Thursday, June 22, 2017

State Assembly Passes UW Free Expression Bill


 The State Assembly voted 61-36 late Wednesday night to pass Assembly Bill 299, which requires the UW Board of Regents to develop a Free Expression policy. The Assembly voted unanimously to adopt an amendment that deletes the Council on Free Expression from the bill and instead directs the Board of Regents to file a report with the Governor and Legislature on September 1 of each year on the implementation of the free expression policy. 

Democrats argued that the bill has a chilling effect on free speech and repeatedly referred to it as the "campus gag rule." Republicans countered that the bill is needed to ensure that people of all political views can have their voices heard on campus. 

AB 299 does the following:

·         Requires the Board of Regents to develop a free expression policy that adheres to a set of criteria outlined in the bill. It instructs UW institutions to remain neutral on the public policy controversies of the day

·         Requires the UW to suspend any student that violates the Free Expression Policy twice and expel any student that violates the Free Expression policy three times. Disciplinary actions would apply to individuals who "engage in violent or other disorderly conduct that materially and substantially disrupts the free expression of others." However, the bill does not define what the "free expression of others" entails. 

·         Allows any person to make a report that someone has violated the Free Expression Policy. 


AB 299 now goes to the Senate for approval. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

State Assembly Passes Student Data Bills

The State Assembly voted unanimously on Wednesday to pass two bills authored by the Study Committee on Student Data. The bills now go to the Senate for approval.

Assembly Bill 71: requires the State Superintendent to create, maintain and post a pupil data inventory on DPI’s website. This data inventory must include every distinct type of pupil data collected by DPI from schools and school districts, a definition of the type of pupil data collected, the purpose for collecting the pupil data, and a citation to the specific provision of state or federal law requiring collection of the data. The list must be updated every time DPI makes changes to the type of data they collect.


Assembly Bill 72 requires the State Superintendent to develop a model data privacy and security plan, which includes certain elements like guidelines for access to pupil data and to the student information system. This bill also requires the State Superintendent to provide guidance and training to school districts on data privacy and the security of pupil data. The Superintendent must work with stakeholders to develop and promote best practices regarding the quality, usefulness, openness, privacy, and security of pupil data.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Senate, Assembly Republicans Closer to Reaching K-12 Funding Deal

Senate and Assembly Republicans are rumored to be close to having a deal on K-12 education funding and could vote as early as this Thursday, June 22. Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) told Committee members to keep the date open for a possible vote, but nothing has been officially scheduled at this time. 

Assembly Republicans developed their own K-12 funding proposal, which they released two weeks ago, and Senate Republicans are working on a plan of their own which is closer to what the Governor had proposed but provides additional funding to low-spending school districts. 

Governor Walker had proposed a $649 million increase to K-12 education funding but Assembly Republicans would decrease this amount by $70 million and provide additional resources to low-spending school districts. The Assembly Republican plan also includes about $9.1 million annually to provide grants to schools to provide “personal electronic computing devices.” Public, private and charter schools could apply for grants equal to $125 per 9th grade student to pay for any of the following: purchasing personal electronic computing devices; purchasing software for the devices; purchasing curriculum that includes content that may be accessed on the personal computing devices; or training professional staff on how to effectively incorporate personal electronic devices into a classroom and into high school curriculum.
                       
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to contact your state representative and state senator and ask them to support the Governor’s proposed increase to K-12 funding.

WEMTA has also been monitoring the following items, which were included in the Governor’s proposal:

·         Library Service Contracts: the Governor’s proposal  provides an additional $10,300 over the budget biennium to fully fund the Library Service Contracts. The Assembly Republican plan makes no changes to this.

·         Eliminating Expiration Dates for Teacher and Administrator Licenses: the Governor’s proposal includes a concerning requirement that would eliminate expiration dates for teaching and administrator licenses. Teachers and administrators would no longer need to renew their licenses and there would be no ongoing professional development requirements. Instead, school boards would be required to conduct background checks on everyone who holds a teaching or administrator’s license at least once every five years. The Assembly Republican proposal makes some modifications to the Governor’s proposal. Their proposal includes Milwaukee Public Schools and independent charter schools in the requirement to conduct background checks every five years and grants provisional three-year licenses to new educators, administrators and pupil services professionals. Under the Assembly Republican plan, a lifetime license could only be granted after completion of six semesters of experience. The Assembly Republican plan also requires DPI to update PI 34, the administrative rules for teacher licensure, to simplify the process by January 1, 2018.

·         Newsline for the Blind: the Governor’s proposal provides an additional $52,200 over the budget biennium to fully fund Newsline for the Blind costs. The Assembly Republican plan makes no changes to this.

·         Online Bullying Prevention: the Governor’s proposal provides $150,000 for grants to a nonprofit organization to provide training and an online bullying prevention curriculum for pupils in grades kindergarten through eight. The Assembly Republican plan accepts the Governor’s proposal.

·         Sparsity Aid for Rural Districts: the Governor’s proposal increases sparsity aid funding by $20 million. Per pupil payments for districts that meet sparsity aid requirements would increase by $100 for a total payment of $400 per pupil. It also creates a second-tier of sparsity aid for districts that have enrollment between 745 and 1,000 with a population density of less than 10 students per square mile. The Assembly Republican proposal rejects the Governor’s proposals to increase sparsity payments.


·         Milwaukee Performance Funding: the Governor’s proposal creates a new $5.6 million performance funding program for Milwaukee schools. $1.9 million will be distributed to schools that “significantly exceed expectations” or “exceed expectations” on the school report card. $3.6 million will go to schools that increase their numeric score by at least three points on the school report card. The Assembly Republican plan is silent on this provision.  


·         Milwaukee Summer School Grants: the Governor’s proposal provides $1.4  million for summer school grants to Milwaukee public schools. Grants would help schools develop, redesign or implement a summer school program to increase pupil attendance, improve academic achievement or expose pupils to innovative learning activities. The Assembly Republican plan is silent on this provision. 

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


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

State Assembly to Vote on Student Data Bills June 21

The State Assembly will vote on two bills related to protecting student data on June 21.
These bills were authored by the Study Committee on Student Data and do the following:

Assembly Bill 71: requires the State Superintendent to create, maintain and post a pupil data inventory on DPI’s website. This data inventory must include every distinct type of pupil data collected by DPI from schools and school districts, a definition of the type of pupil data collected, the purpose for collecting the pupil data, and a citation to the specific provision of state or federal law requiring collection of the data. The list must be updated every time DPI makes changes to the type of data they collect.

Assembly Bill 72 requires the State Superintendent to develop a model data privacy and security plan, which includes certain elements like guidelines for access to pupil data and to the student information system. This bill also requires the State Superintendent to provide guidance and training to school districts on data privacy and the security of pupil data. The Superintendent must work with stakeholders to develop and promote best practices regarding the quality, usefulness, openness, privacy, and security of pupil data.

ASSEMBLY PROPOSED CALENDAR FOR WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21
Assembly Rules will meet at some point during Wednesday, June 14 floor session to finalize the schedule for 1 pm, Wednesday, June 21.
Assembly Bills
AB-071 Pupil Data Inventory (Legislative Council) An inventory of pupil data.

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Joint Finance Committee at Odds over K-12 Budget

Divisions are forming between the State Senate and Assembly on the Governor’s proposal for K-12 education, and it is not clear when the Joint Finance Committee will meet to vote on the education budget.

Governor Walker had proposed a $649 million increase to K-12 education funding but Assembly Republicans released their own plan on Tuesday which would decrease this amount by $70 million but provide additional resources to low-spending school districts. The Assembly Republican plan also includes about $9.1 million annually to provide grants to schools to provide “personal electronic computing devices.” Public, private and charter schools could apply for grants equal to $125 per 9th grade student to pay for any of the following: purchasing personal electronic computing devices; purchasing software for the devices; purchasing curriculum that includes content that may be accessed on the personal computing devices; or training professional staff on how to effectively incorporate personal electronic devices into a classroom and into high school curriculum.
                       
Senator Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) quickly rejected the Assembly Republican proposal, saying “The State Senate remains committed to fully funding K-12 education as Governor Walker proposed in his administrative budget.”

Contact your state representative and state senator and ask them to support the Governor’s proposal for K-12 education funding.  See this urgent statement from the Wisconsin Public Education Network for more information: http://www.wisconsinnetwork.org/blog/wisconsin-parents-assembly-education-plan-hurts-kids-betrays-promise  

You could also let your legislators know if you support the Assembly Republican plan to provide $9.1 million annually for grants to schools for “personal electronic computing devices.”

WEMTA has been monitoring the following items, which were included in the Governor’s proposal:

·         Library Service Contracts: the Governor’s proposal  provides an additional $10,300 over the budget biennium to fully fund the Library Service Contracts. The Assembly Republican plan makes no changes to this.

·         Eliminating Expiration Dates for Teacher and Administrator Licenses: the Governor’s proposal includes a concerning requirement that would eliminate expiration dates for teaching and administrator licenses. Teachers and administrators would no longer need to renew their licenses and there would be no ongoing professional development requirements. Instead, school boards would be required to conduct background checks on everyone who holds a teaching or administrator’s license at least once every five years. The Assembly Republican proposal makes some modifications to the Governor’s proposal. Their proposal includes Milwaukee Public Schools and independent charter schools in the requirement to conduct background checks every five years and grants provisional three-year licenses to new educators, administrators and pupil services professionals. Under the Assembly Republican plan, a lifetime license could only be granted after completion of six semesters of experience. The Assembly Republican plan also requires DPI to update PI 34, the administrative rules for teacher licensure, to simplify the process by January 1, 2018.

·         Newsline for the Blind: the Governor’s proposal provides an additional $52,200 over the budget biennium to fully fund Newsline for the Blind costs. The Assembly Republican plan makes no changes to this.

·         Online Bullying Prevention: the Governor’s proposal provides $150,000 for grants to a nonprofit organization to provide training and an online bullying prevention curriculum for pupils in grades kindergarten through eight. The Assembly Republican plan accepts the Governor’s proposal.

·         Sparsity Aid for Rural Districts: the Governor’s proposal increases sparsity aid funding by $20 million. Per pupil payments for districts that meet sparsity aid requirements would increase by $100 for a total payment of $400 per pupil. It also creates a second-tier of sparsity aid for districts that have enrollment between 745 and 1,000 with a population density of less than 10 students per square mile. The Assembly Republican proposal rejects the Governor’s proposals to increase sparsity payments.

·         Milwaukee Performance Funding: the Governor’s proposal creates a new $5.6 million performance funding program for Milwaukee schools. $1.9 million will be distributed to schools that “significantly exceed expectations” or “exceed expectations” on the school report card. $3.6 million will go to schools that increase their numeric score by at least three points on the school report card. The Assembly Republican plan is silent on this provision.  

·         Milwaukee Summer School Grants: the Governor’s proposal provides $1.4  million for summer school grants to Milwaukee public schools. Grants would help schools develop, redesign or implement a summer school program to increase pupil attendance, improve academic achievement or expose pupils to innovative learning activities. The Assembly Republican plan is silent on this provision. 

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


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Joint Finance Committee Approves Increased Funding for TEACH, Public Library System

The Joint Finance Committee met Wednesday to vote on the state budget. They approved several items of interest to WEMTA. They will vote on the full Department of Public Instruction budget either next Tuesday or Thursday.

TEACH Grants:  The Joint Finance Committee voted 16-0 to adopt a motion authored by Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) to provide 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. The Governor had originally proposed a funding increase of $7.5 million to TEACH, but this motion reduced funding by $1.5 million to increase aid to public libraries.

Public Library Funding:  The motion authored by Senator Marklein increases aid to public library systems by $1.5 million.

Teacher Development Program Grants: The Committee voted 12-4 to adopt a motion authored by Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) to approve the Governor’s proposal to create a Teacher Development Grant Program administered by the Department of Workforce Development with some modifications.  DWD would be required to award grants to eligible school districts, private schools or charter management organizations in consultation with the Department of Public Instruction. The teacher development program must be designed and implemented in partnership with an “educator preparation program” approved by DPI.  Individuals who don’t yet have a bachelor’s degree would be permitted to enter the program.

Grants for Teacher Training Recruitment: The Committee voted 12-4 to adopt a motion authored by Representative Felzkowski (R-Irma) to transfer the Teach for America grant program from  DPI to the Department of Workforce Development. The motion changes the name of the grant program  to “Grants for Teacher Training and Recruitment” and allows organizations other than Teach for America to receive the funding.


Board of Commissioners of Public Lands: No motions offered. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Assembly Passes TEACH, ESSA Bills

The State Assembly passed two bills of interest to WEMTA yesterday. They now go to the Senate for approval.

Broadband, TEACH:  The Assembly voted unanimously to pass Assembly Bill 123. Assembly Bill 123 does the following:

·         Transfers $6 million from the Universal Service Fund and $5 million from the Federal E-Rate Program to provide additional funding for the state’s Broadband Expansion Grant program. It also allows the Public Service Commission (PSC) to distribute an unlimited amount of broadband expansion grants each year—they are currently only allowed to issue $1.5 million in grants per year.

·         Transfers all unspent funds in the Universal Service Fund (which currently provides funding for Newsline for the Blind, the Digital Learning Collaboration, Public Library System Aids, TEACH grants and Library Service Contracts) to the Broadband Expansion Grant program on June 30 of each odd-numbered year.  It also allows PSC to use contributions made by telecommunications providers to the USF to fund broadband expansion grants.

·         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.

·          Extends the TEACH Information Technology Block Grant program to July 1, 2019 (it is currently set to end on July 1, 2017). The bill also allows the Department of Administration to award another round of Information Technology Block Grants to school district this year and expands eligibility for the program to school districts that have 16 students per square mile. An additional $7.5 million is transferred from the Federal E-rate Program to fund TEACH contracts.


State ESSA Plan: The Assembly voted unanimously to pass Assembly Bill 233, which prohibits DPI from submitting the state Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan without first responding to any objections by the Assembly Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Education. If DPI receives objections to the proposed state plan from one of the education committees, DPI must provide a written response to each objection raised by the committee within 14 days.