros for authoring a Tobacco 21 policy in Wisconsin. While there are some components of the proposal we would like to see strengthened, we support the bill and see it as a definite step in the right direction.”

A spokesperson for Governor Evers said the Governor is still reviewing the legislation.

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Legislators Circulate Bill Requiring Testing of School Drinking Water for Lead

By John Forester | August 7, 2019

From …

With clean drinking water a hot topic in the state Capitol, four GOP lawmakers are circulating legislation to address lead-tainted water in schools, day care centers, group homes and summer camps.

The lawmakers have dubbed the package the Supporting Children’s Health by Ousting Outdated Lead Acts, or SCHOOL Acts.

One bill would require all schools that receive public funding to test for lead contamination in their drinking water. If the presence of lead was above allowable levels, the source of the water would have to be taken offline and an alternative source would have to be provided.

If remediation was necessary and schools couldn’t afford it in the current budget, districts could go to a referendum outside of a regularly scheduled election. The bill also would encourage loans from the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands by using money from a largely federally funded program to buy down interest rates.

The second bill would require testing drinking water for lead as a condition to renew or continue licenses for day cares, group homes and summer camps. If unacceptable levels of lead are detected, the contaminated source would have to be taken offline, clean water provided and a remediation plan developed.

See the release here.

LRB-3539 Memo Lead Testing (Cowles, Rob) Lead testing of potable water sources in certain schools; providing loans for lead remediation in certain schools; and providing an exception to referendum restrictions for lead remediation. Deadline: Tuesday, August 20, 5 pm

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Marklien Proposes Tobacco-21 Legislation

By John Forester | August 5, 2019

From The Wheeler Report . . .

Sen. Howard Marklein is circulating a bill to raise the age for tobacco products from 18 to 21 in Wisconsin.  The proposal, called T-21, has seen significant momentum across the United States in the past few years.  According to Tobacco-21, “475+ cities and counties in 29 states” have taken action to raise the tobacco age to 21. Sen. Marklein’s proposal, LRB-2839, would raise the age for purchasing cigarettes, tobacco products, or nicotine products from 18 to 21. The bill also prohibits the purchase of vapor products “by or on behalf of a person under the age of 21.”  The bill does not grandfather in current 18, 19 or 20-year olds, and does not make exemptions for active military persons. While Sen. Marklein is the lead author of the proposal, the bill has bipartisan legislators on the bill in both the Senate and the Assembly. The companion bill is being circulated by Rep. John Spiros in the Assembly.

Please note that the SAA has thrown its support behind the legislation.

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Strang, Patteson: New DPI Guidance on Special Ed Open Enrollment Actual Costs

By John Forester | July 30, 2019

From The Legal Side…

Strang, Patteson recently published this legal update regarding the DPI’s new guidance on actual costs for providing special education and related services to open enrolled students.  The SAA regularly receives these updates and we believe this is valuable information for SAA members.  We are distributing this update to SAA members with the permission of Strang, Patteson.

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Continuous Advocacy: Unmet Needs & Ongoing Challenges

By John Forester | July 11, 2019

Since Governor Evers signed the 2019-21 State Budget last week, several SAA members have shared with me that their legislators had reached out asking if the budget was “good” for their districts.  The administrators went on to ask for advice on how to respond to their legislators.

Clearly, the legislators were looking for simple one- or two-word responses that they could use with the media and with their colleagues.  My suggestion instead was to share with legislators what this budget means for the kids you serve – in other words, how this budget improves educational opportunities for your students.  But, more importantly, you also need to share the unmet needs from this budget and the ongoing challenges that remain.

I think this is a clear example of how our responsibility to advocate on behalf of necessary resources for our students and needed evidence-based policy does not stop with the signing of the state budget.  It is ongoing and continuous.

Therefore, my suggestion to all district administrators is this:  engage your administrative teams and develop your district’s analysis of 1) what this budget means for the students you serve, and 2) the unmet needs from this budget and the ongoing challenges that remain.  Then use this information to educate your legislators, your staff, your board and your community.

Wisconsin school children deserve that kind of continuous advocacy.  Thanks for listening, and thanks for everything you do for the kids you serve.

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