Friday, July 28, 2017

BCPL Votes to Approve Land Purchase

As we reported earlier this week, State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk announced that he would oppose a proposed land purchase by the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. He said at the BCPL's meeting earlier this week that he feels BCPL is paying too much for the land and that they would be better off investing their money in other areas.  He also said he believes BCPL does not have the constitutional authority to buy land.

Attorney General Schimel pushed back very hard when Adamczyk claimed he had constitutional objections to the purchase. “You can’t keep throwing around constitutional duty without accurately defining what our constitutional duty is. You’re wrong. You’re dead wrong,” Schimel told Adamczyk at the BCPL's meeting on July 25.  

Schimel said that the constitution directs BCPL to manage their assets in the way the legislature directs them. He said that under Speaker Jensen’s leadership, the Legislature directed the BCPL to sell land using a land bank authority and to use the money to do one thing—buy other land that benefits its beneficiaries. “We’re doing exactly what the constitution directs,” said Schimel.

Schimel and Secretary of State Doug La Follette brought up the point of land management, arguing that it is part of a broader effort connect land that BCPL already owns and to make a larger parcel.

BCPL staff said their projections showed that the Board will make between 3% and 8% on the land and that it is a good investment.

“I resent that you have publically characterized the only conservative option would be to vote against buying this land,” Schimel told Adamczyk. “That’s absolute hogwash. There is clearly a conservative interest in doing this that will increase the value of our assets and grow the School Fund for our beneficiaries.”

Adamczyk is also working with members of the Legislature to make changes to the Board’s land bank authority. He asked for the bill draft to be put on the next agenda. Jonathan Barry said he supports the word change in the bill draft but that some changes would be needed. The bill draft removes the word “only” from the land bank statute, which would allow the Board to invest proceeds from land sales in things other than land.

This issue has generated significant media attention.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Capitol Update--7.24.17

State Treasurer Opposes Proposed BCPL Land Purchase 

State Treasurer Matt Adamczyk issued a statement July 24 opposing a proposed land purchase by the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.

“The constitution couldn’t be any clearer – our mission is to sell land,” said Adamczyk. “I call on my fellow Commissioners to join me in opposition to this land purchase. BCPL staffers are pushing government land grabs. An agency tasked with selling land should not be buying land. Furthermore, for over 150 years the BCPL did not buy land, we should not be buying land now.”

Adamczyk said that students lose out on millions when the BCPL purchases land. He plans to vote against the proposed purchase at the July 25 meeting of the BCPL.

Still No Budget Deal 

Legislative leaders in the State Senate and Assembly have yet to reach agreement on a deal to end the state budget standstill. While Assembly Republicans agreed to a deal offered by Governor Walker late last week that would have eliminated all new bonding in the transportation budget, Senate Republicans rejected the plan. 

Assembly Committee on Education Public Hearing

The Assembly Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on Assembly Bill 398 and Assembly Bill 427 next Thursday, August 3.

AB 398 expands the online summer or interim session classes that qualify for state aid to include classes the school board determines fulfill a graduation requirement in health education or that count toward the number of credits the school board requires for graduation in any combination of vocational education, foreign languages, fine arts, and other courses.

AB 427 requires the Department of Public Instruction to consult with the Department of Natural Resources, a law enforcement agency or a national or state firearms safety organization to develop a comprehensive curriculum for a firearm education course. Under the bill, the firearm education course would be taught as a high school elective. Schools would not be required to offer the elective. The course could not include live ammunition.

Committee on Education

The committee will hold a public hearing on the following items at the time specified below:
Thursday, August 3, 2017
11:00 AM
417 North (GAR Hall)

Assembly Bill 398
Relating to: summer school and interim session classes.
By Representatives Hebl, Jagler, Berceau, Felzkowski, Genrich, Horlacher, Ohnstad, Pope, Spreitzer, Subeck, Tauchen, Tusler and Vruwink; cosponsored by Senators Olsen, L. Taylor, Cowles, Miller and Vinehout.

Assembly Bill 427
Relating to: comprehensive firearm education for high school pupils.
By Representatives Skowronski, R. Brooks, Kleefisch, Allen, Brandtjen, Edming, Gannon, Horlacher, Knodl, Kremer, Krug, Mursau, Quinn, Ripp, Rodriguez, Schraa, Thiesfeldt and Tusler; cosponsored by Senators Moulton, L. Taylor, Nass, Tiffany and Wanggaard.


Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Senate Republicans Release Their Own Budget, Includes Funding for Ed Tech

Senate Republicans released their own budget proposal Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to end the standoff between the Assembly and Senate over the future of transportation funding in Wisconsin. The plan incorporates everything already approved by the Joint Finance Committee and puts forward the Senate’s own proposal for transportation, K-12 education and taxes.  During a press conference held Tuesday to unveil the plan, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said the goal is to get the Joint Finance Committee back in to finish the budget and that “this puts it back in the Assembly’s court.” Joint Finance Co-Chair Alberta Darling defended the Senate’s decision to include new bonding in the transportation budget, calling the Assembly’s opposition to bonding “totally unrealistic.”

In a letter to Speaker Vos, Fitzgerald says that the Senate has “confirmed that Governor Walker believes this proposal meets his key priorities of funding k-12 education, holding the line on property taxes, and insuring sound investments in transportation without raising taxes.” Fitzgerald also indicated that the K-12 education proposal in the Senate’s budget was negotiated with the Assembly.

Items of interest to WEMTA in the proposal include:

·        Increased K-12 education funding. The Senate adopts the Governor’s proposal to increase per pupil aid payments from $250 to $450 per pupil in 2017-18 and $654 per pupil in 2018-19. The Senate’s proposal also deletes the Governor’s recommendation to require districts to certify that they are in compliance with Act 10 in order to receive the increased funding.

·         New funding for 1-to-1 devices. The proposal includes $9.2 million in new funding to provide grants to school districts to be used for purchasing personal electronic computing devices. However, unlike the proposal put forward by the Assembly, the Senate’s version does not include detailed criteria for how the money could be spent. Payments would equal $125 per 9th grade student and require schools to put forward matching funds.

·         New funding of $1.75 million to contract with a single provider of information technology education for public school students in grades 6-12, technical college students and library patrons.

·         Includes full funding of Newsline for the Blind and Library Service Contracts.

·        One-time funding of $1 million to the Wisconsin Reading Corps one-on-one AmeriCorps tutoring program.

·         New funding for a shared services pilot program that would allow districts to share certain administrative positions, including information technology coordinators.

·         $1 million in funding for a new Rural School Teacher Talent Pilot Program.

·         An expansion of the income eligibility limit for the statewide school choice program from 185% of the Federal Poverty Level to 220% of the Federal Poverty Level. This change is estimated to result in an additional 550 pupils participating in the program.

·         A new provision that would allow private school choice schools to offer virtual education.
·         Changes to the revenue limit for low-spending school districts.

·        Requires DPI to update their rules related to teacher licenses to simplify the process as much as possible.

·         A modification to the Governor’s proposal to eliminate expiration dates for teacher’s licenses. The Senate proposal requires a provisional three-year license for new teachers or administrators. After six successful semesters, a lifetime license would be granted. The Senate’s proposal would also allow individuals to complete an “alternative teacher preparation program.”

·         Limits to school district referenda scheduling, which would only allow districts to hold referenda on regularly scheduled election days.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Senate Republicans to Release Their Own Budget

As part of the ongoing standoff over the state budget, Senate Republicans will release their own state budget bill tomorrow. It will include everything the Joint Finance Committee has already voted on and the Senate’s own plans for taxes, education and transportation. Senate Republican leaders have said that if the Joint Finance Committee does not resume work on the budget soon, the full Senate will vote on their budget bill and send it to the Assembly.

The Associated Press has more details below:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Latest on Senate Republicans' plan to introduce their own version of the state budget (all times local):
4:10 p.m.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he looks forward to seeing Senate Republicans' ideas when they introduce their own state budget.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald plans to introduce the spending plan at a news conference Tuesday. His spokeswoman, Myranda Tanck, said it will include everything that the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee has already voted on as well as plans for tax changes, funding roads and funding state schools. She declined to offer details.
The move could deepen the impasse between Senate and Assembly Republicans over transportation funding. Senate Republicans want to borrow an additional $750 million to fund roads. Assembly Republicans have balked at more borrowing and want to find new ways to raise more revenue for road work.
Vos has said if Senate Republicans won't raise revenue to pay for additional borrowing the only option left is keeping road funding flat. That would slow down or stop work on major interstate projects in southeastern Wisconsin.
2:30 p.m.
Senate Republicans are getting ready to introduce their own version of the state budget as their stalemate with Assembly Republicans over transportation funding drags on.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald plans to introduce the spending plan at a news conference Tuesday. His spokeswoman, Myranda Tanck, said it will include everything that the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee has already voted on as well as plans for tax changes, funding roads and funding state schools. She declined to offer any details.
Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, didn't immediately reply to an email seeking comment.
Senate Republicans want to borrow an additional $750 million to fund roads. Assembly Republicans have balked at more borrowing and want to find new ways to raise more revenue for road work.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, July 14, 2017

DPI Releases Draft Information and Technology Literacy Academic Standards

The Department of Public Instruction has released updated academic standards for several topics, including information and technology literacy.

You can read the updated information and technology literacy standards here:

DPI will hold two public hearings on the proposed standards and are accepting feedback online.

Public Hearings
July 17 — 3 to 5 p.m. Department of Public Instruction, Room P41 125 South Webster Street, Madison
July 18 — 4 to 6 p.m. CESA 6, Collaborations Conference Room 2300 State Road 44, Oshkosh

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Assembly Republicans Considering School Choice Changes; Senate Opposed

We learned earlier this week that Assembly Republicans are considering increasing the income eligibility limit for the statewide school choice program from 185% of the Federal Poverty Level to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level. In addition, they are thinking about modifying the enrollment cap on the statewide school choice program. Currently, no more than 2% of any school district’s students can participate in the program. Legislators are said to be considering changing the district-by-district cap on enrollment to a statewide cap on enrollment.

However, the Wisconsin State Journal reports that Senate Republican leaders oppose the changes. 

The Joint Finance Committee has not met since June 15, and it unclear when they will re-convene. There continues to be a deep divide between the Assembly and Senate on how to address transportation and education funding issues. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

State Budget Update: Still No K-12 Education Vote

The standstill over the state budget continues. Assembly and Senate Republican leaders are still trying to reach a deal on transportation and K-12 education funding. In an attempt to bring an end to the budget standstill, Governor Walker announced this week that he would be willing to reduce the level of borrowing in the state's transportation budget by $200 million but reiterated his commitment to passing a budget without a gas tax or fee increase.

While transportation funding has dominated most of the news coverage, legislators are also trying to reach agreement on the K-12 education budget. One news outlet reported this week that Republican leaders are negotiating "whether, and how much, to raise income eligibility limits for parents who want to send their children to a private school through the voucher program."