Recap Of Senate Education Committee Hearing

By John Forester | December 21, 2017

The Senate Committee on Education held a public hearing on Tuesday, December 19th on the bills listed below.  The SAA testified in opposition to three bills and testified for information on one bill, as indicated below.

SB-159 Nutrition Education Relating to: Education about nutrition.  The SAA testified in opposition to the bill as it is currently drafted.  The SAA worked with the authors on Senate Amendment 1 which would remove the bill’s requirement that a nutrition education component be incorporated into the health education class, which is a requirement for high school graduation.  If this amendment is adopted the SAA will remove its opposition to the bill.

SB-222 Pupil Exam Information Relating to: Providing information about mandatory pupil examinations.  The SAA testified in opposition to the bill without prepared remarks.

SB-234 Pupil Exam Opt-Out  Relating to: Allowing a pupil’s parent or guardian to opt out of certain statewide examinations.  The SAA is neutral on the bill.

SB-427 School Construction Notification  Relating to: Notification of certain construction activities in school buildings.  The SAA testified in opposition to the bill.

SB-483 Robotics League Grants  Relating to:  Robotics league participation grants.  The SAA took no position on the bill.

SB-491 Library Data  Relating to:  The collection and maintenance of certain public library data by the Division for Libraries and Technology, authorizing small, rural libraries to apply for information technology block grants and educational technology training grants, and making appropriations.  The SAA took no position on the bill.

SB-494 School Reports   Relating to:  Publication of school and school district accountability reports.  The SAA took no position on the bill.

SB-536 Pupil Assessment Access   Relating to:  Access to pupil assessments that are required to be administered by school boards, operators of independent charter schools, and private schools participating in a parental choice program and repealing rules related to accessing pupil assessments.  The SAA took no position on the bill.

SB-556 Student Absence Evaluation  Relating to:  Requiring an evaluation to determine whether a pupil with an extended absence from school is a child with a disability.  The SAA testified for information on the bill without prepared remarks.  The SAA is neutral on the bill.

If you should have any comments/questions regarding the SAA’s positioning on any of these bills, please do not hesitate to call the SAA office.

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DOE Issues New Guidance Interpreting The Supreme Court’s Endrew F. Holding

By John Forester | December 20, 2017

From the Legal Side . . .

Check out the latest Legal Update from the Strang Patteson Law Firm in which they review the DOE’s new guidance document regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s Endrew F. decision.

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 Strang Patteson.

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Special Election Primary Results

By John Forester | December 20, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

Adam Jarchow defeated fellow GOP state Rep. Shannon Zimmerman for the Republican nomination in the 10th SD Tuesday, setting up a January matchup with Dem Patty Schachtner, the St. Croix County medical examiner.

The winner of the Jan. 16 special election will fill the seat of Republican Sheila Harsdorf, who was appointed DATCP secretary.

In the 58th AD, Washington County Board Chair Rick Gundrum won a four-way primary with 39 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. He will face Dem Dennis Degenhardt, the former president and CEO of Glacier Hills Credit Union, in January for the heavily GOP seat.

In the 66th AD, final results had not yet been posted to the Racine County Clerk’s office by 10 p.m. But Greta Neubauer has declared victory over Racine Ald. John Tate II. Neubauer worked as an aide to Dem Rep. Cory Mason and will be unopposed on the January ballot to replace him. Mason is resigning after being elected Racine mayor this fall.

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School Funding Commission Holds First Meeting

By John Forester | December 15, 2017

The Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, chaired by Representative Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) and Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon), held its first meeting yesterday in Madison.  The meeting consisted of a briefing on Wisconsin’s current school finance system by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), as well as questions and discussion arising on various topics covered in the briefing.  The LFB and DPI briefing materials are linked below.

In my estimation, the questions and discussion by Commission members highlighted many of the important issues the Commission is likely to focus on over the next several months – per pupil revenue cap adjustments, per pupil categorical aid, declining enrollment, the low revenue ceiling, children in poverty, special education, English language learners, negative aid , the secondary cost ceiling, open enrollment, voucher funding, and more.  Superintendents Joni Burgin (Grantsburg) and Michelle Langenfeld (Green Bay), WASB lobbyist Dan Rossmiller, CESA 6 Administrator Ted Neitzke and UW-Madison professor Julie Underwood all did a fabulous job of questioning the presenters and raising key issues during the discussion.

It was a great start to the Commission’s work, with enthusiasm for the charge and hope for success in abundant supply.  But the day was filled with reality checks as well.  The Co-chairs noted that previous attempts to reform the Wisconsin school funding system have begun with fanfare only to have the recommendations ignored.  They also acknowledged that the only times that Wisconsin has accomplished significant school finance reform is when the state has also invested significant new revenue to help even out any winners and losers that reform inevitably creates.  When asked why they believe this time will be different, the Co-chairs responded that this Commission was created by Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Fitzgerald and these legislative leaders understand what is required for the effort to be successful.

The Co-chairs announced that the Commission is likely to have six (and perhaps more) listening sessions around the state, with the first scheduled at the end of January or early February.  These listening sessions pose the greatest opportunity for SAA members to engage the Commission members on the issues most important for the children they serve.  These sessions are also the best way for members to influence the outcome of the Commission’s recommendations.

Following the listening sessions, the Commission will hear from experts from some national organizations (like the National Conference of State Legislatures or the Education Commission of the States) on the school finance systems in other states.  The Co-chairs announced several times during the meeting that it was their intention to have the Commission recommendations finalized in time to be considered during the next biennial state budget process.

Finally, numerous SAA members have inquired about how they can follow the work of the Commission.  Commission staff have indicated that a Commission web page will be developed in the next few weeks to share information with the public about the work of the Commission.  The SAA will also keep members informed of Commission developments.

LFB Presentation

DPI Presentation

Wisconsin State Journal Coverage

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Effect of Vouchers on General School Aid Distribution

By John Forester | December 14, 2017

Several SAA members have asked recently about the impact that vouchers are having on their district’s general school aid distribution.  In response, the SAA discussed the issue with Representative Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb), the ranking Democrat on the Assembly Education Committee.  Representative Pope then asked for and received this memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB).

The memo shows what the 2017-18 distribution of general aid would have been if school districts had not been able to include incoming choice pupils in the Racine and statewide choice programs in their pupil membership for the calculation of general school aid.  If we had excluded incoming choice pupils in the calculation for the distribution of general aid in 2017-18, 286 districts would have received more general aid, while 70 districts would have received less aid and aid to 66 districts would have remained unchanged.  A total of $14.1 million in aid would have been redistributed.

The memo shows the impact of the proposal on each school district.  For example, Abbotsford, with 0 incoming choice pupils, would have received $14,244 more in general aid if we had excluded incoming choice pupils in the calculation for the distribution of general aid in 2017-18.

We hope you find this information useful.

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School Funding Commission to Hold First Meeting Tomorrow

By John Forester | December 13, 2017

The Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding will hold its first meeting tomorrow (December 14th) at 10:00am in Room 412 East, State Capitol.  The Commission will hear presentations from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB).  Testimony will be from these invited speakers only.

The work of this Commission is a priority for the SAA.  We will keep you informed of the proceedings as well as opportunities for SAA members to testify before the Commission.

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Bill Circulated “Fixing” Concurrent Enrollment Under ECCP

By John Forester | December 13, 2017

As you know, the Early College Credit Program (ECCP) adopted in the 2017-19 State Budget significantly altered the funding model for concurrent enrollment programs at UW System campuses.  The old system was a shared funding model with K12 school districts absorbing the staffing costs and the UW institutions providing the accreditation and accountability.  Parents then received access to college credits at reduced cost.

However, the new ECCP program requires school districts to pick up 75% of the costs, with the state picking up 25%.  The new funding burden for school districts will likely end this effective program.

Legislation circulated yesterday by a bipartisan group of legislators would exempt concurrent enrollment programs at UW System schools from the new ECCP requirements.  The SAA is supporting this effort, as is the Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance (SWSA), the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance (WiRSA) and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB).

SAA members are encouraged to contact their legislators as soon as possible and ask them to sign on to this bill.

See LRB 4957/1 and Co-Sponsor Memo.

The SAA will keep you informed of this important effort.

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144 School Districts Receive Sparsity Aid

By John Forester | December 12, 2017

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has announced that small, sparsely populated districts across the state have received $18.5 million in sparsity aid for the 2017-18 school year. The 144 districts that qualified for sparsity aid had membership of 745 or fewer students and density of less than 10 pupils per square mile of the district’s geographic area.

Additional information, including the districts that received aid and the amounts, is available in the DPI news release here.

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Legislative Leaders Announce Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding

By John Forester | December 6, 2017

Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Fitzgerald have announced the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding.

The Commission will be chaired by Representative Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) and Senator Luther Olsen.  The Commission will hold its first meeting this month.

For more information, including the members of the Commission, see the press release from Vos and Fitzgerald.

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Stroebel Appointed to Joint Finance Committee

By John Forester | December 6, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald today appointed Sen. Duey Stroebel to the Joint Finance Committee.

The Saukville Republican, who was elected to the Senate in 2015, replaces Sheila Harsdorf, who last month became DATCP secretary. He also was one of three Republicans who issued a series of veto demands to Gov. Scott Walker before agreeing to support final passage of the budget in September.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Stroebel will serve the remainder of the 2017-18 term.

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