Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Representative Hintz Elected Assembly Minority Leader

Assembly Democrats selected Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) to serve as their new Minority Leader this afternoon.

Hintz will replace Representative Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) who announced earlier this month that he would be stepping down from his leadership role on September 30.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) released a statement shortly after the vote congratulating Hintz. "His willingness to lead is commendable and I stand ready to work alongside him to advance those values shared between our caucuses," said Steineke.

Hintz currently serves on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee and will get to choose who replaces him on the Committee as part of his new role.

Monday, September 18, 2017

State Senate Passes State Budget; Governor Walker to Sign this Week

The State Senate voted 19-14 to pass the State Budget late Friday night. All Democrats voted against the proposal as did Senator David Craig (R-Big Bend).  “While this budget contains positive provisions like finally repealing the rest of our prevailing wage law, a reform I have long supported, it fails in its primary function – to appropriately limit the size, and thus the role, of government in our lives,” said Senator Craig in a statement about his decision to vote no.

Some last-minute negotiations between Governor Walker, who was in South Korea for a trade mission, and four Senate hold-outs resulted in several veto announcements being made on Friday afternoon in order to secure enough Republican votes to pass the budget.  Vetoes already agreed to by the Governor include: the tolling implementation study, prevailing wage law repeal start date, school referendum requirements and state capitol basement renovations.

Governor Walker signed the Fox Conn bill into law Monday afternoon and is expected to sign the budget bill into law within the next few days. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

State Assembly Passes Budget

The State Assembly voted 57-39 to pass the 2017-19 state budget late Wednesday evening. Every Democratic member of the Assembly voted against passage as did five Republicans--Representatives Allen, Brandtjen, Jarchow, Gannon, Sanfelippo. 

Democrats criticized the budget as being "rigged" in favor of the rich and ignoring the needs of working families. They also lambasted Republicans for failing to come up with a long-term transportation funding plan after months
of debate and for expanding the school choice program. 

Republicans brushed off criticism from Democrats and referred to many of their floor speeches and amendments as attempts to audition for the Assembly Minority Leader position being vacated by Representative Peter
Barca (D-Kenosha). They also highlighted the budget's significant investment in K-12 education funding, UW tuition freeze, reduced transportation bonding and lower property taxes. 

Prior to passing the budget, Assembly Republicans offered a six-page technical amendment <http://docs.legis.wi.gov/raw/proposal/2017/b0833which was adopted on a voice vote. 

The budget must now be approved by the State Senate, which is scheduled to vote on the proposal on Friday morning. However, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says he does not currently have the 17 votes needed to pass the bill in his house. It appears that the Senate hold-outs are concerned about the lack of reforms at the Department of Transportation and want to see the income eligibility limit for the statewide school choice program increased to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level and additional school
referendum reforms. Several lawmakers have also asked that the repeal of the prevailing wage law be moved up to January.

If the Senate adopts any amendments to the budget, it will need to go back
to the Assembly for approval. During his closing remarks, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said that the Assembly had no plans to vote on the budget again and that their vote Wednesday night was final. Governor Walker has previously said he hopes to sign the budget into law by September 21.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Budget Comparison Document Released; Assembly Voting on Budget Wednesday

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau just released their comparative summary of the Governor’s budget recommendations to the Joint Finance Committee’s (JFC) actions: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/misc/lfb/budget/2017_19_biennal_budget/043_comparative_summary_of_budget_recommendations_governor_and_joint_committee_on_finance_entire_document_september_2017.pdf

The State Assembly is set to vote on the budget as passed by JFC on Wednesday of this week. It is unclear when the Senate will meet to vote on the budget because it is rumored that Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald does not have enough votes in the Senate Republican Caucus to pass the budget at this time. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Joint Finance Committee Passes State Budget

The Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 along party lines to approve the 2017-19 state budget on Wednesday evening. It must now be passed by both the Assembly and Senate before it can be signed into law to the Governor. It is already more than nine weeks past the June 30 statutory deadline to have a new budget signed into law.

Items of interest to WEMTA include:

K-12 Per Pupil Aid Increase: Increases per pupil payments from $250 per pupil in 2016-17 to $450 per pupil in 2017-18 and $654 per pupil in 2018-19. However, not all of these new funding would carry forward into the next state budget. Per pupil aid would drop down to $630 per pupil in 2019-20. The Joint Finance Committee deleted the Governor’s recommendation that schools show that they are in compliance with Act 10 provisions related to health care costs in order to receive the new funding. Instead, the Committee voted to require districts to report annually to the state on health insurance costs for their employees.

Personal Electronic Computing Device Grants: The Committee adopted Speaker Vos’s proposal to create a new one-to-one device grant program. The motion provides $9.2 million in funding beginning in 2018-19 to fund grants for personal electronic computing devices. Eligible entities include: school boards, charter schools, the governing body of a private school or a tribal school. Grants would equal $125 per ninth grade student. Applicants would need to demonstrate that they will provide equal matching funds. Grants could be used for the following: purchasing personal electronic computing devices; purchasing software for the devices; purchasing curriculum that includes content that may be accessed on a personal electronic computing device; or train professional staff on how to effectively incorporate personal electronic devices into a classroom and into high school curriculum. The grant program would end in the 2022-23 school year.

Library Service Contracts: Provides an additional $10,300 over the budget biennium to fully fund the Library Service Contracts.

TEACH Grants: Provides an additional $6 million to the TEACH program. It continues the information technology block grant program until July 1, 2019, and expands the permitted uses of grants under the program to include providing mobile hotspots on buses and purchasing mobile hotspots for individuals to borrow from schools. In addition, the eligibility for these grants is expanded to include school districts that have up to 16 pupils per square mile. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that 278 school districts would meet this eligibility criteria.

Public Library Funding: Increases aid to public library systems by $1.5 million. The Joint Finance Committee also voted to delete the current law requirement that DPI include in its biennial budget submission a request for public library system aid equal to 13% of the prior year operating expenditures from local and county sources.

Information Technology Education: The Joint Finance Committee voted to provide $875,000 in funding in each year of the budget to contract with a single provider of information technology education for public schools students in grades 6-12, technical colleges students and library patrons. This was previously provided by Microsoft. The program would be required to provide instruction on information technology skills and competencies in areas requested by employers and allow participating students and educators to secure broad-based industry recognized information technology certifications. Programs would be required to operate in 225 sites, including 16 public libraries. The selected provider would need to demonstrate that they have successfully offered an information technology instructional program in schools in Wisconsin and developed an instructional program that includes all of the following: research-based and skill-development-based information technology curriculum; online access to the curriculum; instructional software for classroom and student use; coding curriculum and material that are aligned to the computer science advanced placement exam; certifications of skills and competencies in a broad base of information technology-related skill areas; professional development and co-teaching for faculty including but not limited to computer science; deployment and program support; methods for students to earn college credit; a demonstrated track record with schools in Wisconsin.

Broadband Expansion Grant Program: Makes changes to the Broadband Expansion Grant program. It removes the current $1.5 million yearly limit on broadband grants and provides additional funding for the grants. Specifically, the budget transfers $6 million from the Universal Service Fund to the broadband grant program; transfers $5 million in e-Rate funding (which helps schools and libraries obtain Internet access) to the broadband grant program; transfers all unspent Universal Service Fund dollars to the broadband grant program at the end of every fiscal year. A motion authored by Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) also requires the Public Service Commission to consider a potential broadband expansion grant’s impact on the ability of students to access educational opportunities from home. It also creates a new criteria that would give priority to unserved areas of the state.

Statewide Private School Choice Program: Increases the income eligibility limit for the statewide school choice program from 185% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 220% FPL. It is estimated that this change will result in 550 additional students participating in the program.

Eliminates Requirement to Renew Teacher Licenses: The Committee voted to modify the Governor’s proposal to grant lifetime teacher licenses. Instead, the Committee voted to require a provisional three-year license for new educators, administrators and pupil services professionals. A lifetime license would be granted after the completion of six semesters of successful experiences as certified by the school board. DPI would still be required to conduct background checks on behalf of MPS, independent charter schools and other school districts.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Senate Education Committee Passes Student Data Bills

The Senate Committee on Education voted 7-0 on Thursday to pass the two bills authored by the Legislative Council Study Committee on School Data. They can now be voted on by the full Senate.Both bills have already been passed by the full Assembly. Once passed by the Senate, Governor Walker can sign them into law.

Assembly Bill 71 requires DPI to maintain a list of each type of student data they collect and publish it on their website. Assembly Bill 72 requires the State Superintendent to provide guidance and training to schools on developing data privacy and security plans.


AB-071 Pupil Data Inventory (Legislative Council) An inventory of pupil data. Passage recommended, 7-0.  

AB-072 Pupil Data Security (Legislative Council) Responsibilities of state superintendent related to privacy and security of pupil data. Passage recommended, 7-0.  

AB-280 Financial Literacy in Schools (Krug, Scott) Incorporating financial literacy into the curriculum of public schools. Passage recommended, 7-0.  

SB-301 Summer School Classes (Olsen, Luther) Summer school and interim session classes. Am. 1 adopted, 7-0.   Passage as amended recommended, 7-0.  

SB-299 Montessori Teaching License (Olsen, Luther) An initial teaching license based on completion of a Montessori teacher education program. Passage recommended, 7-0.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Senate Education Committee to Vote on Data Bills Thursday

The Senate Education Committee will vote on the two student data bills that we have been following using a paper ballot on Thursday, August 31. Both bills have already been passed by the State Assembly. If the Senate Education Committee approves the two bills, they can be scheduled for a vote by the full State Senate and then signed into law by the Governor.

Relating to: an inventory of pupil data.
By Joint Legislative Council.

Relating to: responsibilities of state superintendent related to privacy and security of pupil data.
By Joint Legislative Council.