LFB Memo on Low Revenue Ceiling/Sparsity Bills

By John Forester | January 19, 2018

In response to numerous inquiries, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau has released this memo providing information on the estimated effect of AB 835/SB690 on school districts.  Check it out here.

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Fiscal Bureau Projects $385 Million Surplus at End of 2017-19 Biennium

By John Forester | January 19, 2018

From WisPolitics.com …

JFC Co-chair Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, hailed the new revenue numbers released Wednesday, but isn’t committing just yet to a bill that would boost state aid to rural school districts.

“I think we have to look at all of our priorities,” she told WisPolitics.com. “There are a lot of bills on the table that a lot of people consider really important.”

Fellow JFC Co-chair John Nygren last week unveiled a plan that would pump an additional $6.4 million into the state’s sparsity aid program. The bill also includes a plan that would allow low-spending school districts to pull in more revenue from taxpayers. Darling said last week she wanted to see new revenue projections before commiting to the plan.

Darling said today she still wants to discuss the proposal with the Senate GOP caucus and there are a number of other priorities pending before the Legislature that would spend more money. That includes a proposed $6.8 million campaign to attract workers to Wisconsin, she said.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau today upped its projected ending balance for the 2017-19 budget by $137.5 million with revenue projections for the two-year period improving slightly.

That takes the total projected surplus to $385.2 million.

Along with the increase of $76.3 million in tax collections and another $1.7 million more in departmental revenues, the nonpartisan LFB is projecting a $97.7 million drop in appropriations.

The majority of the spending decrease, the agency said, is due to re-estimates on the necessary amount to fund general fund debt service.

Of the projected increase in tax collections, $38.2 million would be transferred to the budget stabilization fund, if the expectations hold.

Gov. Scott Walker touted the numbers as “further proof that we are achieving positive results for Wisconsin families.”

“Today’s report shows our economy is strong, and it shows our expenses are down because we are committed to being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” he said. “We are working and winning for Wisconsin.”

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, meanwhile, knocked the guv’s past budget decisions and wrote off the surplus as a “minor” increase largely due to one-time savings from the debt refinancing.

“With increased spending commitments for cash payments to FoxConn and the continued refusal to expand Medicaid, Republicans have left the state fiscally unprepared for slower economic times,” he said.

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SAA Supports AB 805 — Concurrent Enrollment Fix

By John Forester | January 19, 2018

The SAA registered its support for Assembly Bill 805, the Concurrent Enrollment “Fix”, at a public hearing held yesterday before the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities.  Tim Schell, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Waunakee Community Schools, and Mike Sereno, Director of Secondary Teaching and Learning for the Elmbrook School District, did a fabulous job testifying in support of the bill.  The bill had no opposition at the committee hearing.

As you know, the Early College Credit Program (ECCP) adopted in the 2017-19 State Budget significantly altered the funding model for concurrent enrollment programs at UW System campuses.  The old system was a shared funding model with K12 school districts absorbing the staffing costs and the UW institutions providing the accreditation and accountability.  Parents then received access to college credits at reduced cost.

However, the new ECCP program requires school districts to pick up 75% of the costs, with the state picking up 25%.  The new funding burden for school districts will likely end this effective program.

AB 805 would exempt concurrent enrollment programs at UW System schools from the new ECCP requirements.  The SAA is supporting this legislation, as is the Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance (SWSA), the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance (WiRSA) and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB).  The bill has bipartisan support in the legislature.

SAA members are encouraged to contact their legislators as soon as possible and ask them to support this important legislation.

Tim Schell Testimony

The SAA will keep you informed of this important effort.

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Priority Legislative Alert: Proposed Rule Changes to Educator Licensure (PI 34)

By John Forester | January 19, 2018

This is a Priority Legislative Alert on the Proposed Rule Changes to Educator Licensure (PI 34).

The Proposed Rule Changes to Educator Licensing (PI  34) are currently posted for public comments prior to submission to the legislature for consideration. WASDA, AWSA, WASBO, WASPA and WCASS were actively involved in the development of these changes. They are intended to address the issues related to the declining pool of teachers in Wisconsin, along with issues associated with licensing requirements that impact the current workforce of teachers and impede districts ability to develop and utilize staff most effectively to meet their instructional needs for students.

A very high-level summary is available here.

Some specific points that should be noted about the rule changes include:

While not the end-all for addressing the challenges of teacher preparation, recruitment, development and retention, these rule changes are definitely a valuable step in easing the issues we currently experience.

We are asking all SAA members to take the time to access the DPI posted website that allows you to register in support of the changes and offer comments. You can simply draw any comments you wish to make from the points offered above (cut and paste) or feel free to add your own. The important action is that you register in support of the rule changes. Literally, the number of people who register for or against the proposal is what matters, not their specific comments. Currently, those opposed outnumber those in support. The deadline for registering on the rule changes is January 31.  If you want a more flexible licensing system that maintains strong professional standards, then please register in support of the rule today.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this.

You can access the DPI form here.

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SAA Testifies Against Teacher Protection Act

By John Forester | January 12, 2018

The SAA testified in opposition to Assembly Bill 693, the so-called Teacher Protection Act, at a lengthy and contentious public hearing held yesterday before the Assembly Committee on Judiciary.  The SAA feels so strongly about this legislation that we have taken two extraordinary steps.  First, we retained Attorney Mike Julka of the Boardman & Clark Law Firm to prepare a thorough legal analysis of AB 693.  Second, Attorney Julka appeared at the hearing with SAA Executive Director John Forester to share with the Committee the major concerns we have with AB 693 as identified in that legal analysis.  The SAA’s testimony was impactful to say the least.  I urge all interested SAA members to review the legal analysis.  It clearly illustrates that AB 693 has massive legal and policy problems.

Several SAA members also delivered testimony in opposition to the bill.  WCASS members Barb Buffington and Jerry Nicholson did a fabulous job testifying as a team before the Committee.  Paul Brost, Monona Grove High School principal, also attended the hearing and submitted testimony.

Opponents of the bill were clearly more numerous and better organized than proponents at the hearing.  The coalition of bill opponents included school administrators, school board members, teachers, legal and civil rights advocates, and a very strong and vocal contingent of disability rights advocates.  No action was taken on the bill by the Committee yesterday.  It’s fate in the Assembly remains uncertain.  And remember, the bill currently has no Senate sponsor.

Stay tuned.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Coverage here.

See Wisconsin Public Radio Coverage here.

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Priority Legislative Alert on Teacher Protection Act

By John Forester | January 10, 2018

The SAA is issuing a Priority Legislative Alert on Assembly Bill 693, the so-called Teacher Protection Act.

As we reported earlier, Assembly Bill 693 has been scheduled for public hearing before the Assembly Committee on Judiciary on Thursday, January 11th at 9:00 am in Room 417 North, State Capitol.  The bill has 16 Assembly Republican co-sponsors and no Senate sponsors.  The SAA strongly opposes the bill.

See Public Hearing Notice here.

We urge SAA members to take action nowPlease contact your legislators and ask them to oppose AB 693.

In your communication please consider using the talking points listed below as well as any of your own concerns about the bill based on your experiences and expertise.

Talking Points:

For your convenience in contacting your legislators, we have provided links to the Assembly Directory, the Senate Directory and Who Are My Legislators.

If you should have any questions please email me at.  Thanks for listening and, as always, thank you for everything you do on behalf of Wisconsin school children.

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Sparsity Aid, Low Revenue Ceiling Draft Circulated for Co-Sponsorship

By John Forester | January 8, 2018

On the heels of the Governor’s announcement earlier today, draft legislation relating to an increase in Sparsity Aid and the Low Revenue Ceiling has been circulated for co-sponsorship in the State Capitol.

See the bill draft and co-sponsorship memo below.

Bill Draft

Co-Sponsorship Memo

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Walker Champions Sparsity Aid and Low Revenue Ceiling Increase

By John Forester | January 8, 2018

Governor Scott Walker will visit Coleman High School in Coleman today to announce his support for legislation authored by Representative John Nygren (R—Marinette) that increases Sparsity Aid by $6.4 million for the 2018-19 school year. The bill provides an increase from $300 per pupil to $400 per pupil for districts that currently qualify for Sparsity Aid. Additionally, the bill includes an increase to the Low Revenue Ceiling from $9,100 to $9,400 for the 2018-19 school year, with the Low Revenue Ceiling rising by $100 per year thereafter up to $9,800 by the 2022-23 school year. In order to ensure accountability to local voters, districts where a referendum to raise the revenue limit was rejected by the voters within the past three years would not be allowed to raise their revenue limit.

See Governor Walker news release here.

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Teacher Protection Act Scheduled for Hearing

By John Forester | January 5, 2018

Assembly Bill 693, the so-called “Teacher Protection Act”, has been scheduled for public hearing before the Assembly Committee on Judiciary on Thursday, January 11th at 9:00 am in the North Hearing Room (Second Floor North), State Capitol.

The bill has 16 Assembly Republican co-sponsors and no Senate sponsors.  The SAA strongly opposes the bill.  The SAA will likely issue a Priority Legislative Alert early next week.  Stay tuned.

See Public Hearing Notice here.

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Bills Introduced “Fixing” Concurrent Enrollment Under ECCP

By John Forester | January 5, 2018

As you know, the Early College Credit Program (ECCP) adopted in the 2017-19 State Budget significantly altered the funding model for concurrent enrollment programs at UW System campuses.  The old system was a shared funding model with K12 school districts absorbing the staffing costs and the UW institutions providing the accreditation and accountability.  Parents then received access to college credits at reduced cost.

However, the new ECCP program requires school districts to pick up 75% of the costs, with the state picking up 25%.  The new funding burden for school districts will likely end this effective program.

Legislation introduced recently (AB 805 and SB 677) by a bipartisan group of legislators would exempt concurrent enrollment programs at UW System schools from the new ECCP requirements.  The SAA is supporting this legislation, as is the Southeastern Wisconsin Schools Alliance (SWSA), the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance (WiRSA) and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB).  AB 805 has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities, chaired by Representative Dave Murphy (R-Greenville).  SB 677 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Education, chaired by Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon).  With time running short in the legislative session, the SAA is advocating for the bill to receive public hearings as soon as possible.

SAA members are encouraged to contact their legislators as soon as possible and ask them to support this import legislation.

The SAA will keep you informed of this important effort.

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