Saturday, May 30, 2015

JFC Approves $250 million Cut to UW other major higher education initiatives

The Joint Finance Committee passed  the Republican  omnibus motion to the UW system budget last night along party lines. 

The Republican plan passed by the Committee includes:

·         Funding Cut: A slight reduction in the proposed cut to the UW System. The cut will be $250 million instead of the $300 million proposed by the Governor.
·         UW System Authority: The Governor’s proposal to convert the UW System to a public authority is removed from the budget
·         Library Depository: Deletes current law authorizing the Board of Regents to participate in a nonprofit-sharing corporation with colleges, universities, and libraries for the purpose of providing and operating a central library depository.
·         Professional Librarians: Deletes current law specifying that if in any institution all professional librarians with appropriate graduate degrees have formerly been ranked faculty, then all present and future appointments of professional librarians with appropriate graduate degrees should be ranked faculty except where the chancellor and faculty designated such appointments as academic staff.
·         Midwest Technology Development Institute: Deletes current law permitting the Board of Regents to maintain membership in the Midwest Technology Development Institute.
·         Research on Education Programs: Approves the Governor’s recommendation to delete current law requiring the Board of Regents to enter into an agreement with the Department of Public Instruction, the Technical College System, and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities to cooperatively conduct research on preschool through postsecondary education programs.
·         Charter School Authorizers: Allows the following to authorize charter schools: the UW System, The Waukesha County Executive, tribal colleges and Gateway Technical College District Board
·         Tuition Cap: The current tuition cap is extended through the 2016-17 academic year
·         Tenure: The definition of “tenure appointment” is deleted including language establishing the conditions under which the Board of Regents may grant a tenure appointment to a faculty member
·         Layoffs: Allowing the Board of Regents to layoff or terminate any faculty or academic staff appointment if such an action is deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision. This provision would apply to tenured faculty as well.
·         State Treasurer: Deletes current law specifying that the State Treasurer is the treasurer of the Board of Regents.

Other Budget-related headlines from this week:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Joint Finance Passes Major Education Motion

The Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines at 1:30 a.m. today to adopt a major omnibus motion related to the Department of Public Instruction's 2015-17 budget.

Included in the motion was a restoration of the $150 per pupil aid in the 2015-16 school year and an increase in per pupil aid in the second year of the biennium where payments will be set at $250 per pupil. This represents an increase of $196 million in state funding compared to the Governor's proposal.

The Committee took no action on the Common School Fund or BadgerLink, so the proposals in the Governor's budget related to these two items remain unchanged. Common School Fund funding remains unchanged. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau projects CSF distributions to be $36 million in the first year of the budget and $38 million in the second year of the budget, however, these are just estimates. BadgerLink receives a slight increase in funding to maintain current contracts.

The Committee also approved an expansion of the private school choice program and created a new special needs voucher program that allows students with disabilities to receive state funding to attend private schools. An extra $48 million in state funding is provided in the budget to pay for the school choice program.

In a controversial move, the Committee approved a new Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program which would allow a Commissioner to manage and control "failing" Milwaukee Public Schools. The Milwaukee County Executive would be charged with supervising the Commissioner.  The Commissioner would seek bids from individuals or groups operating independent "2r" charter schools, governing boards of private schools participating in the school choice program and individuals or groups not currently operating a school to take over the operations of a failing MPS school.  In the motion adopted by the Committee, this new program could apply to other schools in the future that meet certain criteria. Two school districts (Madison and Racine) currently meet two of the three criteria.

The motion was 28 pages long, but here are some highlights:

Alternative Teacher License: Delete the current provisions of the bill as proposed by Governor Walker. Require DPI to grant an initial teaching license to teach a technical education subject, including technology education and any technology related occupation, to an individual who scores at least 100 points based on a point system, with at least 25 points based on the individual’s experience in a technical field and at least 25 points based on a pedagogical experience, and agrees to complete a curriculum determined by the school board of the district in which the individual would teach. Specify that an individual granted a teaching license under this provision would not be required to possess a bachelor’s degree.  A license granted under this provision would be good for three years.

Virtual Marketplace Textbooks: Provide $10,000 to fund a contract with a vendor or vendors to develop and add content to a digital textbook marketplace and resource center. The marketplace would allow authorized personnel from public school districts, charter schools and private schools, as well as home school educators, to purchase digital educational resources.

Microsoft IT Academy: Require DPI to designate one individual to serve as a coordinator for the Microsoft IT Academy.

CESAs: State funding for CESAs is eliminated and school districts would be allowed to withdraw from their CESA. The motion adopted by the Committee would also delete statutory language requiring each CESA's Board of Control to determine each school district's proportional share of the cost of the maintenance and operation of the Office of the Board of Control and CESA Administrator. It also removes statutory language requiring the CESA to match any federal funds received for vocational administration.

Common Core: The Committee approved the Governor's recommendation to prohibit the State Superintendent from giving any effect to, or requiring a school board to give effect to, the Common Core State Standards. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, it is unclear what the exact effect of this provision is; however, they note that the word "repeal" is not mentioned. 

Smarter Balanced Assessment: The Smarter Balanced Assessment will no longer be offered in Wisconsin. Instead, the State Superintendent will have to select a new statewide assessment. However, the motion adopted by the Committee requires DPI to receive approval from the federal Department of Education to allow the state to approve between three and five alternative assessments that schools could choose to offer instead of the statewide assessment.

School Accountability Report: New school accountability criteria is put into place. The Committee also adopted a new ranking system which would rate schools using a new "star" system, which would assign between one and five stars to a school.

Virtual Charters: Prohibit DPI from including data from virtual charter schools when measuring a school district’s improvement under the school district accountability report if at least 50% of the pupils in the virtual charter school are attending through the open enrollment program.

Allow Districts to Select Assessment of Reading Readiness: require each school district or independent 2r Charter school operator to administer a reading assessment selected by the district or charter school operator to assess the reading readiness or grade-level reading achievement of pupils enrolled in four-year-old kindergarten through second grade, beginning in the 2016-17 school year. Specify that school boards or charter school operators could administer computer adaptive assessment.

Civics Assessment Requirement for High School Graduation: Specify that a school board, independent 2r charter school operator, and private choice school may not grant a high school diploma and the state superintendent may not grant a declaration of equivalency of high school graduation to an individual unless he or she has successfully completed a civics assessment beginning in the 2016-17 school year.

Teacher and Administrator Contract Renewals: Modify the date by which a school board must give a teacher or administrator written notice of renewal or refusal to renew the teach or administrator's contract to be 15 days after the passage of the state budget in odd-numbered years, and May 15th in even-numbered years.

Requirements to Renew a Teaching Licenses:Require DPI to accept credits earned at any institution of higher education, as defined in federal law, if credits from an institution of higher education are required to renew a license to teach.

Charter Schools: The operator of a "2r" Charter School can now open additional schools if all of the schools they currently operate have received one of the top two ratings on the most recent school accountability reports.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Joint Finance Approves Funding for TEACH 2.0, Deletes Funding for Wisconsin Media Lab

The Joint Finance Committee voted 16-0 today to approve a motion authored by Representative Mary Czaja (R-Irma) to provide additional technology resources to schools.

Representative Czaja's motion would provide the following funding:

  • $3 million for a new appropriation to fund the digital learning collaborative established for the statewide web academy and for delivery of digital content and collaborative instruction.  
  • Reduce Universal Services Funding for Telecommunications Access to School Districts by $3 million. 
  • Expand permitted uses of the remaining Universal Services Fund funding for telecommunications access for school districts and permit the Department of Administration to provide educational technology grants as follows:
  1. Information Technology Infrastructure Grants: Create a competitive block grant that the Department of Administration (DOA) could provide to school districts for information technology infrastructure. These grants would only be available to school districts that have 13 or fewer students per square mile. It is estimated that 259 school districts would meet this requirement. 
  2. Teacher Training Grants for Educational Technology: Allow DOA to provide grants to consortia of three or more schools districts for the cost of training teachers on the use of educational technology. The following funding would be available: $7,500 for districts with fewer than 750 students; $10 per student for districts with between 750 and 1,500 students; $15,000 for district with more than 1,500 students. Schools must also meet the 13 or fewer students per square mile requirement as described above. 

Wisconsin Media Lab:

On Tuesday, the Joint Finance Committee voted to delete all state funding for the Wisconsin Media Lab and remove “development and dissemination of instructional materials” from the Educational Communications Board’s duties.

The Committee did also vote to reinstate some funding for the ECB’s general program operations, field engineering and administration budget. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

URGENT: Tell you Legislator to Maintain Funding for the Wisconsin Media Lab!

The Joint Finance Committee will vote on the proposed cut to the Educational Communications Board tomorrow! The Governor's budget would reduce ECB's appropriation for programming, which is used to support the Wisconsin Media Lab, by $625,000 annually such that funding for that appropriation would be $337,500 in 2015-16 and $343,000 in 2016-17.

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has released their paper on the proposed changes to the program. The Committee will use the paper to debate the issue and ultimately vote on one of the alternatives offered by the LFB. One of the alternatives proposed by LFB is that the Committee could delete ECB's programming appropriation as well as the statutory language specifying that the development and dissemination of instructional materials be one of ECB's duties. This option would delete all state funding for the Media Lab.  You can view the LFB paper here.

Contact your legislator TODAY and ask them to maintain funding for the Wisconsin Media Lab! Tell them why the Wisconsin Media Lab is an important resource for the school library and technology community. 


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 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 can contact your legislator by phone, in the district, or at his or her Capitol office in Madison. You can find these phone numbers on the members’ home pages. To find these, go to the Legislature’s home page, at, click on “Assembly” or “Senate,” and then click on “Representatives’ Home Pages” or “Senators’ Home Pages.”
    In addition, 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; for members of the Senate, the form is
  • Mail. You can reach your legislator by mail at one of the following addresses:
    • Representatives whose last names begin with a letter from A to L:
      • P.O. Box 8952, Madison, 53708-8952
    • Representatives whose last names begin with a letter from M to Z:
      • P.O. Box 8953, Madison, 53708-8952
    • All Senators:
      • P.O. Box 7882, Madison, 53707-7882

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Revenue Estimates Provide No Additional Money for State Budget

Legislative Fiscal Bureau Director Bob Lang released a memo this morning saying that revenue estimates issued by LFB in January do not need to be adjusted.  As a result, legislators will not have any additional money to work with as they finalize the 2015-17 state budget.  Lawmakers had originally planned to use any new money to fund K-12 education.  Despite the lack of additional funds though, Governor Scott Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos have both indicated today that the $127 million cut to K-12 education will be eliminated.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Budget Committee Votes to Transfer Read to Lead Council to Department of Children and Families

The Joint Finance Committee voted 14-2 today to transfer the Read to Lead  Council from the Governor’s office to the Department of Children and Families. However, the Committee also voted to delete the Governor’s Read to lead Development Fund and its two associated appropriations effective June 30, 2017. The Council will still be able to use money from the annual literacy improvement appropriation of $23,600 to provide grants  to any person or school board for support of a literacy or early childhood development program, and will be allowed to distribute the remaining $109,000 in the Read to Lead Development Fund appropriations during 2016-17. 

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) prepared an issue paper for the Committee to consider that raised concerns about funding levels for the Read to Lead Development Fund. The original intent was for members of the Council to raise money for the Fund. However, state ethics and lobby laws make this nearly impossible, so the Committee voted to delete the Fund.  As a result, the Read to Lead Council will only receive an estimated $23,600 GPR starting in 2017.

The Read to Lead Development Council is currently made up of 22 members, including representatives from the Wisconsin State Reading Association, the Wisconsin Reading Coalition, the International Dyslexia Association, Wisconsin Literacy Inc. and the Wisconsin Library Association, which makes recommendations to the Governor and the State Superintendent as to grants awarded under the Read to Lead Development Fund and the Literacy Improvement Aids Appropriation.  Due to the Committee’s vote today, the Department of Children and Families Secretary will now chair the Council and appoint public members to the Council.