Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Assembly Majority Leader Holding Listening Sessions

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) is holding five in-district listening sessions this month. His district includes portions of Outagamie and Brown counties.

Monday, November 27, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.
Village of Nichols Community Center
N9065 Krull Rd. Nichols, WI 

Tuesday, November 28, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.
Town of Vandenbrock Town Hall
W2030 City Rd. JJ, Kaukauna, WI

Wednesday, November 29, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.
Town of Osborn Town Hall
W3389 County Rd. EE, Seymour, WI 

Thursday, November 30, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.
Town of Ellington
N3802 WI-76, Hortonville, WI 

Friday, December 1, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

Village of Howard Community Center 
2456 Glendale Ave., Howard, WI 

Friday, October 27, 2017

WEMTA Members Meet With Lt. Governor and Governor Walker's Staff

Left to Right: Janet Vraney, Amy Pugh, Michele Green, Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and Michael Blumenfeld


WEMTA representatives Janet Vraney, Amy Pugh and Michele Green and WEMTA's lobbyist Michael Blumenfeld traveled to Madison on Wednesday to meet with Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and Governor Walker's education policy staff. They spoke about WEMTA's legislative agenda and how school libraries help students gain 21st Century Skills.

Consider inviting your elected officials to visit your school for events like Battle of the Books and Hour of Code.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Governor Walker Signs Budget into Law

Governor Walker officially signed the 2017-19 state budget into law Thursday afternoon at an elementary school in Neenah, Wisconsin.

The two-year spending plans includes a $639 million increase to K-12 education, one of the largest in state history, which Governor Walker touted heavily in his speech.

It also creates a new grant program for schools to purchase one-to-one devices for 9th grade students; increases public library system aid; and provides more funding for broadband and TEACH grants.

Governor Walker did veto several provisions that WEMTA has also been following, including increased funding for low-spending school districts. Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren publicly criticized the Governor’s decision to veto that provision, which would  have gradually increased the revenue limit for historically low-spending school districts, saying “as a result, over 200 school districts across the state will lose over $90 million in funding over the next 6 years.” Nygren characterized it as a funding inequity which he said “has existed for over 20 years and under this budget will continue to do so.” Governor Walker said he vetoed the provision because “the result is a substantial increase in property tax capacity that school districts may exercise without voter input.”

The Governor also vetoed two new grant programs created by the Joint Finance Committee that would have provided increased funding for schools that into Whole Grade Sharing or Shared Services arrangements. Walker says, he hopes the funding that had been appropriated for these items (about $2.75 million) can be used instead "to support more effective programs that support rural schools." 

Here are the provisions of interest that Governor Walker vetoed either in whole or in part. 

Low Revenue Adjustment-VETOED in FULL

This section increases the low revenue adjustment for school districts from $9,100 under current
law to $9,300 in fiscal year 2017-18; $9,400 in fiscal year 2018-19; $9,500 in fiscal year
2019-20; $9,600 in fiscal year 2020-21; $9,700 in fiscal year 2021-22; and $9,800 in fiscal year
2022-23 and each year thereafter.

I am vetoing this section entirely because the result is a substantial increase in property tax
capacity that school districts may exercise without voter input. In several school districts that
would be eligible to raise taxes under these sections, referenda to exceed revenue limits already
failed within the past two years. An increase in revenue authority from the state in these districts
would circumvent purposeful, local actions.

It should also be noted that in some cases, the same districts that would have become eligible to
increase their revenues with this adjustment have increased their base revenues at a rate higher
than the state average. This brings into question the need for this adjustment and highlights the
need for local taxpayer input before a revenue limit adjustment is made.

As a result of this veto, the low revenue adjustment level for school districts will remain at
$9,100. School districts across the state will benefit from other significant education investments
in this budget, including meaningful increases in per pupil aid. These per pupil increases are
equal among all school districts. In addition, school districts could pursue an increase in their
revenue limit through a referendum as is the case under current law. In fact, numerous districts
have already done so by asking taxpayers through a referendum. Increases to the low revenue
adjustment can be discussed in future state budgets.

School District Referenda Scheduling--VETOED IN PART

I am partially vetoing these provisions to eliminate the ability of school districts to conduct the
special elections to consider referenda as described above, but maintain the effective date of
January 1, 2018, for the limitations on referendum scheduling. School referenda should be
known and considered by the greatest number of voters possible, and limiting referenda to
regularly scheduled election days will further this principle.

Whole Grade Sharing Aid--VETOED IN FULL

These sections create a grant program in fiscal year 2018-19 for school districts to enter into a
whole grade sharing agreement. Grants of $150 per pupil enrolled in a shared grade would be
provided to school districts in the first four years of the agreement. In the fifth year, grants are
prorated to 50 percent. In addition, the Department of Public Instruction is required to provide a
report to the Joint Committee on Finance by February 1, 2019, regarding the number of grant
applicants, the number of approved whole grade sharing agreements, the names of participating
districts and the grades shared in each district, and how much of the appropriation is awarded or
encumbered.

I am vetoing these sections in their entirety to eliminate the grant program for whole grade
sharing and related reporting requirements. Whole grade sharing is intended to create savings,
which should be a built-in incentive; however, school districts have not taken advantage of whole
grade sharing since it became permissible under 2015 Wisconsin Act 55. Therefore, I believe
these funds can be repurposed to support more effective programs that support rural schools.

Shared Services Aid--VETOED in FULL

These sections create a grant program funded at $2,000,000 in fiscal year 2018-19 for school
districts that share administrative functions with local governments or other school districts.
Grants would be provided in the following amounts during the first three years of an agreement to
share services: $40,000 for sharing a district administrator; $22,500 for sharing a human
resources director, information technology coordinator or business manager; and $17,500 for
other administrative positions, excluding principals and assistant principals. In the fourth year,
grants are prorated to 50 percent, unless the parties to the agreement also are whole grade sharing.
I am vetoing these sections in their entirety to eliminate the grant program for shared services.
Sharing services will create savings for school districts; therefore, providing state grants would
nullify savings to taxpayers that would result from local actions. In addition, I believe these
funds can be repurposed to support more effective programs that support rural schools.

Summer School Grants--VETOED in PART 

This provision creates a grant program in fiscal year 2018-19 for the Milwaukee Public Schools
district and any other school district that receives a "fails to meet expectations" rating on its district report card.

These competitive grants are to be awarded to school districts to increase
attendance, improve low-performing schools, improve academic achievement and expose pupils
to innovative learning activities, all through development, redesign or implementation of a
summer school program.

I am partially vetoing this provision to create a grant to the Milwaukee Public Schools for
summer school programs. The program proposed in my Executive Budget was targeted to the
district to augment the Milwaukee Public Schools district's summer school expansion efforts. I
object to the expansion of eligibility because it will dilute the funding, and therefore
effectiveness, of the funds in the district. I also believe that language specifying outcomes is
unnecessary absent a competitive process, and would diminish the ability of a district to employ
the funds in the most effective way. As a result of this veto, the district will receive a grant of
$1,400,000 in fiscal year 2018-19 for summer school programs, and no other districts will be
eligible to apply for these funds.

Virtual Charter School Funding Study--VETOED in FULL 

This provision requires the Department of Public Instruction to submit a report by January 1,
2019, to the Joint Committee on Finance and appropriate standing legislative committees
comparing open enrollment payments and the actual costs of educating virtual charter school
pupils.

I am vetoing this provision to eliminate the report. I object to the increased administrative burden
on the department.


You can watch the official bill signing ceremony here: http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/Event-Detail/evhdid/11861

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.