Friday, September 26, 2014

State of Education Address

State Superintendent Tony Evers delivered his annual State of Education address yesterday.

In his speech Superintendent Evers highlighted the work of the Speaker’s Task Force on Rural Schools this past session.  He plans to work towards passing legislation this coming session that will support rural schools, including assisting with improved broadband and technology. 

Superintendent Evers also promises to introduce the Fair Funding for Our Future package again and stressed the importance of action being taken in the budget for school funding reform.  One of the main objectives of the package is to return state aid to the two-thirds funding commitment as well as appropriately adjusting the formula for such factors as poverty, rural districts and those with declining enrollment.  There would be an increase in state general equalization aid to all school districts under the proposal.

Other highlights include Wisconsin’s heightened academic standards, the implementation of Smarter Balanced and ACT tests as new student assessments, a new statewide educator effectiveness system as well as the success of the school report cards.  Evers also launched Promoting Excellence for All which is to serve as a resource for closing the achievement gap in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Department of Public Instruction Submits Budget Request

State agencies submitted their 2015-17 budget requests to the Department of Administration on Monday, September 15. The governor will use these requests to craft his or her 2015-17 state budget, which will be introduced in February or March of 2015.

State Superintendent Tony Evers will be submitting his budget request in two parts. The first, which he submitted on Monday, September 15, focuses on school safety and technology. The second part, which will focus on overall school funding, will be released in November.

“To address a growing digital divide, my proposals related to technology and libraries would ensure that all students and teachers-no matter where they live in the state—would have equitable access to high quality digital learning tools and content,” writes Superintendent Evers in his request. 

Major funding items that may be of interest, include:

WISElearn/Digital Learning Portal and E-Publication Grants: DPI is requesting an additional $2,060,000 in the first year of the biennium and $2,945,000 in the second year of the biennium to continue its development of the WISElearn, which includes the Digital Learning Portal, professional learning platform, learning management system, content repository, collaboration tools, and curricular content; as well as to provide funding for regional technical support centers. This funding will also support a matching grant program to provide e-publications to both school and public libraries as part of WISElearn. DPI believes that one-to-one matching grants to consortia purchasing e-publications would incentivize libraries to participate in consortia, which are designed to provide a lower cost method for purchasing these resources through volume purchasing and economies of scale. Consortia also facilitate sharing these resources across any participating public library or school district.

It is important to note that when discussing the ongoing development of the digital learning portal, DPI says that “the Department intends to take advantage of the existing skill base in digital learning of school library media specialists and school librarians to collaborate with instructional technology educators, classroom educators, and administrators to build a solid basis of support for this development.” To see the detailed WISElearn plan, please review pages 155-164 of this document.

Public Library System Aid: DPI is requesting an increase of $13,879,500 in the first year of the biennium and $14,168,400 in the second year of the biennium for state aid to the public library system. This would bring overall funding for the public library system to $28,892,600 in the first year of the biennium and $29,181,500 in the second year.

Badgerlink: DPI is requesting an increase of $486,400 in the first year of the biennium and $546,800 in the second year of the biennium to fund BadgerLink and the College and Career Ready Digital Modules and maintain the current level of services. This brings the total funding of BadgerLink to roughly $3 million in each year of the budget.

School Library Aids: DPI estimates that base level funding for school library aids will be $34 million in each year of the budget.

Wisconsin School Safety Center: DPI is requesting $700,000 in each year of the budget to establish the Wisconsin School Safety Center (WSSC) to provide guidance to schools on school violence and emergency preparedness issues. Emergency preparedness would be addressed by supporting schools in developing emergency plans and conducting emergency drills to prepare schools in the event that there is a weather or mass casualty situation at a school district. Violence prevention would be addressed by providing needs assessments and professional training to school districts on how to reduce incidents of student-on-student violence including fighting/assault, weapon carrying and use, and bullying and harassment.

School Violence Prevention Programs: DPI requests $2 million to help improve school safety by providing funding directly to school districts to support programs and activities that prevent school violence and protect students.

DPI-identified Goals for Aids to Libraries, Individuals and Organizations

Goal: Ensure all citizens have equal access to comprehensive public library resources and services.

Objective/Activity: All libraries make effective use of technology and the Internet in order to provide access to information and knowledge resources to the state's residents.

Goal: Build a solid foundation for learning for all children.

Objective/Activity: Provide early intervention services at the middle school level via the Wisconsin educational opportunity, precollege and early identification programs to reinforce a solid foundation for learning and academic performance.