Thursday, January 29, 2015

Proposal to Eliminate the Office of State Treasurer Introduced in the Senate

Senator Gudex (R-Fond du Lac) introduced SJR 4 on Wednesday, which proposes to eliminate from the constitution the office of state treasurer.  The proposal would replace the state treasurer’s position on the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands of with the lieutenant governor.  In order to take effect, the joint resolution must be passed by both houses of the legislature in consecutive sessions and then pass a statewide referendum. 

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform.

Senator Stephen Nass (Chair) (R-Whitewater)
Senator Van Wanggaard (Vice-Chair) (R-Racine)
Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green)
Senator Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha)
Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

State of the State and Budget Address Announced

Governor Walker will hold his State of the State address on Tuesday, January 13 at 7 p.m.  Walker has told reporters that he will announce which state agencies he plans to  merge during the address.

Walker also announced this week that he will unveil his 2015-17 state budget on February 3, which he says will include further property tax cuts. 

New School Accountability Bill Introduced, Public Hearing Scheduled

Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), chair of the Assembly Committee on Education, introduced Assembly Bill 1 Wednesday afternoon which creates a new school accountability system. The Assembly Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on AB 1 on Wednesday, January 14 at 10 a.m.

Specifically, AB 1 creates an Academic Review Board comprised of 13 members, including the state superintendent, 6 members nominated by the state superintendent, two members nominated by the governor, and members appointed by the minority and majority leaders of the Senate and Assembly.  The review board will create an administrative rule that establishes a comprehensive school review system for public, choice, and independent charter schools to take effect in the 2017-18 school year. In addition, the review board will also develop incentives to be given to exceptional schools, consequences for failing schools and a process for schools to administer alternative assessments.

The school review criteria developed by the board must incorporate measures of pupil achievement in reading and math, growth in pupil achievement in reading and math; gap closure in growth in pupil achievement in reading and math and, when available, graduation rates; and rates of attendance or of high school graduation.  The Department of Public Instruction will use these measures to give each school a letter grade from A-F every year. Private schools participating in the school choice program can either receive one letter grade that only uses data for students participating in the choice program or receive two letter grades--one for choice students and one for all students attending the school, if the school chooses to provide DPI with information on non-school choice students.  

Schools that receive grades of “D” or “F” for three consecutive years, will be sanctioned. Public schools and charter schools will first be required to develop goals and implement a reform plan and comply with requirements for either a Focus or Priority school for four years. Choice schools with 20 or more students participating in the school choice program may also comply with the requirements for public schools or instead choose to accept no additional students through the school choice program for two years or withdraw from the choice program completely. To re-apply to the school choice program, the school must complete a reform plan and adhere to the Focus or Priority school standards for four years.

If the review board determines that sanctioned schools have not made adequate progress based on the results of their yearly review of sanctioned schools: public schools will be converted to charter schools, independent charter schools will no longer receive state payments and private schools participating in the school choice program will no longer receive state aid and be barred from accepting new students for four school years.

AB 1 also requires each school board to annually inform parents of school-aged children of their educational options, including public schools, private schools participating in the school choice program, charter schools, open enrollment, youth options and course options.

AB 1 has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Education, and Republican leaders hope to pass the bill by the end of January.  In response to its introduction, Democrats have authored a counter proposal that would require all private schools participating in the school choice program to adhere to the same standards as public schools, such as the requirements for teacher licensure, background checks, reading readiness, and standards for awarding a high school diploma.