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May 03

Legislative Update: May 3

GOP lawmakers are formally taking steps to stop Medicaid expansion and strip out key education provisions from Governor Tony Evers’ budget proposal, including school funding fixes that would result in more tax dollars actually entering our schoolhouse doors instead of being used for property tax reductions. The Medicaid expansion funding would make it possible for Governor Tony Evers to deliver on what Wisconsin voters elected him to do – increase public school funding by $1.4 billion, fix roads and ensure health care. 

The Joint Finance co-chairs have released a memo outlining 131 proposals they plan to pull from the budget when the committee meets May 9, including measures to phase out voucher schools and fix public school funding flaws. In the past, those memos have focused on policy items. But this year’s list includes items with a big fiscal impact such as the Medicaid expansion and minimum markup on gas. Here’s the Wisconsin Public Radio story.

SOME KEY ITEMS TO BE EXCLUDED FROM BUDGET CONSIDERATION:

  • Teacher Prep Time. Guarantees paid preparation time for teachers.
  • Teacher Licensing. Eliminates licenses based on fast-tracked diploma mills.
  • Rehiring Retired Teachers. Allows districts to rehire retired teachers after 30 days. 
  • General School Aids & Revenue Limits. Moves property tax credit funding to general school aids.
  • Private School Tax Deduction. Sunsets private school tuition deduction.
  • Private School Voucher, Privately Run Charters and Open Enrollment. Creates accountability and transparency for, and begins phase-out of, taxpayer-funded private school voucher programs and independent charter schools through a series of measures including capping participation, requiring teacher licensing changes, requiring accreditation and eliminating the Milwaukee city levy. Additionally, changes definition of poverty level for voucher schools and requires information about the cost of vouchers on tax bills. 
  • Student Loans. Creates student loan refinancing study committee.
  • School Safety. Transfers the Office of School Safety from the Department of Justice to the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Lead Testing. Allows revenue limit adjustment for schools to do lead testing and remediation.
  • 4K. Expands 4-year-old kindergarten throughout state.
  • Referendums. Removes limit on number of school district referendums.
  • Driver Education Aid. Provides aid to districts offering driver’s education.
  • Tech College System. Requires a two percent minimum increase in the revenue limit.
  • Teacher Grants. Creates teacher development grants.
  • Medicaid Expansion. Accepts full federal Medicaid funding.
  • Worker’s Comp. Transfers worker’s compensation hearings functions.
  • Equal Rights. Increases minimum wage, repeals right-to-work-for-less, restores prevailing wage, family and medical leave and project labor agreements.
  • Minimum Markup. Repeals the Minimum Markup of Motor Vehicle Fuel.
  • Elections. Modifies automatic voter registration and voting requirements.

$83.5 million in earmarks. There are $83.5 million in earmarks, the largest of which is $29 million to benefit Fincantieri Marinette Marine in the district of JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, and Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay. The second largest earmark was $20 million for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Walker appointees. Three Scott Walker appointees to state cabinet positions, temporarily pushed out of their jobs in the legal fight over the lame-duck session, will receive back-pay.

Governor Tony Evers signs first bill into law.The law, banning words such as “retarded” from administrative code, was advanced by Republican legislators after Evers issued an Executive Order to the same effect early in his governorship.

Bills We’re Watching:
For a list of all the bills in the Assembly Ed Committee, click here.
For a roundup of all the bills we’re watching, with analysis, click here.

  • Out-of-State Teacher License Reciprocity. AB 195 would change the way a person who has been educated and licensed to teach out of state can become licensed to teach in the state of Wisconsin. This bill would continue to allow a person who is educated and licensed out of state to begin teaching in Wisconsin with a one Year License with Stipulations.  After two successful semesters, that person would then be eligible for a License Based on Reciprocity. Furthermore, this bill would move the License Based on Reciprocity to a Tier II Provisional License. Referred to Assembly Education Committee.
  • Sparsity AidAB 196 This bill creates a new aid program for certain consolidated school districts. To be eligible for this aid, the consolidation that created the consolidated school district must take effect on or after July 1, 2020, and the consolidated school district’s maximum allowable levy rate must be greater than the lowest levy rate of the school districts that were consolidated to create the school district (underlying school districts). In general, the levy rate of a school district is the total amount of property taxes levied by the school district divided by the school district’s equalized value.
    • If a consolidated school district satisfies the above-described criteria, in the first school year following the consolidation, the consolidated school district is entitled to aid in an amount equal to the consolidated school district’s equalized value multiplied by the difference between the maximum allowable levy rate of the consolidated school district and the lowest levy rate of the underlying school districts (base aid amount). In the second school year following the consolidation, the consolidated school district is entitled to aid in an amount equal to 80 percent of the base aid amount. In the third school year following the consolidation, the consolidated school district is entitled to aid in an amount equal to 60 percent of the base aid amount. The amount of the aid continues to be reduced by 20 percent each school year so that in the sixth school year following the consolidation, the consolidated school district no longer receives this aid.
    • Current law limits the total amount of revenue a school district may receive from general state aids and property taxes in a school year. This limitation is known as a school district’s revenue limit. The new aid provided under the bill is a general state aid for purposes of school district revenue limits. As a result, the new aid reduces the amount of property taxes that the consolidated school district is allowed to levy.

Reminder of what passed out of the Assembly Ed Committee earlier this month:

  • Pupil Records (SB57 AB53). Expands pupil information allowed to be disclosed by a public school to include the names of parents or guardians. Under current law, the information that may be included in “directory data” that may be disclosed to any person (as long as a public school notifies families of the categories of information and informs families an opt out procedure) includes pupil name, address, telephone, date/place of birth, major field of study, activity/sport participation, attendance dates, photographs, weight and height as member of athletic team, degrees/awards, and most recent school attended. School districts may include all, some or none of the categories to designate as directory data. (Action Alert). The Assembly Ed Committee passed the bill on expanding the information that may be included in directory data, on a 10-5 vote. The companion bill is SB 57, and the Senate Ed Committee has not held a hearing on the bill.
  • Safety Drills. (AB 54 / SB56). Under this bill, the person having direct charge of the public or private school may provide previous warning of any of these drills if he or she determines that providing previous warning of the drill is in the best interest of pupils attending 
    the school. Currently, no advance notice is allowed. The bill passed out of committee unanimously, 15-0.
  • School Report Cards. AB 67 / SB 64, which would require school report cards to include the percentage of pupils participating in music, dance, drama, and visual arts to be amended to clarify that changes would begin with the 2020-21 school year under an amendment offered by Rep. Joel Kitchens. Under the bill, DPI would include this information for each high school and school district, along with the statewide percentage of participation in each subject. The bill specifies that this information may not be used to evaluate a school or district’s performance. The bill passed out of committee with a 14-1 vote. 
  • AB 194. Licensing for Special Education Teachers. Currently, special education teachers can have a license with stipulations for three years and then are required to take and pass a FORT examination, which can be costly, time consuming, and has no correlation with transfer of knowledge to children in the classroom. This legislation creates an additional option to the FORT exam that enables special education teachers to earn their professional license. It does not in any way change or eliminate the FORT exam; it simply creates another option. This bill was drafted in response to feedback that candidates for the professional teaching license would rather receive meaningful instruction, coaching, and feedback through rigorous coursework than memorize terms and study guides to pass a standardized test. In addition, there is compelling data which states that receiving feedback from a professor or coach directly transfers to students in the classroom, while testing does not.
    • WEAC analysis shows this bill, which contains technical errors, is almost identical to one that was circulated a couple of years back. This makes exceptions for particular license area, which could open the doors to more carving out of exceptions in specific licensing areas and lowers the standard for special education teachers, those teachers who serve Wisconsin’s most intellectually vulnerable population. 
  • Human Trafficking (AB22)Establishes industry-specific materials on the recognition and prevention of human trafficking for use in the instruction in driver education courses that provide instruction in the operation of commercial motor vehicles. This will affect new drivers only. This bill passed unanimously out of the Committee on Colleges and Universities. 

Circulating for Co-Sponsorship:

  • LRB-3051 & LRB-3128, Energy Efficiency Revenue Limit Exemption
    • These companion bills restore the ability of a school board to adopt a resolution to exceed its revenue limit by the amount spent on energy efficiency projects.