Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Governor Walker Calls for Increased Investment in Broadband during State of the State

Governor Walker gave his seventh State of the State address Tuesday afternoon. Much of the speech focused on developing Wisconsin’s workforce and reforms and investments his administration has made to get more people working. 

Walker also talked about his proposal to invest $35.5 million more to expand the broadband access grant program and help upgrade technology and train teachers from small and rural school districts. “This afternoon, I call on members of the state legislature to pass our plan as soon as possible to help connect everyone in the state,” Walker said.

He also discussed several proposals related to public education funding, including his plans to increase K-12 funding in the next state budget and cut tuition at UW.

“As promised, we will increase funding for public education,” said Walker. “I love public schools.”

However, he also reiterated his support for choice in education, saying “Whatever the option, when it comes to making the right choice for their daughters and sons, I trust parents.”

The Governor concluded his speech by highlighting his plans to push the federal government to allow Wisconsin to be a leader once again on welfare reform to get more people working.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

State Superintendent Evers Faces Two Challengers in Spring Primary

State Superintendent Tony Evers is up for re-election in the 2017 Spring Election.  The official filing deadline for candidates to make it on the ballot for the February 21 primary was Tuesday.

Despite a long list of potential challengers, only John Humphries and Lowell Holtz submitted enough nomination signatures to make it on the ballot.

Humphries, a Dodgeville School District consultant,  announced his candidacy in November and is supported by State Representative Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) and State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac).  Lowell Holtz is a former Beloit Superintendent; he has been endorsed by Representative Tom Weatherston (R-Caledonia) and former Republican Representative Don Pridemore.

The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary will advance to the general election on April 4.

State Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler is also up for re-election this Spring, but she is running unopposed. There are several other circuit and appeals court races on the ballot in addition to local contests for city council and school boards.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Speaker Vos Provides More Details on 1:1 Funding Proposal

During a year-end interview with Wisconsin Eye, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos provided a few more details regarding his proposal to provide high school freshmen with 1:1 learning devices. He says they have changed the proposal, which is included in the Assembly Republicans’ Forward Agenda, to instead cover 1:1 technology.  Vos says this would allow schools to use the money in the way that is best for them and gave the examples of hiring instructors to teach computing, expanding broadband or buying laptops.

His full comments can be seen at the 14:06 minute mark of this video:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Assembly Committee Chairs Announced

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced leadership for Assembly committees today. Representatives Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) and Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) remain the Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively, of the Assembly Committee on Education. Representative David Murphy (R-Greenville) remains the chair of the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, and Representative Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) replaces Representative Rob Brooks (R-Saukville) as Vice-Chair. Representative Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake) will chair the new Assembly Committee on Science and Technology, and Representative Kevin Petersen (R-Waupaca) will serve as Vice-Chair.
The full committee list is as follows:

  • Aging and Long-Term Care Chair: Rep. Weatherston, Vice-Chair: Rep. Petryk
  • Agriculture Chair: Rep. Nerison, Vice-Chair: Rep. Novak
  • Campaigns and Elections Chair Rep. Bernier, Vice-Chair Rep. Sanfelippo
  • Children and Families Chair: Rep. Kitchens, Vice-Chair: Rep. Gannon
  • Colleges and Universities Chair: Rep. Murphy, Vice-Chair: Rep. Tranel
  • Constitution and Ethics Chair: Rep. Allen, Vice-Chair Rep. Thiesfeldt
  • Consumer Protection Chair: Rep. Duchow, Vice-Chair Rep. Tittl
  • Corrections Chair: Rep. Schraa, Vice-Chair: Rep. Hutton
  • Criminal Justice and Public Safety Chair: Rep. Spiros, Vice-Chair: Rep. Kremer
  • Education Chair: Rep. Thiesfeldt, Vice-Chair: Rep. Kitchens
  • Energy and Utilities Chair: Rep. Kuglitsch, Vice-Chair: Rep. Steffen
  • Environment and Forestry Chair: Rep. Mursau, Vice-Chair: Rep. Krug
  • Family Law Chair: Rep. Rodriguez, Vice-Chair: Rep. Bernier
  • Federalism and Interstate Relations Chair: Rep. Vorpagel, Vice-Chair: Rep. Schraa
  • Financial Institutions Chair: Rep. Katsma, Vice-Chair: Rep. Jarchow
  • Government Accountability and Oversight Chair: Rep. Hutton, Vice-Chair: Rep. Brandtjen
  • Health Chair: Rep. Sanfelippo, Vice-Chair: Rep. Kerkman
  • Housing Chair: Rep. Jagler, Vice-Chair: Rep. Allen
  • Insurance Chair: Rep. Petersen, Vice-Chair: Rep. Duchow
  • Jobs and the Economy Chair: Rep. Neylon, Vice-Chair: Rep. Ed Brooks
  • Judiciary Chair: Rep. Ott, Vice-Chair: Rep. Horlacher
  • Labor Chair: Rep. Kulp, Vice-Chair: Rep. Kuglitsch
  • Mental Health Chair: Rep. Tittl, Vice-Chair: Rep. Jagler
  • Rural Development and Mining Chair: Rep. VanderMeer, Vice-Chair: Rep. Mursau
  • Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage Chair: Rep. Kleefisch, Vice-Chair: Rep. Quinn
  • Public Benefit Reform Chair: Rep. Krug, Vice-Chair: Rep. Vorpagel
  • Regulatory Licensing Reform Chair: Rep. Horlacher, Vice-Chair: Rep. Ballweg
  • Science and Technology Chair: Rep. Quinn, Vice-Chair: Rep. Petersen
  • Small Business Development Chair: Rep. Tauchen, Vice-Chair: Rep. Edming
  • State Affairs Chair: Rep. Swearingen, Vice-Chair: Rep. Tauchen
  • Tourism Chair: Rep. Tranel, Vice-Chair: Rep. Swearingen
  • Transportation Chair: Rep. Ripp, Vice-Chair Rep. Spiros
  • Local Government Chair: Rep. Ed Brooks, Vice-Chair: Rep. Ripp
  • Urban Revitalization Chair: Rep. Gannon, Vice-Chair: Rep. Fields (D)
  • Veterans and Military Affairs Chair: Rep. Skowronski, Vice-Chair: Rep. VanderMeer
  • Ways and Means Chair: Rep. Macco, Vice-Chair: Rep. Katsma
  • Workforce Development Chair: Rep. Petryk, Vice-Chair: Rep. Weatherston
  • Joint Audit Chair: Rep. Kerkman, Vice-Chair: Rep. Macco
  • JCRAR Chair: Rep. Ballweg, Vice-Chair: Rep. Neylon
  • JFC Chair: Rep. Nygren, Vice-Chair: Rep. Kooyenga
  • Leg Council Chair: Rep. Rob Brooks
  • Tax Exemptions Chair: Rep. August
  • Retirement Systems Chair: Rep. Novak
  • Information Policy and Technology Chair: Rep. Knodl, Vice-Chair: Rep. Jacque
  • Review Committee on Criminal Penalties Chair: Rep. Jarchow
  • Law Revision Chair: Rep. Ott
  • Building Commission Chair: Rep. Swearingen, Vice-Chair: Rep. Katsma

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Joint Finance Committee Taking Shape

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos announced the Assembly Republican members of the Joint Finance Committee today. There are two new Assembly Republican members this session—Representatives Mark Born and Mike Rohrkaste.  Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald previously re-appointed all current Senate Republican members to the Committee. No word yet on the Committee’s four Democratic seats.

Once Governor Walker introduces his 2017-19 budget bill, it will be referred to the Joint Finance Committee for consideration. 

Assembly Republican Members 

Chair, Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette)
Vice-Chair, Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield)
Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton)
Rep. Mary Czaja (R-Irma)
Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam)

Rep. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah)

Senate Republican Members

Chair, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills)
Vice-Chair, Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon)
Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls)
Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green)
Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst)
Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Senate Democrats Elect 2017-18 Leadership

Senate Democrats met Tuesday afternoon to elect their leadership for the 2017-18 legislative session.  

Senate Minority Leader: Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse). This is Shilling’s second session as Senate Minority Leader. Former Senator Dan Kapanke announced Tuesday that he will seek a recount in his race against Shilling, which she led by only 56 votes after the official canvas.  

Senate Assistant Minority Leader: Senator Janet Bewley (D-Ashland).  Bewley replaces current Assistant Minority Leader Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) who did not seek re-election to the post.

Senate Minority Caucus Chair: Senator Mark Miller (D-Monona). He replaces Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) who will not be returning to the Legislature in 2017. 

Senate Minority Caucus Vice-Chair:  Senator Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville). She replaces current Caucus Vice-Chair Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) who did not seek re-election to the post.

All Caucuses have now chosen their leadership for the 2017-18 session.  Announcements will be made in the coming weeks regarding committee assignments in the Assembly and Senate.  Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) already re-appointed all Senate Republican members of the Joint Finance Committee.  Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) announced that Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) will remain Assembly Co-Chair of the Joint Finance Committee, but did not make any announcements regarding the five remaining Assembly Republican seats on the Committee. No word yet on who the four Democratic Joint Finance Committee members will be. 

Senate Majority Leader:  Senator Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau)

Senate Assistant Majority Leader: Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa)

Senate President: Senator Roger Roth (R-Appleton)

Senate President Pro Tempore: Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green)

Senate Majority Caucus Chair: Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls)

Senate Majority Caucus Vice-Chair: Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine)

Assembly Speaker: Representative Robin Vos (R-Rochester)

Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore: Representative Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva)

Assembly Majority Leader:   Representative Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna)

Assembly Assistant Majority Leader:  Representative Rob Brooks (R- Saukville)

Assembly Majority Caucus Chair:  Representative Dan Knodl (R-Germantown)

Assembly Majority Vice-Caucus Chair: Representative Romaine Quinn (R-Rice Lake)

Assembly Majority Caucus Sargent at Arms: Representative Samantha Kerkman (R-Salem)

Assembly Majority Caucus Secretary: Representative Jessie Rodriguez (R-Oak Creek)

Assembly Minority Leader: Representative Peter Barca (D-Kenosha).

Assembly Assistant Minority Leader: Representative Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton)

Assembly Minority Caucus Chair: Representative Mark Spreitzer (D-Beloit)

Assembly Minority Caucus Vice-Chair:  Representative Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska)

Assembly Minority Caucus Secretary:  Representative Beth Meyers (D-Bayfield)

Assembly Minority Caucus Sargent at Arms: Representative Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

DPI Releases Second Half of Budget Request

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released the second half of its 2017-19 state budget request Tuesday. This request will be used by the Department of Administration and the Governor’s office to craft the 2017-19 state budget bill, which will be introduced in February. Many of the DPI funding items related to school library programs were included in the first half of DPI’s request, which was released in September. You can read our update on that portion of the request here.

DPI’s proposal would increase school funding by $707 million over the two-year budget (a 2.7% increase in the first year and another 5.4% in the second).

The budget focuses on four key areas:

  1. Funding and Finance Reform
  2. School-based mental health supports
  3. Investing in Rural Schools
  4. Summer learning and other innovative approaches

DPI’s full 2017-19 state budget request can be viewed here and State Superintendent Tony Evers’ statement on the budget request here.

The following is a summary of items contained in the second half of DPI’s request:

School Library Aids (CSF) Re-Estimate

Since DPI submitted their first budget request in September, the projected state aid for school libraries (Common School Fund payments) have decreased. DPI is lowering their original estimates by $3 million in the first year of the biennium and by $1 million in the second year of the biennium. The updated estimates are  $35 million in Fiscal Year 2018 and $37 million in Fiscal Year 2019.

School Funding and Finance Reform

DPI’s budget request includes a school finance reform proposal called Fair Funding for our Future, which modifies the current school funding formula to provide minimum aid to school districts across the state ($3,000 per student), adds a hold harmless provision so that no school would lose money based on the funding formula changes,  incorporates a poverty factor into the equalization aid formula that takes into account the number of students in a district receiving Free or Reduced Price Lunch, and makes other technical changes to the formula.  The request also increases the per pupil revenue limit adjustment to $200 per full-time equivalent (FTE) pupils in 2018 and $204 per FTE in 2019, and updates state statute to increase that figure by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) each year, beginning in 2020. In 1996, the state established a per pupil “low-revenue” ceiling amount that allows districts to increase their per pupil revenues up to a state-determined figure per pupil without having to go to referenda. DPI is proposing to increase the current low-revenue ceiling from $9,100 in 2017, to $9,500 in 2018 and $9,900 in 2019. DPI is also proposing changes to the way summer school students are counted for revenue limit purposes.

Per Pupil Aid Weighting

DPI requests an additional $37.5 million to maintain per pupil aid of $250 and create a new weighting factor that would provide schools with additional aid for students in certain demographics (students in foster care, English language learners and economically disadvantaged students). For each student in one of these demographics, schools would get the $250 per pupil aid plus $50 for each weighting factor.

Investing in Rural Schools/ Rural Teacher Retention 

DPI proposes a new annual $5.5 million Rural Schools Teacher Retention Grant. Districts eligible for sparsity aid could apply for the grants, which are meant to help with teacher retention issues and could be used for things like tuition reimbursement, professional development or increased compensation. DPI estimates that eligible districts would receive a minimum grant of $5,000 (with payments of about $750 per teacher). 

DPI an increase of $7.7 million to fully fund sparsity aid and expand sparsity aid eligibility to additional districts. Under DPI’s proposal to create a second tier of sparsity aid, school districts  that have between 746 and 1, 000 students (averaging out to not more than 10 students per square mile) could get sparsity aid payments of $100 per student. 

DPI also requests increased transportation aid for school districts that transport students 12 or more miles and increased transportation reimbursement rates for summer school and high-cost transportation.  

Peer Review and Mentoring Grant Program

DPI does not request increased funding for this grant program,  which provides peer review and mentoring support to new teachers, but does request a statutory change to expand eligibility to all school districts. They also request increasing the allowable grant amount from $25,000 to $100,000.  Priority would be given to schools in the Teacher Equitable Access Program.

Allowing MPS to Start Classes before September 1

DPI is requesting a change to state statute that would allow Milwaukee Public Schools to begin classes before September 1 in an effort to prevent the “summer slide.”

School Based Mental Health

DPI proposes three school-based mental health initiatives. The first would create a $3 million annual appropriation used to partially reimburse schools that increase spending on social worker positions (76% of Wisconsin school districts currently do not have a social worker). The second is a $2.5 million annual grant program that would help fund school mental health efforts done in collaboration with community health care providers. The third is increased funding for DPI to scale up mental health training for schools around the state.

Special Education/ Transition Funding

DPI requests an $88 million increase for special education funding and a $4.2 million increase for high-cost special education funding as well as a statutory change that would reimburse 100% of eligible costs for  districts that exceed the $30,000 per pupil threshold. As part of its request to increase high-cost special education funding, DPI requests that current law “special education supplemental aid” funding be folded into the high-cost special education program.

The budget request also provides funding to support youth with disabilities that are transitioning into college or careers.  DPI requests an additional $6.3 million to fully fund the Transition Incentive Grant Program which provides schools districts with $1,000 for each student with a disability graduating college and career ready based on the Wisconsin Post-School Outcomes (WiPSO) survey.  They also propose a new program called the Special Education Transition Readiness Investment Grant which would make $1.5 million available to school districts to create new competitive work opportunities for students with disabilities.

Bilingual/Bicultural Aid

DPI requests an additional $9.1 million to increase the reimbursement rate paid to school districts that are required to offer bilingual/bicultural programs to 12%.  

They also request $4.3 million to create a Supplemental Bilingual-Bicultural Aid program that would provide $100 per English learner in any district that is not served by a bilingual/bicultural aid program.  

In addition, they request funding to create two new grant programs. The first would create a $4.4 million grant program that provides targeted funding to districts with English learners. Districts, including those eligible for the two Bilingual-Bicultural Aid programs discussed above, would receive $100 per English learner that is assessed at proficiency level 1, 2 or 3.  The second is a $750,000 ESL and Bilingual Capacity Building Grant to help schools increase the number of existing teachers and paraprofessionals that are certified English as a Second Language (ESL) and bilingual education teachers.

Dual Language Planning and Start Up grant

DPI requests $750,000 to create a  Dual Language Planning and Start Up Grant that would provide start-up funding for school districts that want to create a dual language immersion program.

Gifted/Talented Programs

DPI requests $1.5 million in additional funding for gifted and talented programs. They hope the increased funding will help serve students that have been historically underrepresented in gifted and talented programs (such as economically disadvantaged students, students of color, students with physical or learning disabilities, and English Learners). The request also expands eligibility to all school districts in the state.

Tribal Language Revitalization Grants

DPI Requests $562,200 to create a new Young Learners Tribal Language Revitalization initiative. This initiative will begin the exposure and development of the tribal heritage languages starting with Head Start and 4K and continue implementation of the program in Kindergarten through eighth grade in future biennia.

School Breakfast Program

DPI requests additional funding in order to fully fund the $0.15 reimbursement rate for each breakfast served. DPI also proposes expanding eligibility for the school breakfast reimbursement program to several new entities: independent charter schools, the Wisconsin Educational Services Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and residential care centers for children and youth (RCCs).