Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Changes at BCPL, Announcement of New Loans

Tia Nelson, Executive Secretary of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, has resigned from her position effective Friday.  She said she has been offered a position with a private foundation.  Deputy Secretary Tom German will be the new acting secretary. 

Following the announcement, Representative Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) released a statement saying it is an ideal time for a review of BCPL to see if their functions can be absorbed by other state agencies.  BCPL has a $1.6 million annual budget, which is funded entirely by program revenue and investment earnings, not taxpayer dollars.

* * * * PRESS RELEASE * * * * *

For Immediate Release
DATE: July 21, 2015
CONTACT: Tia Nelson, Executive Secretary (608) 266-8369


MADISON – The Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL) today approved slightly more than $3.6 million in State Trust Fund Loans to support nine community projects in Wisconsin.

The BCPL approved the following loans:

• Town of Bristol, Dane County / Finance road project / $480,000
• Town of Campbell, La Crosse County / Finance street and road projects / $550,000
• Town of Conover, Vilas County / Finance highway construction / $125,000
• Town of Conover, Vilas County / Refinance BCPL loan #2007103 / $143,127.79
• Town of Janesville, Rock County / Finance fire protection payment / $300,000
• Maple Dale-Indian Hill School District, Milwaukee County / Refinance BCPL loan #2015112 / $1,240,000
• Village of River Hills, Milwaukee County / Finance 2015 capital projects / $483,000
• Town of Spider Lake, Sawyer County / Finance road project / $80,000
• Town of Yorkville, Racine County / Purchase tanker truck and radio equipment / $216,863.70

The Board also approved the sale of 560 acres of School Trust Lands to the United States Forest Service. The School Trust Lands are located within the boundary of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Forest County.

The BCPL operates without taxpayer money and distributes more than 96 cents of every dollar of interest earned on BCPL State Trust Fund investments to Wisconsin’s public schools. This year’s earnings of $35.5 million are the largest distribution in the agency’s history and provide the sole source of state funding for K-12 public school library materials.

The 2015 library aid received by each public school district is available at: (

Established in 1848 by the State Constitution, the BCPL consists of the Secretary of State Doug La Follette, State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, and Attorney General Brad Schimel. The BCPL manages the Common School Fund, which was created in Article X of Wisconsin’s Constitution, as a permanent endowment to benefit public education.

To learn more about the agency, visit

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Governor Walker Signs Budget Bill into Law, Issues Vetoes

Governor Walker signed the 2015-17 state budget into law Sunday afternoon.

Before signing the budget into law, Governor Walker spoke to a crowd full of supporters in Waukesha. Walker emphasized that his budget again cuts property taxes, expands educational opportunities for Wisconsin families, adds more money to Medicaid and takes efforts to reduce government dependence. He also made references to his presidential run, saying that unlike Washington, he gets things done.

The full list of vetoes can be found here. Unfortunately, he did not veto the changes to the Wisconsin Media Lab. 

Vetoes of interest include:

Read to Lead Fund
Sections 65b, 568b, 720d, 723d, 1007b, 1031b, 1678m, 1678r, 1678s and 9406 (1q)

These sections sunset the Read to Lead segregated fund and related appropriations, effective June 30, 2017. I am vetoing the sunset of the segregated fund and related appropriations because it unnecessarily limits the availability of potential resources to improve childhood reading in future biennia. With this veto, the Department of Children and Families and Department of Public Instruction would be able to continue to distribute reading funds, if they become available, beyond the 2015-17 biennium.

Virtual Marketplace for Digital Educational Resources
Sections 481 [as it relates to s. 20.255 (1) (dt)], 560m and 3193s

These provisions create a virtual marketplace for digital educational resources and appropriate funding for a contract with a vendor or multiple vendors to develop and add educational content to a digital textbook marketplace and resource center. The marketplace would allow authorized personnel from public school districts, independent charter schools, private schools and home based private educational programs to purchase or license digital educational resources, including the following: (a) electronic textbooks; (b) individual sections or chapters from electronic textbooks; (c) supplemental resources, including worksheets, chapter reviews, quizzes or study sheets; and (d) other digital offerings, including videos, available from content providers or publishers. The Department of Public Instruction is required to host the marketplace, and content must be accessible to a range of computing and mobile devices and operating systems. Districts may license the content at a tiered rate for one year, three years or six years, or purchase content under a permanent license.

I am vetoing sections 560m and 3193s and partially vetoing section 481 [as it relates to s. 20.255 (1) (dt)] because I object to duplicative avenues for the provision of electronic educational materials. The digital learning portal being developed and hosted by the department provides access to digital content. In addition, the bill creates and provides funding for a new digital learning collaborative for the delivery of digital content. I believe the provisions under current law and the new digital learning collaborative can be leveraged to adequately address the need for digital resources for schools and educational programs.

Universal Service Fund Revenues Report
Section 9136 (2u)

This section requires the Public Service Commission to report to the Joint Committee on Finance on causes of unencumbered balances in the universal service fund and changes that could be adopted to reduce future universal service fund balances. The report would be submitted to the Committee for its third quarterly meeting in 2015, and the commission could not revise provider contribution rates unless the report has been approved by the Committee.

I am vetoing this section in its entirety because it is unnecessary. The commission already has the ability to utilize universal service fund revenues when determining telecommunication provider rates for the coming year, as demonstrated in 2012. In addition, this section hinders the commission's statutorily-required duty to establish contribution rates by delaying the revision of rates until after the report is approved the Committee.

State Broadband Office Funding
Section 9136 (2q)

This section limits expenditure authority provided to the Public Service Commission for operations of the State Broadband Office to the 2015-17 biennium only. Funding would not be included in the base year for purposes of developing the 2017-19 biennial budget.

I am vetoing this section because I object to providing this funding on a one-time basis. The work of the State Broadband Office is ongoing; therefore, its funding should be as well. The office continues to perform duties vital to broadband expansion in this state, including maintenance of the state's broadband map, coordination with telecommunications providers, and outreach to communities and other stakeholders. With this veto, the office can continue to perform these important duties.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ask Governor Walker to Veto Changes to the Wisconsin Media Lab TODAY!

The State Senate and Assembly have passed the budget bill. It now goes to Governor Walker for his signature, after which it will become law. Governor Walker can still veto items (remove them) from the bill before signing it. 

WEMTA sent this letter to the Governor today asking him to veto items added to the budget by the Legislature that would delete all state funding for the Wisconsin Media Lab and remove the “development and dissemination of instructional materials” from the Educational Communications Board’s duties.

Please consider contacting the Governor and asking him to veto these changes from the state budget. Here are some things you could say:

Hi, my name is ______________.
I live in ___________________.
I am calling because I am very concerned about the changes made to the Wisconsin Media Lab in the state budget. 
The Wisconsin Media Lab is important to me/my school district because_________________. Please veto (remove) the changes to the Wisconsin Media Lab from the budget bill.

You can contact Governor Walker at (608) 266-1212 or email him at

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Senate, Assembly Pass State Budget Bill

The Senate and Assembly both passed the State Budget this week.   The two-year spending plan narrowly passed both houses of the Legislature with an 18-15 vote in the Senate and a 52-46 vote in the Assembly. It now goes to Governor Walker for his signature, after which it will become law. Governor Walker can still veto items (remove them) from the bill before signing it.

Some highlights of the budget bill include:

  • ·         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.
  • ·         No changes to the Common School Fund and a slight increase to BadgerLink to maintain current contracts.
  • ·         Funding for a new TEACH 2.0 program. This includes $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.  Creates two new grant programs: Information Technology Infrastructure Grants and Teacher Training Grants for Educational Technology.
  • ·         Deletes all state funding for the Wisconsin Media Lab and removes “development and dissemination of instructional materials” from the Educational Communications Board’s duties.
  • ·         Creates a new licensure process for technical education (this includes technology education) that would allow individuals who pass a test developed by DPI to teach technical education subjects.
  • ·         $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.
  • ·         Transfers the Read to Lead  Council from the Governor’s office to the Department of Children and Families. Also deletes the Governor’s Read to lead Development Fund and its two associated appropriations effective June 30, 2017.
  • ·         Students will be required to pass a civic test before graduating high school.
  • ·         $250 million cut to the UW System
  • ·         The definition of “tenure appointment” is deleted from state statute, including language establishing the conditions under which the Board of Regents may grant a tenure appointment to a faculty member

Monday, July 6, 2015

Summary of JFC Changes to the Budget Bill

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has released their summary document, which compares the Joint Finance Committee's action on the state budget bill to what the Governor originally proposed.

The full document is available here.

And the Department of Public Instruction summary is available here.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Joint Finance Committee Passes State Budget

The Joint Finance Committee officially voted 12-4 to pass the state budget early this morning. The budget bill now goes to the legislature for approval. It must be approved by both the Senate and Assembly before it can be signed into law by the Governor.

In its final, wrap-up motion the Joint Finance Committee voted to modify some of the changes to teacher licensing law that they had previously inserted into the budget in May. 

The wrap-up motion approved by the Committee deletes the provision that would have required DPI to issue a teaching license to teach English, social studies, math, or science to any individual with a bachelor's degree, if the school board, operator or governing body of the school in which the individual intends to teach determines that the individual is proficient in the subject they intend to teach and has relevant experience. It also deletes a similar provision related to issuing licenses other than English, social studies, science and math to individuals with relevant experience. 

However, the Committee maintained the provisions related to technical education subjects. This would 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. 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.

The Committee also voted to create a new provision that would require DPI to grant an initial teaching license to any individual who was granted a teaching license by another state and completed at least one year of teaching experience in that state. 

Other education changes approved in the final wrap-up motion:

  • Funding for the Student Information System is reduced by $2.3 million
  • Modifying current law to allow two or more school districts or local units of government that together have at least 100 employees to provide health insurance benefits on a self-insured basis. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Legislative Leaders Reach Agreement on State Budget Deal

Assembly Speaker Vos and Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald announced this morning that they have come to an agreement on the budget bill.  However, Senator Fitzgerald says that he still does not have the votes to pass the budget. 

The Joint Finance Committee will meet Thursday to finish voting on the Department of Revenue’s budget as well as transportation funding and their final “999 motion.”  Once the budget is passed by the Joint Finance Committee, the Assembly will take up the budget bill either next Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Bucks Arena funding will be pulled from the budget and taken up as a separate bill. The repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law won’t be added to the budget, and will continue to be discussed as a separate piece of legislation, though Speaker Vos said the Assembly will vote on the prevailing wage bill the same day they vote on the budget.  Transportation bonding will be reduced and money will be provided in the budget to study ways to increase transportation revenue sources, such as tolls.