Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Joint Finance Committee Approves Increased Funding for TEACH, Public Library System

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. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Assembly Passes TEACH, ESSA Bills

The State Assembly passed two bills of interest to WEMTA yesterday. They now go to the Senate for approval.

Broadband, TEACH:  The Assembly voted unanimously to pass Assembly Bill 123. Assembly Bill 123 does the following:

·         Transfers $6 million from the Universal Service Fund and $5 million from the Federal E-Rate Program to provide additional funding for the state’s Broadband Expansion Grant program. It also allows the Public Service Commission (PSC) to distribute an unlimited amount of broadband expansion grants each year—they are currently only allowed to issue $1.5 million in grants per year.

·         Transfers all unspent funds in the Universal Service Fund (which currently provides funding for Newsline for the Blind, the Digital Learning Collaboration, Public Library System Aids, TEACH grants and Library Service Contracts) to the Broadband Expansion Grant program on June 30 of each odd-numbered year.  It also allows PSC to use contributions made by telecommunications providers to the USF to fund broadband expansion grants.

·         Requires the Public Service Commission to consider a potential broadband expansion grant’s impact on the ability of students to access educational opportunities from home.

·          Extends the TEACH Information Technology Block Grant program to July 1, 2019 (it is currently set to end on July 1, 2017). The bill also allows the Department of Administration to award another round of Information Technology Block Grants to school district this year and expands eligibility for the program to school districts that have 16 students per square mile. An additional $7.5 million is transferred from the Federal E-rate Program to fund TEACH contracts.

State ESSA Plan: The Assembly voted unanimously to pass Assembly Bill 233, which prohibits DPI from submitting the state Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan without first responding to any objections by the Assembly Committee on Education and the Senate Committee on Education. If DPI receives objections to the proposed state plan from one of the education committees, DPI must provide a written response to each objection raised by the committee within 14 days.