Priority Legislative Alert on Teacher Protection Act

By John Forester | October 25, 2017

The SAA is issuing a Priority Legislative Alert on the Teacher Protection Act.

As we reported earlier today, Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, has circulated his “Teacher Protection Act” for co-sponsorship in the State Legislature.  The SAA strongly opposes this proposed legislation, as do other education stakeholder groups and disability rights organizations.  For your information, we are linking the bill draft and Representative Thiesfeldt’s co-sponsorship memo sent to his legislative colleagues.

We urge SAA members to take action nowPlease contact your legislators and ask them not to sign on as co-sponsors of the Teacher Protection Act.

In your communication please consider using the talking points listed below as well as any of your own concerns about the bill based on your experiences and expertise.

Talking Points:

For your convenience in contacting your legislators, we have provided links to the Assembly Directory, the Senate Directory and Who Are My Legislators.

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

 

 

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Thiesfeldt Circulates Teacher Protection Act for Co-Sponsorship

By John Forester | October 25, 2017

Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, has circulated his “Teacher Protection Act” for co-sponsorship in the State Legislature.  The SAA strongly opposes this proposed legislation, as does other education stakeholder groups and disability rights organizations.  For your information, we are linking the bill draft and Representative Thiesfeldt’s co-sponsorship memo sent to his legislative colleagues.  The SAA will likely issue a legislative alert later today urging SAA members to request that their legislators not sign on as co-sponsors for the bill.  Stay tuned.  More to come.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article here.

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School Law Update: Domestic Partnership Benefits Eliminated

By John Forester | October 25, 2017

From the Legal Side…

The 2017–2019 Wisconsin Biennial Budget (2017 Wisconsin Act 59) made changes to statutory provisions that permitted domestic partners of local government unit employees to access various insurance and other employee benefits through private plans and plans sponsored by the State of Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF).  The Boardman & Clark law firm has recently issued a School Law Update on this topic.

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 Boardman & Clark.

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DPI Releases Condensed State Budget Summary

By John Forester | October 25, 2017

The DPI has posted a condensed summary of the state budget K-12 education provisions on its website.  In particular, the document provides valuable summaries of provisions related to Open Enrollment Special Education payments, Special Needs Voucher payments, and the Early College Credit Program.  Check it out here.

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Voucher Program Costs Reach Nearly $270 Million

By John Forester | October 24, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

Almost 2,700 more students are enrolling in private voucher school programs, up about 8 percent from last year, according to preliminary enrollment figures from DPI.

In all, 36,249 students across the three programs in Wisconsin — Racine, Milwaukee and one operating statewide — are receiving vouchers, up from 33,565 students last year. Through each program, students are able to receive taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend participating private schools.

DPI, meanwhile, estimates the program will cost nearly $270 million for the 2017-18 school year.

School Choice Wisconsin President Jim Bender says the numbers are evidence that “parental demand continues to drive the expansion of school choice in Wisconsin.”

“After two years of a 1% district enrollment cap on the statewide program, the increase to 2% this fall has given the program room to grow,” he said.

The enrollment cap for the statewide program will increase 1 percentage point each year until it hits 10 percent in 2025-26, when it will then be lifted.

DPI’s numbers show 4,540 students in the statewide program across 154 different private schools. Meanwhile, Racine has 3,007 in 23 schools. And Milwaukee has 28,702 students enrolled in 126 schools.

See the DPI release here.

See coverage from Wisconsin Public Radio here.

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Walker to Launch Re-Election Bid November 5th

By John Forester | October 19, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

Gov. Scott Walker will formally announce his re-election bid Nov. 5 in Waukesha with more than a dozen stops around the state in the days to follow, his campaign said today.

The formal kick off will be at Weldall Manufacturing Inc., a welding and fabrication company that Vice President Mike Pence visited last month.

The campaign did not release details of the other stops that week, though one in Janesville Nov. 7 has been posted at eventbrite.com.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of several steps Walker has taken in recent weeks to cue up his re-election bid. That includes the release a 60-second digital ad this week.

“Our bold reforms have delivered results for Wisconsin’s hard-working families, from lower taxes to record investment in our classrooms — but there’s more to be done,” Walker said. “I’m ready to continue the fight and keep Wisconsin moving forward.”

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State Finishes 2016-17 With $579 Million Surplus

By John Forester | October 17, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

The state finished 2016-17 with a surplus of $579 million, a better ending balance than what the Legislative Fiscal Bureau had previously projected.

The last LFB estimate of a $467 million ending balance, though, did not include a final look at expenditures over the fiscal year. The Department of Administration wrote in its annual fiscal report expenses came in about $41 million less than had been expected, while revenues were up.

Gov. Scott Walker’s office touted it as the second largest closing balance for a fiscal year since 2000. The guv did not call for any new spending, though a spokesman noted Walker has previously urged lawmakers to use money saved through his budget vetoes to cover a $9.7 million boost in aid for small, rural districts in 2018-19.

“This news makes it easier to do that,” said Walker spokesman Tom Evenson.

The co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee said they would like to bank most of the money and took slightly different approaches to Walker’s call to boost sparsity aid.

Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, noted lawmakers boosted the projected ending balance for the 2017-19 budget through their actions and Walker freed up more money with his vetoes. Still, he did not want to commit to new spending with the additional money.

He noted Assembly Republicans had priorities for rural schools that Walker vetoed and differed from him on sparsity aid. Nygren said he’s had additional conversations with the Walker administration about reaching a deal that could address his concerns over the Assembly GOP plan to boost revenue limits on low-spending districts while meeting the guv’s objectives to hold down property taxes.

“I think there is an opportunity for us, but nothing is a given,” he said.

Co-chair Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, noted colleagues in other states have seen a softening in their revenue collections and there is a lot of uncertainty in health care. She planned to talk with her Senate GOP colleagues about boosting sparsity aid as Walker has suggested, though she’s personally onboard with the plan.

“I think being conservative and banking our resources is a good way to go,” she said.

Read the report here.

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More on Sparsity Aid Proposal

By John Forester | October 11, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

Gov. Scott Walker, who vetoed from the budget a plan to boost low-spending school districts by allowing them to collect more in property taxes, yesterday urged lawmakers to back a standalone bill to pump more money into state aid that benefits rural schools for 2018-19.

Under the proposal, rural districts with 745 students or less would get $400 per pupil through sparsity aid rather than the current $300. There also would be a second tier in the program for districts with between 746 and 1,000 pupils of $100 per student.

The plan, authored by state Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz, mirrors the sparsity aid package Walker included in his budget. GOP lawmakers replaced it with a plan that would have allowed low-spending districts, now capped at $9,100 per student, to increase their revenue limits through 2022-23 by $100 a year.

Walker nixed that plan with one of the 99 vetoes he issued, actions he said improved the general fund balance by $16.5 million in the current biennium and about $71 million in 2019-21. He called on lawmakers to use that money for tax deduction and more sparsity aid.

The proposed bill carries a price tag of $9.7 million.

“Rural communities have unique challenges and our original state budget plan included a major boost for rural schools,” Walker said today. “I am pleased that Senator Marklein and Representative Mursau are introducing a bill incorporating initiatives from our budget proposal to help rural schools.”

Along with vetoing the low-spending district plan, Walker also nixed budget provisions GOP lawmakers included such as grants for whole grade sharing.

JFC Co-chair John Nygren said after hearing about the new proposal, he called Walker’s Chief of Staff Rich Zipperer to discuss ways they could work together to help rural schools that could include some ideas GOP lawmakers advanced, but the guv nixed.

“I think there might be an opportunity to look at ways to protect the taxpayer and yet address the inequity that exists,” the Marinette Republican said. “That’s going to be our direction. That’s going to be our charge to address the governor’s concern and yet address my policy initiative.”

Fellow Co-chair Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said she supports the sparsity aid proposal. She also prefers a clean bill rather than including other ideas.

“I think Rep. Mary Felzkowski had some really good ideas,” Darling said of the JFC member’s education proposals. “But I think sparsity aid on its own as the governor had it in the budget is the way to go to get support.”

Marklein voted for the JFC education package even though he voiced reservations about the decision to drop Walker’s sparsity aid plan.

“I’m just happy that we’re going to take another run at it,” he said.

Mursau, meanwhile, said he’s been interested in the issue for several years, particularly after schools in his district lost out on the aid after enrollees in summer school pushed them above the limits to receive the aid. He said adding the second level of sparsity aid for districts between 746 and 1,000 students ensures they aren’t simply cut off if they barely come in above the current limit.

“At least it’s a slower let down than completely cutting it off,” he said.

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Walker Announces Support For New Increase In Sparsity Aid

By John Forester | October 10, 2017

This morning Governor Walker announced his support to further increase Sparsity Aid in the second year of this biennium.

See the press release here.

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Borsuk Column on Low Revenue Ceiling

By John Forester | October 6, 2017

Check out this column from Alan Borsuk on the low revenue ceiling.

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

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