Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Governor Evers Signs Budget, Eliminates Funding for 1:1 Device Grants


Governor Evers signed the 2019-21 state budget bill into law with partial vetoes on Wednesday afternoon. 

While Evers said the budget fell short in many areas, he believed that vetoing it in its entirety would have led to more division. 

“This budget is a down payment on The People’s Budget and the priorities of the people of Wisconsin,” said Governor Evers. “Today I am signing a better version of the Legislature’s budget with the understanding that we are nowhere near where we need to be, and there is more work for us to do.” 

Evers vetoed 78 items from the bill as passed by the Legislature. Some of WEMTA’s priority items were impacted by vetoes (full details below). Specifically, Governor Evers vetoed out funding for the Personal Electronic Computing Device Grant Program. He also used his partial veto power to increase funding for per pupil aid payments (it is estimated that this change will increase per pupil payments by $87 million).

Evers has pledged to continue working to expand Medicaid, enact non-partisan redistricting reform, reform the school funding formula and provide student debt relief.

Items of Interest to WEMTA in the budget as signed into law (updated budget summary attached):

Eliminates the TEACH Educational Technology Training Grants. Eliminates the TEACH Educational Technology Training Grants. These grants provided $1.5 million in yearly funding to eligible rural school districts and libraries to provide training to teachers and librarians on the use of educational technology. 

Eliminates Funding for Personal Electronic Computing Device (1:1) Grant program.  Governor Evers used his partial veto authority to eliminate funding for the Personal Electronic Computing Device Grant Program in both years of the budget. In his veto message, Evers said: “I believe that districts may choose to invest in technology through flexibility provided by the revenue limit increase and through the existing TEACH program. Further, these funds could more effectively be spent on programs that close achievement gaps.”  This grant program provided $9.2 million in yearly funding for the purchase of student one-to-one devices (laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, etc.) and supporting software, curriculum, and training.

Transfers $44 million of e-rate funds, which are used to support telecommunications services in schools and libraries, to fund Broadband Expansion Grants. The budget transfers $44 million in e-rate funds to the Broadband Expansion Grant program.  E-rate provides discounts for telecommunications, Internet access and internal connections to schools and libraries. Currently, schools and libraries are not expressly listed as eligible applicants for the Broadband Expansion grants and state statute requires political subdivisions to partner with a telecommunications company or private organization in order to apply.

Eliminates TEACH Curriculum Grant Program. The budget eliminates the TEACH curriculum grants which support the development and implementation of technology-enhanced high school curriculum. These grants currently provide $25,000 per year to eligible consortia of school districts.

Extends the TEACH Information Technology Infrastructure Block Grant program until June 31, 2021 but reduces funding from $7.5 million per year to $3 million per year. The budget extends the TEACH infrastructure grants until June 31, 2021 but reduces funding for the program.  These grants provide technology infrastructure to improve the capacity of rural school districts to utilize technology for students. Eligible purchases include: portable devices/hotspots, routers, access points, cabling, firewall services and other items.

Does not Restore State Funding for the Media Lab run by the Educational Communications Board. The budget as signed into law does not restore state funding for the Media Lab run by the Educational Communications Board. Media Lab funds support Wisconsin-based K-12 educational media production. Governor Evers had proposed re-instating state funding for Media Lab, but the Joint Finance Committee removed that item from the budget.

Maintains Funding for Information Technology Education Grant (Microsoft IT Academy): The final budget provides $875,000 annually to a recipient (currently Microsoft IT Academy) to provide information technology education to public school and technical college students as well as public library patrons.

Fully Funds Library Service Contracts. The budget provides an additional $133,200 in the first year of the biennium and $168,100 in the second year of the biennium to fully fund the library service contracts. The contracts are currently held by:  the Milwaukee Public Library (MPL), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library (WTBBL), and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC).

Fully Funds BadgerLink and Newsline for the Blind. The budget provides an additional $345,800 to fully fund BadgerLink contracts and Newsline for the Blind.

Increases Public Library System Aid.  The budget increases public library system aid by $1 million per year.



Wednesday, June 26, 2019

State Senate Passes Budget Bill


The State Senate voted 17-16 this afternoon to pass the state budget bill. Republican Senators David Craig (R-Big Bend) and Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) joined all Democratic Senators in voting against the bill.

The budget now heads to Governor Evers’ desk. Evers can sign the bill as is, sign it with partial vetoes or veto the bill in full.

See this post for a run-down of all of the ed tech items included in the budget. 



Tuesday, June 25, 2019

State Assembly Passes Budget

The State Assembly voted 60-39 on Tuesday to pass the state budget bill. Before adopting the proposal, the Assembly adopted an amendment that made several changes to what was passed by the Joint Finance Committee. None of the items in the amendment impacted any of WEMTA's priorities. This means that the ed tech budget items passed by the Joint Finance Committee are unchanged. 

The State Senate will vote on the budget bill on Wednesday, after which it goes to the Governor’s desk. Governor Evers can sign, partially veto or veto the budget in full.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Joint Finance Committee Passes Budget, Assembly to Vote June 25


The Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 along party-lines this afternoon to pass their amended version of the state budget bill. It must now be passed by the full Assembly and Senate, after which it can be signed into law by the Governor.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says that the Assembly plans to vote on the budget on June 25. The Senate will likely vote on June 26 or 27.

The following are highlights from the state budget as passed by the Joint Finance Committee that are of interest to WEMTA.



Eliminates the TEACH Educational Technology Training Grants. The Joint Finance Committee approved the Governor's proposal to eliminate funding for TEACH Educational Technology Training Grants. These grants provide $1.5 million in yearly funding to eligible rural school districts and libraries to provide training to teachers and librarians on the use of educational technology. 

Maintains Funding for Personal Electronic Computing Device (1:1) Grant program. The Joint Finance Committee rejected the Governor's recommendation to eliminate funding for the 1:1 grant program after the 2019-20 school year. This grant program provides $9.2 million in yearly funding for the purchase of student one-to-one devices (laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, etc.) and supporting software, curriculum, and training. Every Wisconsin school or school district is eligible to receive $125 per 9th grade student.

Transfers $44 million of e-rate funds, which are used to support telecommunications services in schools and libraries, to fund Broadband Expansion Grants. The Joint Finance Committee approved the Governor's proposal to transfer e-rate funds to the Broadband Expansion Grant program and increased the amount of the transfer by about $20 million.  E-rate provides discounts for telecommunications, Internet access and internal connections to schools and libraries. Currently, schools and libraries are not expressly listed as eligible applicants for the Broadband Expansion grants and state statute requires political subdivisions to partner with a telecommunications company or private organization in order to apply.

Eliminates TEACH Curriculum Grant Program. The Joint Finance Committee approved the Governor's recommendation to eliminate the TEACH curriculum grants which support the development and implementation of technology-enhanced high school curriculum. These grants currently provide $25,000 per year to eligible consortia of school districts.

Extends the TEACH Information Technology Infrastructure Block Grant program until June 31, 2021 but reduces funding from $7.5 million per year to $3 million per year. The Joint Finance Committee approved the Governor's recommendation to extend TEACH infrastructure grants but to reduce funding.  These grants provide technology infrastructure to improve the capacity of rural school districts to utilize technology for students. Eligible purchases include: portable devices/hotspots, routers, access points, cabling, firewall services and other items.

Does not Restore State Funding for the Media Lab run by the Educational Communications Board. The Joint Finance Committee rejected the Governor's proposal to restore state funding for the Media Lab run by the Educational Communications Board. Media Lab funds support Wisconsin-based K-12 educational media production. State funding was eliminated for this programming in the 2015-17 state budget.

Maintains Funding for Information Technology Education Grant (Microsoft IT Academy): The Joint Finance Committee Rejected the Governor's proposal to delete the Information Technology Education grant program, which provides $875,000 annually to a recipient (currently Microsoft IT Academy) to provide information technology education to public school and technical college students as well as public library patrons.

 Fully Funds Library Service Contracts. The Joint Finance Committee approved the Governor's recommendation to provide an additional $133,200 in the first year of the biennium and $168,100 in the second year of the biennium to fully fund the library service contracts. The contracts are currently held by:  the Milwaukee Public Library (MPL), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library (WTBBL), and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC).


Fully Funds BadgerLink and Newsline for the Blind. The Joint Finance Committee approved the Governor's proposal to provide an additional $345,800 to fully fund BadgerLink contracts and Newsline for the Blind.

 Increases Public Library System Aid.  The Joint Finance Committee voted to increase public library system aid by $1 million per year. The Governor had proposed a $2.5 million increase in the first year of the budget and a $4 million increase in the second year of the budget. 


Thursday, May 23, 2019

Joint Finance Committee Passes Education Budget, Restores 1:1 Grant Funding


The Joint Finance Committee just voted 11-4 along party-lines to pass the Republican-authored K-12 education plan which (among many other things) fully funds the Personal Electronic Computing Device Grant program at $9.2 million in each year of the budget. Governor Evers’ budget would have eliminated funding for the program in the second year of the biennium.

Other items of interest to WEMTA in the motion passed by the Joint Finance Committee include:

·         Overall Education Funding: Total increase in K-12 public education funding of $500 million for the two-year budget period. Under the Governor’s proposal, funding would have increased by $1.4 billion.  

·         Personal Electronic Computing Device Grant Program: Fully funded at $9.2 million per year. Funding for the program would have ended in 2020 under the Governor’s proposal.

·         Common School Fund Re-estimate: Re-estimates school library aids (Common School Fund distribution) from $37 million per year to $37.9 million in 2019-20 and $38.8 million in 2020-21. It is important to note that this does not reflect additional funding being provided by the Legislature. It reflects updated projections on what the anticipated Common School Fund distributions will be during the biennium and could change.

·         BadgerLink and Newsline for the Blind: Increases funding by $345,800 in 2020-21 to increase funding for the contracts with the BadgerLink Vendors and to maintain the current level of services through Newsline for the Blind. This approves the Governor's proposal. 

·         Library Service Contracts: Increases funding by $133,200 in 2019-20 and $168,100 in 2020-21 to fully fund the cost of statutorily-required library service contracts for resources of specialized library materials and other information. The four service providers are: Milwaukee Public Library, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Wisconsin Talking Book and Braille Library, and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center. This approves the Governor's proposal. 

·         Information Technology Education Grant:  Maintains yearly funding of $875,000 per year for the Information Technology Education Grant. These funds are currently awarded to Microsoft IT Academy. Funding for the program would have ended the Governor’s proposal.

·         Public Library System Aid: Increases public library system aid by $1 million per year. The Governor had proposed a $2.5 million increase in the first year of the budget and a $4 million increase in the second year of the budget. 

·         Wisconsin Reading Corps: Provides $700,000 per year for the Wisconsin Reading Corps (an AmeriCorps program that provides on-on-one literacy tutoring.)This program was set to end in 2018-19 but this continues the program into future years.

·         Rural Teach Talent Pilot Program: Increases funding by $1 million per year. The program awards grants to CESAs to coordinate with universities and colleges to provide practicums, student-teacher placement and internships for college students in rural areas.






Friday, May 17, 2019

Ask the Joint Finance Committee to Save the Personal Electronic Computing Device Grant Program!


The Joint Finance Committee is voting next Thursday, May 23 on Governor Evers' proposal to eliminate the Personal Electronic Computing Device (1:1) Grant program after the 2019-20 school year.

WEMTA opposes the elimination of this grant program, which provides $9.2 million in yearly funding for the purchase of student one-to-one devices (laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, etc.) and supporting software, curriculum, and training. Every Wisconsin school or school district is eligible to receive $125 per 9th grade student.

If you are concerned, contact your state senator and state representative and ask them to oppose the elimination of the Personal Electronic Computing Device (1:1) Grant Program!

Ask your legislator to support Alternative 1B in Legislative Fiscal Bureau Paper #576

Talking Points:
·        All Wisconsin Schools are eligible for funding under the program--Public school districts, independent charter schools, private schools, and tribal schools.

·        These grants make is possible for schools to effectively incorporate personal electronic computing devices into a classroom and into a high school curriculum.

·        These funds can also be used for software, curriculum, and professional development related to personal computing devices, so even those districts or schools that already have such devices can benefit from these funds.

How to Contact Your Legislators:
The first step in contacting your legislator is knowing who your legislator is. The easiest way to do this is the tool found on the Legislature’s home page, at http://legis.wisconsin.gov. In the right-hand side of that page is a link that says Find My Legislators! Type your address in the box below that link to get the names of your state representative and senator.
· Phone. You may leave a message for your legislator’s Capitol office or indicate your position on legislation through the toll free Legislative Hotline, at 1-800-362-9472.
· E-mail. The e-mail addresses of members of the Wisconsin Legislature all have the same format. For members of the Assembly, the form is Rep.Jones@legis.wisconsin.gov; for members of the Senate, the form is Sen.Adams@legis.wisconsin.gov.




Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Joint Finance Committee Signs Off on Governor's Proposal To Eliminate TEACH Training Grants


The Joint Finance Committee voted 11-3 along party-lines on Tuesday to approve many of the Governor's proposed state budget recommendations related to the TEACH program. This includes:


  • Extending the TEACH IT Infrastructure Grants through June 30, 2021 but reducing the funding to $3 million per year.
  • Eliminating the TEACH Education Technology Training Grants, which currently provide $1.5 million in funding per year to rural schools.
  • Deleting the Curriculum Grant Program, which provides funding to schools for technology-enhanced curriculum.

  • Democrats on the Committee offered their own motion, which failed on a party-line vote of 3-11, which also proposed eliminating the TEACH Education Technology Grant and Curriculum Grant programs but would have modified the application process for the TEACH infrastructure grants.

    The budget must be approved by the full legislature and signed into law by the Governor before these changes can take effect.