SAA Following the Work of Two Study Committees

By John Forester | July 12, 2018

The SAA is following two Legislative Council Study Committees as they meet over the next several months (the web page links below will allow you to follow the work of these important committees):

Legislative Council Study Committee on the Investment and Use of the School Trust Funds

Legislative Council Study Committee on the Identification and Management of Dyslexia

The Committee on Dyslexia held its first meeting on July 9th.  It’s next meeting will be held on August 29th in Room 411 South, State Capitol.  Michael Weber, Superintendent of the Port Washington – Saukville School District is a member of the Committee.

The Committee on School Trust Funds will hold its first meeting on August 16th in Room 411 South, State Capitol.

The SAA will keep the membership informed of any important developments from these study committees.

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SAA Member Jeff Wright Running for State Assembly

By John Forester | July 11, 2018

For the past 16+ years that I have served as the SAA’s lobbyist, SAA members have talked about the importance of school administrators getting elected to the Legislature.

Yet, during that time, we haven’t had many administrators step up to run.  In 2016, Jeff Wright, assistant superintendent for the Sauk Prairie Schools, ran a strong but unsuccessful campaign for the State Assembly.  Jeff is running again this year for the State Assembly (51st Assembly District) as a Democrat.  Jeff’s career as an educator began as a history, government and world affairs teacher.  He also served as a high school principal on the south side of Chicago.  I first connected with Jeff several years ago when he delivered extremely effective testimony on the state budget before the Joint Finance Committee.  He is a strong advocate for Wisconsin schools and Wisconsin school children.

Needless to say, the SAA is very excited about Jeff’s candidacy.  If you would like more information about his campaign, including information on making a campaign contribution, I have provided a link to Jeff’s campaign website below.

Jeff Wright for Assembly

Please note:  The State Elections Commission has advised that SAA members should access campaign donation pages from a personal computer and not on school servers.

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School Law Update: Recent Matters of Interest

By John Forester | July 10, 2018

From the Legal Side . . .

In its most recent newsletter, Boardman Clark provides an update on a number of court decisions or other matters that have been in the news recently.

The SAA regularly receives these legal updates and we believe this is valuable information for SAA members.  We are distributing this update to SAA members with the permission of Boardman Clark.

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SAA Re-Issuing Priority Legislative Alert on PI 34 Rule

By John Forester | June 27, 2018

The SAA is re-issuing its Priority Legislative Alert on the Educator Licensure Rule Changes (PI 34).  The licensure flexibility that WASDA, WASBO, AWSA, WCASS and WASPA worked so hard to achieve in the PI 34 rule is in jeopardy.

The Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) held a public hearing last Thursday, June 7th on the stakeholder workgroup revisions to licensure.  The Committee called the hearing because of opposition from the Reading Council to Tier 1 licensees being able to teach without having passed the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT).  Following the hearing, the Committee decided to “hold” the rule and meet again on July 13th, at which time they will likely seek modifications to the rule.  These modifications could weaken the licensure flexibility afforded under the PI 34 revisions.

We urge all SAA members to take action nowPlease contact the members of JCRAR, in support of CR17-093, the PI 34 rule revision.

In your communication, please consider using the talking points listed below.  Also, it is critical that you share with JCRAR members the challenges that you face in hiring high-quality educators in this environment and that your district needs the flexibility afforded under CR 17-093.

Talking Points:

  1. Wisconsin school districts are facing growing school staffing issues including high turnover, fewer applicants for positions, and candidate shortages in a variety of disciplines. With fewer new teachers entering the profession, new approaches to educator recruitment and retention are critical to ensure all children have access to high-quality educators.
  2. The licensure flexibility afforded under CR17-093 is universally supported by school leaders in their effort to address the growing workforce challenges faced by Wisconsin school districts.
  3. We must also point out that districts are currently operating under these proposed rule changes as part of the current Emergency Rule. These proposals are already making a positive difference in meeting these workforce challenges in districts throughout Wisconsin.
  4. School administrators support all aspects of the proposed rule but, of particular importance are the flexibilities and candidate expanding aspects in the Tier 1 license. This will allow for a much-needed district sponsored pathway to licensure, immediate licensure for out of state candidates, licensing for speech and language pathologists with a Department of Safety and Professional Services license and licensing for individuals coming into a district on an internship or residency status.  These are effective, no-cost solutions to a significant workforce need in Wisconsin school districts.
  5. Educator licensure is simply a minimum requirement.  District leadership is responsible for hiring and developing successful educators, and ultimately determining educator quality based on actual teacher performance and student outcomes.
  6. Reducing the Tier 1 license flexibility in the rule has the potential to impact as many as 2,400 teaching licenses, many of which are FORT-related stipulations.  Any portion of these licensees that lose their ability to teach will exacerbate an already troubling workforce challenge and reduce educational opportunities for children.

For your convenience in contacting the JCRAR members, we have provided a link to the JCRAR webpage (which includes contact information for each committee member).  We have also provided direct email links to each committee member below.

Representative Ballweg (Co-Chair)

Senator Nass (Co-Chair)

Senator LeMahieu

Senator Stroebel

Senator Larson

Senator Wirch

Representative Neylon

Representative Ott

Representative Hebl

Representative Anderson

If you should have any questions please email me.  Thanks for listening and, as always, thank you for everything you do on behalf of Wisconsin school children.

Topics: Legislative Action, SAA Capitol Reports, SAA Capitol Reports with Email Notifications, SAA Latest Update | No Comments »

Supreme Court Dismisses Wisconsin Redistricting Case

By John Forester | June 18, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

The U.S. Supreme Court has dismissed the state’s redistricting case, sending it back to federal district court.

The decision, though, doesn’t address the broader issue of partisan gerrymandering, and the court noted providing a remedy to the issue doesn’t “necessarily require restructuring all of the State’s legislative districts.”

Today’s opinion comes after the court heard oral arguments in the case last October. Before that, a three-judge panel in 2016 had ruled the maps Republicans drew in 2011 amounted to an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.

Chief Justice John Roberts in the opinion wrote the court will return the case to the lower court for the plaintiffs in the case to provide “concrete and particularized” evidence that would show Wisconsin’s political lines affect their votes.

See the opinion here.

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Priority Legislative Alert: Educator Licensure Rule Changes (PI 34)

By John Forester | June 14, 2018

The SAA is issuing a Priority Legislative Alert on the Educator Licensure Rule Changes (PI 34).  The licensure flexibility that WASDA, WASBO, AWSA, WCASS and WASPA worked so hard to achieve in the PI 34 rule is in jeopardy.

The Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) held a public hearing last Thursday, June 7th on the stakeholder workgroup revisions to licensure.  The Committee called the hearing because of opposition from the Reading Council to Tier 1 licensees being able to teach without having passed the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT).  Following the hearing, the Committee decided to “hold” the rule and meet again on July 13th, at which time they will likely seek modifications to the rule.  These modifications could weaken the licensure flexibility afforded under the PI 34 revisions.

We urge all SAA members to take action nowPlease contact the members of JCRAR, in support of CR17-093, the PI 34 rule revision.

In your communication, please consider using the talking points listed below.  Also, it is critical that you share with JCRAR members the challenges that you face in hiring high-quality educators in this environment and that your district needs the flexibility afforded under CR 17-093.

Talking Points:

  1. Wisconsin school districts are facing growing school staffing issues including high turnover, fewer applicants for positions, and candidate shortages in a variety of disciplines. With fewer new teachers entering the profession, new approaches to educator recruitment and retention are critical to ensure all children have access to high-quality educators.
  2. The licensure flexibility afforded under CR17-093 is universally supported by school leaders in their effort to address the growing workforce challenges faced by Wisconsin school districts.
  3. We must also point out that districts are currently operating under these proposed rule changes as part of the current Emergency Rule. These proposals are already making a positive difference in meeting these workforce challenges in districts throughout Wisconsin.
  4. School administrators support all aspects of the proposed rule but, of particular importance are the flexibilities and candidate expanding aspects in the Tier 1 license. This will allow for a much-needed district sponsored pathway to licensure, immediate licensure for out of state candidates, licensing for speech and language pathologists with a Department of Safety and Professional Services license and licensing for individuals coming into a district on an internship or residency status.  These are effective, no-cost solutions to a significant workforce need in Wisconsin school districts.
  5. Educator licensure is simply a minimum requirement.  District leadership is responsible for hiring and developing successful educators, and ultimately determining educator quality based on actual teacher performance and student outcomes.
  6. Reducing the Tier 1 license flexibility in the rule has the potential to impact as many as 2,400 teaching licenses, many of which are FORT-related stipulations.  Any portion of these licensees that lose their ability to teach will exacerbate an already troubling workforce challenge and reduce educational opportunities for children.

For your convenience in contacting the JCRAR members, we have provided a link to the JCRAR webpage (which includes contact information for each committee member).  We have also provided direct email links to each committee member below.

Representative Ballweg (Co-Chair)

Senator Nass (Co-Chair)

Senator LeMahieu

Senator Stroebel

Senator Larson

Senator Wirch

Representative Neylon

Representative Ott

Representative Hebl

Representative Anderson

If you should have any questions please email me.  Thanks for listening and, as always, thank you for everything you do on behalf of Wisconsin school children.

Topics: Legislative Action, SAA Capitol Reports, SAA Capitol Reports with Email Notifications, SAA Latest Update | No Comments »

20 More School Districts Receive Safety Grants

By John Forester | June 14, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

Attorney General Brad Schimel yesterday announced 20 school districts across the state are getting nearly $1.4 million in new school safety grant funding.

The news comes after Schimel earlier this month announced the state’s first recipient of a grant: Kenosha Unified School District, which is getting nearly $890,000 for building safety improvements and training.

The 20 newly announced districts are planning to use the grant funding for building improvements such as updated surveillance, camera and telephone/PA systems; improving district-wide notification systems; training a new safety coordinator; and reconfiguring an entryway by securing the door system, among other things.

The following districts received grants today: Barneveld School District, $38,949; Benton School District, $57,975; Big Foot Unified High School District, $13,975; Bristol #1 School District, $22,925; Crivitz School District, $20,000; Kettle Moraine School District, $190,395; Kewaskum School District, $106,347; La Farge School District, $53,352; Luck School District, $39,516; Mauston School District, $188,275; Prentice School District, $81,272; Randall J1 School District, $21,935; River Ridge School District, $55,000; Rock County Christian School, $39,951; St. Joseph School; $20,750; Stevens Point Area Public School District, $279,827; Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School, $18,334; Union Grove J1 School District, $19,872; Wautoma Area School District, $84,435; and Williams Bay School District, $28,960.

The grants were awarded under the newly created Office of School Safety. Under the $100 million grant system, there are two different categories schools can apply for: Primary School Safety Grants, for baseline improvements to schools such as door locks; and Advanced School Safety Grants, for schools that have already met minimum security thresholds.

Schools had until June 8 to submit their grant applications.

See the DOJ news release here.

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Will U.S. Supreme Court Toss Out Wisconsin Redistricting Plan?

By John Forester | June 14, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of Wisconsin’s partisan redistricting plan could come as early as today.  Check out this news story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about what is at stake and what the possible outcomes may be.

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84 Schools to Participate in Special Needs Voucher Program

By John Forester | June 13, 2018

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has posted a list of the 84 schools that have registered to participate in the Special Needs Scholarship Program (SNSP) for the 2018-19 school year. The list includes 56 schools that will be new to the program. The application period begins July 1.

For more information, see the DPI News Release here.

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Split Decision in Tuesday’s Special Elections

By John Forester | June 13, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

Dem Caleb Frostman won a special election Tuesday for the vacant 1st SD, flipping a seat in northeastern Wisconsin that Donald Trump won by 17.5 points two years ago.

Meanwhile, Republican Jon Plumer kept the 42nd AD in GOP hands, running close to the president’s 2016 performance in the district northeast of Madison.

Frostman, the former economic development director for Door County, had 51.4 percent of the vote over GOP state Rep. Andre Jacque, according to numbers WisPolitics.com collected from county websites. By comparison, Hillary Clinton won 39.8 percent of the vote there in 2016.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, noted it was the first time a Dem had represented the seat since Gerald Ford was president.

Frostman, who will replace Frank Lasee after the Republican resigned to take a job in the Walker administration, said his campaign worked the doors hard. He also said voters in Door County, where he lives, remember the things he accomplished on a non-partisan basis with Republicans, Dems and others.

“That resonated with folks, and they remember that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Plumer largely matched Trump’s performance in the 42nd AD as he beat Dem Ann Groves Lloyd.

Plumer pulled 53.9 percent of the vote, according to unofficial numbers collected by WisPolitics.com, though that tally doesn’t include votes for the independent candidate in the 42nd or write-ins. The results will not be official until after county boards of canvass meet.

Trump, meanwhile, took just shy of 53.9 percent in 2016 as he beat Clinton by more than 14 points with write-ins and third-party candidates included.

The final days of the race included stories about social media posts from both candidates and Plumer’s disorderly conduct charge more than two decades ago. The two will face each other in a November rematch for the seat northeast of Madison.

Plumer told WisPolitics.com in a phone interview he didn’t plan to change his message in the November race, though he expected the spotlight to shift to other races.

“At my age, this is what you get,” said Plumer, who owns a karate studio in Lodi. “I’m not going to change.”

Plumer will replace Republican Keith Ripp, who resigned to take a job in the Walker administration.

After Lasee and Ripp resigned their seats in the Legislature, Gov. Scott Walker declined to call special elections for either seat. But Eric Holder’s national Democratic Redistricting Committee filed a lawsuit that eventually led to an order for Walker to call the elections. Republicans briefly sought to change state law in an attempt to thwart a Dane County judge’s order to call the elections. But another Dane County judge and one from the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Waukesha County refused requests to delay the order to call the elections so lawmakers could debate the bill. The measure ultimately did not come up for a floor vote in either house.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, promised a competitive race in the fall for the 1st SD and complained the seats should have been filled in the fall election.

“With low turnout in the special election tonight, it proved yet again that this was a complete waste of taxpayer money,” Fitzgerald said.

Holder, meanwhile, hailed Frostman’s win. His group has pledged to play in legislative races this fall in an effort to help Dem candidates and reverse maps Republicans drew in multiple states in 2011 during the last round of redistricting.

“Scott Walker and his Republican allies gerrymandered this district for their own partisan benefit, but the citizens of Wisconsin are clearly speaking out this year to demand a state government that better represents their values,” he said.

Shilling said the results showed momentum is on the side of Dems headed toward the fall, while Assembly Speaker Robin Vos argued Plumer’s win shows what Republicans can do with the right candidate and a good operation.

Insiders were watching both seats for signs of the political climate as the November elections approach after Dems won the 10th SD in a January special election, flipping a seat Trump won by 17 points, and watching liberal Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet win an open seat on the state Supreme Court by a dozen points.

Assembly Republicans immediately proclaimed talk of a “blue wave” this fall had slowed to a “blue trickle. But Shilling said the “electorate is turning” now.

The La Crosse Dem, who is on the verge of turning a 20-13 minority to start 2017 into an 18-15 deficit, said the win continues to expand the map in Wisconsin. She said a Dem has represented the seat for only six of the past 72 years and that her party was even competitive in the district shows a “massive” public opinion shift toward Dems.

“They are dissatisfied with the agenda that has been pushed for the last eight years,” Shilling said. “The electorate is swirling.”

The Republican Assembly Campaign Committee and the state GOP poured resources into Plumer’s campaign in the final days of the race. A check of campaign finance reports shows the two combined to put $196,278 into Plumer’s campaign since May 29.

Vos acknowledge he put “all hands on deck” to hold the seat. The Rochester Republican said it’s the kind of district Dems would have to win in November in order to take back the majority, which will be back to 64-35 after Plumer is sworn in.

“Them not having a victory tonight goes to show the formula for Assembly Republicans of good organization, candidates and messaging works,” Vos said.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said Plumer’s performance was short of the 58.6 percent of the vote that Ripp pulled in 2016 even as he ran on Dem issues.

“One of the things to look at is voters here elected a candidate who supports investments in public education, funding transportation, redistricting reform and protecting pre-existing conditions,” Hintz said. “So the blue wave happened. It just happened with a Republican who endorsed the Democratic agenda.”

See Wisconsin Public Radio coverage here.

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