SAA Opposes Cursive Writing Bill

By John Forester | September 15, 2021

The SAA submitted testimony in opposition to Assembly Bill 435, relating to requiring each school board to include cursive writing in its curriculum for the elementary grades, at a public hearing today before the Assembly Committee on State Affairs.

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SAA Opposes Reading Assessment Bill

By John Forester | September 15, 2021

The SAA submitted testimony in opposition to Assembly Bill 446, relating to reading readiness assessments, at a public hearing yesterday before the Assembly Committee on Education. If you should have any questions or comments about the SAA’s position on the bill, please contact the SAA.

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SAA Supports Tobacco 21 at Public Hearing

By John Forester | September 10, 2021

The SAA submitted testimony in support of Senate Bill 355, the so-called Tobacco 21 bill, at a public hearing yesterday before the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.

Gregg Wieczorek, principal at Arrowhead High School in Hartland and the current President of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), also delivered fabulous testimony in support of the bill.  Hats of to Gregg for taking time out of his busy schedule to advocate on behalf of the students we serve.

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Reading Assessment Bill to Receive Public Hearing

By John Forester | September 8, 2021

The Assembly Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on Assembly Bill 446 (see below) at 10:00am on Tuesday, September 14th in Room 412 East, State Capitol.

AB-446 Reading Readiness (Kitchens, Joel) Reading readiness assessments and granting rule-making authority.

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Tobacco 21 Bill to Receive Public Hearing

By John Forester | September 7, 2021

The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 355 (see below), the so-called Tobacco 21 legislation, at 11:00am on Thursday, September 9th in Room 411 South, State Capitol.  The SAA strongly supports this legislation.  If you are interested in testifying, or if you have comments or questions about this bill, please contact the SAA.

SB-355 Tobacco (Marklein, Howard) Raising the legal age for sale, purchase, and possession of cigarettes and nicotine and tobacco products, providing a legal age for sale, purchase, and possession of vapor products, and providing a penalty.

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LFB: State Tax Collections $319 Million Higher Than June Estimate

By John Forester | September 7, 2021

In case you missed the announcement late last week, state tax revenues continue to outpace expectations.  Check out the WisPolitics.com reporting on the issue below.  Also, check out this news story from the Wisconsin State Journal.  State tax collections $319 million higher than previously estimated, 11.6% more than last fiscal year | Local Government | madison.com

From WisPolitics.com …

The GOP co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee touted better-than-expected revenue numbers as a continued sign of Republican leadership over the past decade.

Meanwhile, Tony Evers’ spokeswoman said today’s news shows “Gov. Evers’ leadership — getting shots in arms and support to folks who need it — has helped ensure our state’s continued economic recovery from this pandemic.”

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau today said its preliminary look at tax collections for the 2020-21 fiscal year show the state took in $319 million more than what the agency had projected in early June.

Then, LFB had anticipated $19.25 billion in general fund tax collections in the second year of the budget. Instead, tax collections came in at nearly $19.6 billion.

LFB Director Bob Lang said the bump was due to two factors. One factor was corporate tax collections came in higher than expected after businesses made their estimated payments at the end of June before the fiscal year closed. The second was the agency had a better handle on sales tax collections for the fiscal year after additional reports from retailers.

It continued a run of higher-than-expected revenues for the fiscal year despite the COVID-19 pandemic. When the budget was signed in July 2019, LFB projected the state would take in more than $17.6 billion during 2020-21. Instead, LFB’s preliminary tally of tax collections came in at nearly $19.6 billion.

Half of the additional $1.9 billion in revenue will go to the rainy day fund. LFB said that will push the fund’s balance to more than $1.7 billion.

State law includes an automatic trigger sending half of all excess revenue growth to the fund until its balance reaches 5 percent of general fund expenditures. The balance will hit nearly 9 percent of the $19.3 billion the state is budgeted to spend from the general fund in 2021-22.

At the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year, the rainy day fund had a balance of $1.7 million.

JFC Co-chair Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, noted the rainy day fund balance has grown “all while investing in our strategic priorities.”

Fellow Co-chair Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said the latest numbers “show that due to the strong reforms Republicans have put into place over the past several years, sending more money back to the taxpayers in the most recent state budget was the right thing to do.”

The additional revenue means the state is also looking at an extra $159.5 million toward its finishing balance for the 2020-21 fiscal year. In June, LFB expected the state to finish the year with a gross balance of $2.6 billion.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said the collections make it even more difficult to understand why GOP lawmakers didn’t put more state money into education during deliberations on the 2021-23 budget.

“Today’s news should serve as another opportunity to invest in our future at a time of increased need so local school districts are not forced to make cuts or ask voters to raise property taxes,” Hintz said.

See the memo here.

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SAA Opposes AB 411/SB 411 and AB 488/SB 463

By John Forester | August 11, 2021

The SAA registered opposition to AB 411/SB 411 and AB 488/SB 463 at a Joint Hearing this morning of the Assembly and Senate Education Committees.  Among other things, AB 411/SB 411 would prohibit the teaching of certain academic content related to sex and race.  The SAA submitted testimony in opposition to AB 411/SB 411.  AB/488/SB 463 requires school boards to make information about learning materials and educational activities used for pupil instruction available to the public.

If you should have comments or questions regarding the SAA’s opposition to these bills, please contact the SAA.

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State Superintendent Issues Statement on AB/SB 411

By John Forester | August 11, 2021

State Superintendent Jill Underly issued the following statement today relating to SB/AB 411, which is being discussed at the Joint Committee on Education public hearing this morning:

“We rely on educators to teach our kids in a way that is accurate and honest. Through training and experience, teachers learn to support students as they approach rigorous and challenging subject matters. Our kids benefit greatly from that interaction. If we are being honest with ourselves, at one point or another, all of us have as well.

“Unfortunately, in these bills, we’re not talking about how to improve teaching and learning. We are again focused on issues that distract and divide our communities, using our public schools as the vehicle. These bills present issues that get nowhere close to supporting our kids or their immediate needs. In fact, nothing about either of these proposals gets anywhere close to a strategy for improving schools. They will not grow relationships between teachers and students, improve instruction, deepen understanding and trust from families, or advance the economic well-being of our communities. These bills are message platforms that seek to advance a belief that we cannot handle a challenging issue within a school; that teachers cannot be trusted to help kids think critically about what they see, hear, and read.

“As a lifelong educator and former school district administrator from a rural school district, I can tell you that we handle difficult conversations every day, and that our inability to manage these interactions could not be farther from the truth. We can and should have conversations about issues from our country’s history, like chattel slavery, race- and gender-based discrimination, and even genocide. We have conversations about harassment and discrimination because of actions among and between students. We take these conversations seriously because it prepares students for life, and it prepares them for their place in a just and civil society. Educators do not need to accuse a student of playing a part in this history to teach them about its factual existence. Ignoring these historic events does not change them or make them go away. It does a gross disservice to our kids and their future. We’re better than this.”

See the full statement here.

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WPF: Fewer Education Grads Pose Threat to Teacher Workforce

By John Forester | August 11, 2021

In its most recent FOCUS publication, the Wisconsin Policy Forum reports, “The number and share of college graduates earning degrees in education is declining in southeast Wisconsin, which is a concerning trend for area schools and the regional and statewide economy.” While the report focuses on southeast Wisconsin, it speaks to the broader education workforce challenges faced by district leaders statewide as well.  Check it out here.

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WPF Report on 2020-21 School Enrollment Disruptions

By John Forester | August 6, 2021

The Wisconsin Policy Forum (WPF) has released a report on 2020-21 school enrollment and the implications of the pandemic enrollment disruptions for Wisconsin school districts moving forward.  Check it out here.

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