Monday, August 28, 2017

JFC Approves K-12 Education Plan

The Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 to pass a K-12 education spending plan Monday night which includes $639 million in new funding for K-12 schools.  Lawmakers also voted to expand eligibility for the statewide school choice program as part of the plan and approve a new one-to-one device grant program for 9th graders. 

Republican legislators on the Committee heralded the plan as the largest increase to K-12 education funding in state history while Democratic members of the Committee argued that the increase was not adequate to make up for past funding cuts.

You can view the full plan approved by the Committee here. 

The Committee is close to wrapping up work on the state budget and will meet to take up transportation funding on September 5. Once the budget is approved by the Joint Finance Committee, it must be voted on by both houses of the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Walker. 

WEMTA is interested in many of the items approved by JFC, including:

Per Pupil Aid Funding Increase: The Committee approved the Governor’s recommended per pupil funding increases, though the total funding amount is slightly lower than what the Governor proposed due to re-estimated enrollment projections. Per pupil aid payments will increase from $250 per student to $450 per student in 2017-18 and $654 per student in 2018-19. However, not all of the increased funding provided in the second year would be ongoing. The payment would be set at $630 per pupil in the 2019-20 budget year. The Committee also deleted Governor Walker’s proposal to tie the new per pupil funding to Act 10 compliance. Instead, the Committee’s plan requires schools to report annually on their  employee health care costs.

Personal Electronic Computing Device Grants: The Committee adopted Speaker Vos’s proposal to create a new one-to-one device grant program. The motion provides $9.2 million in funding beginning in 2018-19 to fund grants for personal electronic computing devices. Eligible entities include: school boards, charter schools, private schools or a tribal school. Grants would equal $125 per ninth grade student. Applicants would need to demonstrate that they will provide equal matching funds. Grants could be used for the following: purchasing personal electronic computing devices; purchasing software for the devices; purchasing curriculum that includes content that may be accessed on the devices; or training professional staff on how to effectively incorporate personal electronic devices into a classroom and into high school curriculum. The grant program would end in the 2022-23 school year.

Information Technology Education (IT Academy): The Committee voted to provides $875,000 in funding in each year of the budget to contract with a single provider of information technology education for public school students in grades 6-12, technical college students and library patrons.  The program would be required to provide instruction on information technology skills and competencies in areas requested by employers and allow participating students and educators to secure broad-based industry recognized information technology certifications. Programs would be required to operate in 225 sites, including 16 public libraries. The selected provider would need to demonstrate that they have successfully offered an information technology instructional program in schools in Wisconsin and developed an instructional program that includes all of the following: research-based and skill-development-based information technology curriculum; online access to the curriculum; instructional software for classroom and student use; coding curriculum and material that are aligned to the computer science advanced placement exam; certifications of skills and competencies in a broad base of information technology-related skill areas; professional development and co-teaching for faculty including but not limited to computer science; deployment and program support; methods for students to earn college credit; a demonstrated track record with schools in Wisconsin.Microsoft has previously provided services like this.

Public Library System Aid: The Committee voted to delete the current law requirement that DPI include in its biennial budget submission a request for public library system aid equal to 13% of the prior year operating expenditures from local and county sources. The Committee voted earlier this summer to increase aid to the public library system by $1.5 million.

Library Service Contracts: No motion was required on the Governor’s proposal to provide an additional $10,300 over the budget biennium to fully fund the Library Service Contracts. Since the Committee’s motion is silent on this item, the Governor’s proposal is considered approved.

Wisconsin Reading Corps: The Committee voted to provide $1 million over two years for the Wisconsin Reading Corps to provide on-on-one tutoring. The motion requires private matching funds of $250,000 per year.

Teacher Licensure Rulemaking Process: The Committee voted to require DPI to submit a rule to the Legislature by January 1, 2018 which simplifies the teacher licensure system as much as practicable. This could include: simplifying the grade levels licensees can teach and creating broad field subject licenses; enabling school districts to increase the number of teachers by offering internships and residency opportunities; simplifying out-of-state licensure reciprocity; expanding pathways for existing licenses.

Online Teacher Reciprocity: The Committee voted to allow individuals who are located in another state but teach online courses through virtual charter schools or public schools located in Wisconsin to be considered appropriately licensed in Wisconsin as long as they hold a license or permit to teach in their state of residence.

Alternative Teacher Preparation Program:  The Committee voted to require DPI to grant an initial teaching license to an individual who meets the following requirements: has a bachelor’s degree; has successfully completed an alternative teacher certification program operated by an alternative preparation program provider that is a non-profit organization and operates in at least five states, and that requires the candidate to pass a subject area exam and the Professional Teaching Knowledge exam; and successfully completes a background check.

Teacher Development Program: The Committee voted to modify the Governor’s recommendation by specifying that private schools or independent charter schools could apply for a grant under the program. An eligible teacher development program could be developed in partnership with any educator preparation program approved by DPI and headquartered in Wisconsin. The Committee’s motion also deletes the requirement that an individual hold a bachelor’s degree to enter a teacher development program.

Eliminate Expiration Dates for Teaching and Administrator Licenses: The Committee voted to modify the Governor’s proposal to grant lifetime teacher licenses. Instead, the Committee voted to require a provisional three-year license for new educators, administrators and pupil services professionals. A lifetime license would be granted after the completion of six semesters of successful experience as certified by the individual's school board. DPI would still be required to conduct background checks on behalf of MPS, independent charter schools and other school districts.

Virtual Charter School Funding Study: The Committee voted to require DPI to prepare a report comparing the amount paid by the state for pupils attending a virtual charter school through the open enrollment program to the actual educational costs of pupils attending those virtual charter schools. DPI must submit the report to the Joint Finance Committee by January 1, 2019.

Statewide Private School Choice Program—Expanded Eligibility: The Committee voted to increase the income eligibility limit for the statewide school choice program from 185% of the Federal Poverty Level to 220% of the Federal Poverty Level. It is estimated that this change will result in an additional 550 students gaining eligibility.

Independent Charter School Authorizers:  The Committee voted to expand who can authorize charter schools in Wisconsin. The motion specifies that the Director of the Office of Educational Opportunity (OEO), any UW Chancellor, and any technical college district board can contract with someone to operate an independent charter schools. The motion also eliminates the current law limit on the districts in which the OEO Director can authorize a charter school.

Rural School Teacher Talent Pilot Program: The Committee’s motion provides $500,000 annually for a new rural school teacher talent program that will provide grants to CESAs to coordinate with universities and colleges to provide practicums, student-teacher placement, and internships for undergraduate college students in rural school districts.

Shared Services Aid Program: The Committee’s motion provides $2 million in 2018-19 for a pilot program that would provide funding for school districts that share certain administrative positions, including district administrators, human resource directors, IT coordinators, business managers or other non-faculty administrative positions.

Whole Grade Sharing/Consolidation Aid: The Committee’s motion creates two new aid programs that provide additional per pupil funding to schools that enter into a whole grade sharing program or consolidate.

Scheduling of School District Referenda:  The Committee’s motion would limit school district referenda to regularly-scheduled election days (spring primary or election or partisan primary or general election) or the 2nd Tuesday of November in odd-numbered years. School districts would be limited to holding two referenda per year.

Sparsity Aid: The Committee rejected the Governor’s proposal to increase sparsity aid payments from $300 to $400 per pupil.This change would have resulted in about $9 million in additional funding in each year of the budget.Sparsity payments are made to small, rural school districts with less than 745 students and a population density of less than 10 students per square mile. Instead, the Committee’s motion says that any district that qualified for sparsity aid in one year but does not qualify the following year will receive 50% of its prior year award in the year in which they become ineligible for sparsity aid.

Low Revenue Adjustment Under Revenue Limits: The motion increases the revenue limit for low-spending schools from $9,100 per student to $9,300 per student in 2017-18, $9,400 per student in 2018-19 and an additional $100 per year through 2022-23 when revenue limits would be set at $9,800 per pupil.

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