The Joint Finance Committee met Wednesday to vote on the state budget. They approved several items of interest to WEMTA. They will vote on the full Department of Public Instruction budget either next Tuesday or Thursday.
TEACH Grants: The Joint Finance Committee voted 16-0 to adopt a motion authored by Senator Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) to provide an additional $6 million to the TEACH program. It continues the information technology block grant program until July 1, 2019, and expands the permitted uses of grants under the program to include providing mobile hotspots on buses and purchasing mobile hotspots for individuals to borrow from schools. In addition, the eligibility for these grants is expanded to include school districts that have up to 16 pupils per square mile. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that 278 school districts would meet this eligibility criteria. The Governor had originally proposed a funding increase of $7.5 million to TEACH, but this motion reduced funding by $1.5 million to increase aid to public libraries.
Public Library Funding: The motion authored by Senator Marklein increases aid to public library systems by $1.5 million.
Teacher Development Program Grants: The Committee voted 12-4 to adopt a motion authored by Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) to approve the Governor’s proposal to create a Teacher Development Grant Program administered by the Department of Workforce Development with some modifications. DWD would be required to award grants to eligible school districts, private schools or charter management organizations in consultation with the Department of Public Instruction. The teacher development program must be designed and implemented in partnership with an “educator preparation program” approved by DPI. Individuals who don’t yet have a bachelor’s degree would be permitted to enter the program.
Grants for Teacher Training Recruitment: The Committee voted 12-4 to adopt a motion authored by Representative Felzkowski (R-Irma) to transfer the Teach for America grant program from DPI to the Department of Workforce Development. The motion changes the name of the grant program to “Grants for Teacher Training and Recruitment” and allows organizations other than Teach for America to receive the funding.
Board of Commissioners of Public Lands: No motions offered.