Friday, February 28, 2014

Senate Committee to Vote on Deleting State Treasurer

The Senate Committee on Government Operations, Public Works and Telecommunications will vote on AJR 48 on Wednesday, March 5. If the Committee passes AJR 48 on Wednesday, it could be scheduled for a floor vote as early as March 11—the next time the Senate is in session.

It is important to make contact with the Senators on this Committee and tell them why AJR 48 is a threat to the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands and the Common School Fund.  If you are a constituent please consider contacting them. 

Replacing the State Treasurer with the Lieutenant Governor on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands could jeopardize our founding fathers’ commitment to maintaining a constitutionally protected form of school library funding. The current BCPL Commissioners do not play a leading role in K-12 school funding or the state budget process—this makes them ideal custodians of the Common School Fund and helps protect the integrity of the fund.

The following Senators are members of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Public Works and Telecommunications:

Senator Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee), Chair
(608) 266-9174

Senator Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac), Vice Chair
(608) 266-5300

Senator Frank Lasee (R-De Pere)
(608) 266-3512

Senator Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn)
(608) 266-2635

Senator Bob Wirch (D-Pleasant Prairie)
(608) 267-8979

Senator Nikiya Harris (D-Milwaukee)
(608) 266-2500

Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse)
(608) 266-5490

Monday, February 24, 2014

Hearing Scheduled on Academic Standards Bill

The Senate Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 619, which would create a Model Academic Standards Board charged with developing new academic standards in English, math, social studies and science, on Thursday, March 6th, at 10:00AM in 411 South. 

Committee on Education

The committee will hold a public hearing on the following items at the time specified
Thursday, March 6, 2014
10:00 AM
411 South
Senate Bill 598
Relating to: utilizing an alternative process for educator effectiveness.
By Senators Olsen and Darling; cosponsored by Representatives Kestell and Kooyenga.

Senate Bill 619
Relating to: creating a model academic standards board.
By Senators Vukmir, Farrow, Lazich, Leibham, Grothman and Tiffany; cosponsored by Representatives Thiesfeldt, Nass, Knudson, J. Ott, Tauchen, Spiros, Knodl, Jagler, Pridemore, Schraa, Hutton, Murphy, Sanfelippo and Kulp.

WEMTA Responds to State Journal Editorial

The Wisconsin State Journal published WEMTA's response to its editorial on deleting the state treasurer position in this morning's paper.

WEMTA's response is printed in full below:

State treasurer supports public school library funding -- Annette Smith
13 hours ago
Regarding Tuesday's editorial, "Get rid of do-nothing state job," the state treasurer plays an important role in public school library funding as a member of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.
The board supports public schools by maintaining the Common School Fund, the only dedicated source of public school library funding -- not public library funding, as stated in the editorial. The fund is so well managed it provides over $30 million to state school libraries each year.
Replacing the state treasurer with the lieutenant governor would jeopardize our founders' commitment to a constitutionally protected form of school library funding. Commissioners do not play a leading role in K-12 school funding or the state budget process, which makes them ideal custodians of the Common School Fund and helps protect its integrity.
The vast majority of school libraries rely on Common School Fund distributions as their sole funding source. Strong public school libraries are essential to the academic success of Wisconsin’s children.
For this reason, the board should continue to be represented by the secretary of state, state treasurer and attorney general, as established by our founders.
-- Annette Smith, Milton, member, Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Committee Delays Vote on Common Core Legislation

The Assembly Committee on Education did not take up AB 617, which would create a Model Academic Standards Board charged with creating new English, math, science and social studies standards, this morning.

Chairman Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake) announced that the Committee would not debate the proposed substitute amendment today, but told Committee members that they should plan on meeting in the near future.

On Wednesday, Representative Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) introduced a substitute amendment to Assembly Bill 617, which would create a Model Academic Standards Board to implement new state standards in English, reading, and language arts; math; science; and social studies. This Board would be tasked with making recommendations, reviewing and revising the state’s model academic standards in the areas specified above. The members of the Board will be appointed by the State Superintendent, the Governor, the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader, the Speaker of the Assembly and the Assembly Minority Leader. Once created, the Board must review Wisconsin’s academic standards at least once every 6 years.

Provisions of the bill that will be of interest include:

  • Only two members of the Board are required to be teachers (one from a public school, one from a choice school—both appointed by the Governor). Other appointees must be a high school principal, a member of a school board, a professor, a parent of a public school student, a parent of a choice school student, a superintendent and an elementary school teacher.
  • The Board must create subject-specific subcommittees to make recommendations on the academic standards in their subject area. Members of the subcommittees will include: an individual appointed by the superintendent and individual appointed by the Governor.  The state superintendent’s appointee will appoint two individuals to the subcommittee and the governor’s appointee will appoint three individuals.  They may also appoint up to 4 non-voting members who have professional training in the particular subject area.
  •  Within 12 months of the bill being signed in to law, the Board must issue model academic standards for English, reading and language arts; and Math.  Within 36 months, they must issue model standards in science and social studies.
  •  Once the state superintendent receives the Board’s recommendations, they will submit model standards to Legislative Council for review and hold a public hearing on the proposed standards. Legislative Council has 20 days to review the standards and submit comments or concerns to the superintendent.  Within 10 days of receiving feedback from Legislative Council, the superintendent must submit the model standards to the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR).
  •  JCRAR has 30 days to approve or reject the standards. If JCRAR approves the standards, they go into effect. If JCRAR rejects the standards, the must turn the proposed standards into a bill and refer it to the legislature. The bill does not need to be referred to a standing committee of the Legislature; it can be immediately scheduled for a vote by either house of the legislature.
 Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) has introduced a senate companion—Senate Bill 619.

DPI sent the following alert this morning: Proposed legislation to create a Model Academic Standards Board will be acted on in a matter of days in the Wisconsin Legislature. In a guest editorial from State Superintendent Tony Evers, he explains the ramifications of Senate Bill 619 and how it will harm students and their education. “Senate Bill 619 is a partisan takeover of the bedrock of schooling: the standards that describe what our kids should know and be able to do in each academic subject area,” he said.

Additional information is on the Department of Public Instruction newsroom website The state superintendent’s video message on the Common Core State Standards can be found at

Senate Hearing on AJR 48

The Senate Committee on Government Operations, Public Works, and Telecommunications held a public hearing on AJR 48 Wednesday afternoon. WEMTA submitted testimony and registered against AJR 48.

Unfortunately, only four committee members were present since the Democratic members were in the Joint Finance Committee meeting.

Senator Rick Gudex (R-Fond du Lac) and Representative Michael Schraa (R-Oshkosh), the lead authors of the resolution, testified that the constitutional amendment is needed because the office has only one remaining duty—sitting on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. Both legislators pointed to the fact that current State Treasurer Kurt Schuller ran on, and was elected on, a platform of eliminating the office as an indication of public support for the measure.

Senator Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) asked Representative Schraa if he was certain that the current wording of the amendment is constitutional and about the impact it would have on the BCPL.

Representative Schraa and Senator Gudex said that by removing the Secretary of State from the resolution, there are no longer constitutional concerns with the proposal.  Senator Gudex said the wording of the referendum questions will make it clear that voters will be placing the Lt. Governor on the BCPL by deleting the State Treasurer.

Representative Schraa said that he plans to pursue deleting the office of Secretary of State next session because there is not enough time this session to pass AJR 85.

The next step is for the committee to vote on the resolution. After which, it will head to the full Senate for approval. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Assembly Votes to Delete State Treasurer Position

The Assembly voted, 67-32, last night to approve a constitutional amendment that would delete the office of the State Treasurer and make the Lieutenant Governor a member of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL). 

The amendment produced an interesting bi-partisan vote with several key Democrats (Peter Barca, Eric Genrich, Gordon Hintz, Rob Kahl, Deb Kolste, Cory Mason, Nick Milroy, Tod Ohnstad, Amy Sue Vruwink and Mandy Wright) voting in favor of the proposal and three Republicans (Kathy Bernier, Ed Brooks and Lee Nerison) voting against.

Representative Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) did an excellent job of arguing against the amendment. She said the amendment raises serious concerns about the future of the BCPL if not all of the referendum questions are approved.  Shankland also said that the state treasurer and the BCPL are very financially efficient and operate at not cost to state taxpayers since the state treasurer’s salary is paid for by program revenue, not state GPR dollars.

However, Representatives Tyler August (R-Geneva) and Michael Shraa (R-Oshkosh) argued that the office is inefficient and serves no purpose since the only remaining duty of the state treasurer is to sit on the BCPL. August said that every dollar spent on the state treasurer’s office is a dollar that is taken away from the Common School Fund.

Representative Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) said that he previously had concerns about the original amendment’s effect on the Common School Fund, but that the substitute amendment had addressed his concerns.  WEMTA still has concerns about the impact of this proposal on the BCPL and Common School Fund.

AJR 48 now goes to the Senate for approval. It must be approved by both houses of the legislature this session and in the 2015-16 session before being voted on in a statewide referendum.  No action has been taken on AJR 85, which deletes the office of the Secretary of State.

You can watch the debate here. Debate begins at approximately the 4 hour and 56 minute mark. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Great Turnout for Library Legislative Day 2014!

State Representative Rob Swearingen
Library Legislative Day 2014 got off to great start this morning with a record number of attendees!

Participants heard from State Superintendent Tony Evers, State Representative Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander) and State Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) before heading over to the State Capitol to meet with legislators.

Superintendent Evers officially kicked off the event and  gave attendees an update on the newly announced plan to upgrade broadband fiber in approximately 300 of the state's public libraries. And Rep. Swearingen and Sen. Shilling both talked about the need for continued investments in broadband technology throughout the state.

State Senator Jennifer Shilling
Swearingen, who chairs the Speaker's Task Force on Rural Schools, called libraries the "nerve centers" of rural communities and said that the Task Force's final report will likely include funding recommendations to address challenges in rural schools.

Shilling talked about the importance of libraries in her family as well as in her community. She encouraged member of the library community to get involved in the legislative process and build strong relationships with their legislators.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Assembly Committee Passes State Treasurer Amendment

The Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations voted along party lines, 7-4*, this afternoon to amend the state constitution to delete the office of the state treasurer. This amendment would also replace the state treasurer with the lieutenant governor on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL), which administers the Common School Fund.

AJR 48 will be voted on by the full Assembly on Tuesday, February 11. 

The amendment had previously deleted both the state treasurer and secretary of state, but the Committee officially adopted a substitute amendment so that AJR 48 will now only apply to the state treasurer position. A separate proposal, AJR 85, would delete the secretary of state position and place the state superintendent of public instruction on the BCPL--however, no action has been taken on AJR 85 at this time. 

To be enacted, a constitutional amendment must be passed by both houses of the legislature in two consecutive sessions and then win the approval of voters in a statewide referendum. This is the first consideration of AJR 48. 

*Several committee members were absent from the vote this afternoon, so the official vote total is subject to change, though it will not change the outcome of the vote.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Broadband Upgrade

The Department of Administration and the Department of Public Instruction have entered into an agreement with At&T to improve broadband services for Wisconsin libraries. According to DOA, the new agreement will increase broadband capacity to 10 megabytes per second.

February 4, 2014
For Immediate Release
Contact: DOA Communications, 608-266-7362

Public-Private Partnership Leads to Faster Internet Service at Wisconsin Libraries

Today, the Department of Administration and the Department of Public Instruction announced an agreement with AT&T and partner telecoms to upgrade broadband services for the vast majority of libraries across the state.

“Upgrading broadband service to more than 300 libraries will help residents in all areas of the state,” said Secretary Mike Huebsch. “This is not just a onetime service upgrade—the fiber being installed will enable us to upgrade internet speeds in the future and is a perfect example of how we can partner with the private sector to help addresses a common need. The agreement with AT&T is both cost effective and efficient, libraries will not see a cost increase and end users will experience much faster internet speeds. This is especially important in rural areas of the state where people regularly utilize libraries for high speed internet access.”

Governor Walker recently discussed the importance of high speed internet access at the annual Governor's Northern Wisconsin Economic Development Summit stating “Reliable broadband is necessary to connect consumers and businesses with state, national, and international markets.”

“We applaud Governor Walker for providing critical infrastructure to Wisconsin’s libraries,” said Scott T. VanderSanden, president of AT&T Wisconsin. “With fiber, libraries will have greater connection speeds and will be able to easily increase their bandwidth as their needs grow. AT&T and local telephone companies are proud to partner with the state to provide advanced broadband services for libraries in communities across Wisconsin.”

These libraries currently have access to 1.5 megabyte per second service. Under the public-private partnership with AT&T and other telecoms, all libraries will be upgraded to 10 megabytes per second, with additional capacity available in the future. The agreement with AT&T calls for the upgrades to be complete by the end of 2014.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Capitol Update, February 3

School Accountability

A bill that would make changes to school accountability was pulled from an executive session in the Senate Committee on Education after chairman and bill author Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) said he did not have enough votes to pass the current version.  One of the biggest changes that the bill proposes would be to change the rating system for schools to an A-F grade, instead of the current five-tiered category system.  DPI would then be required to give at least 5% of schools in the state an F grade, which is equivalent to about 100 schools.  Schools that receive an F grade three years in a row, or a combination of 5 years in a row of D’s and F’s, would be required  to contract with a charter-management company.

On Tuesday, Senator Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee) put out a request for input on the bill.  Critics have stated concerns over the proposed grading system and five percent failing requirement.  They also argue that the bill gives preferential treatment to voucher schools who are not required to administer the same test as public schools and can choose to only test students enrolled through the voucher program. 

Governor Walker has stated that he would like to sign a school accountability bill by the end of the session.


State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) has announced that he will not be seeking re-election this year.  Senator Schultz was elected into the Assembly for the first time in 1982 and the Senate in 1991.  He has acknowledged that he will not rule out potentially running for Congress in the future. Schultz also declined to endorse Republican candidate Representative Howard Marklein, who decided to run for Schultz’s seat after he broke with the Republican caucus on several key votes during the past two years, including the controversial mining bill and Act 10.

Senator Dale Schultz: Schultz Won’t Seek Another Term

Dave Leeper has announced that he will run for State Treasurer.  He is currently working as an attorney and formerly held the position of Green County District Attorney.

Pete Flesch (D-Soldiers Grove) has announced that he will run for the Assembly seat in the 96th District.  He is a retired dairy farmer who is the current Crawford County Board Chairman.  The seat is currently held by Lee Nerison (R-Westby).

Jon Kruse (R-Sturgeon Bay), a small business owner, has announced that he will run for the Assembly seat in the 1st District.  The seat is currently held by Garey Bies who recently announced that he will not be seeking re-election.

Kruse for Assembly: Kruse Seeks Bid for Assembly