By John Forester | January 5, 2016
The Senate Education Committee will hold an Informational Hearing on School Mental Health on Wednesday, January 6th (tomorrow) in Room 411 South, State Capitol. The Committee will convene at 12:00 (noon) to hold a public hearing on two bills – SB 412, relating to providing lifesaving skills instruction to pupils; and SB 494, relating to an initial teaching license based on completion of a Montessori teacher education program. The Informational Hearing will be held immediately following completion of the public hearing. (See SAA News Release here.)
You might recall that, in the School Mental Health section of the SAA’s Evidence-Based Policy Agenda (2014), we noted that too many Wisconsin children have unmet mental health needs and these unmet needs have serious negative consequences for the children, their families and our communities and schools. The SAA went on to recommend Wisconsin create a School-Linked Mental Health grant program modeled after a successful initiative launched in Minnesota.
The SAA encouraged Senator Luther Olsen, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, to hold this informational hearing. We also worked with Senator Olsen and his staff on the slate of speakers which includes presentation teams from the Adams-Friendship, Baraboo, LaCrosse, and Menasha School Districts.
The SAA also arranged the appearance of noted school mental health expert Mark Sander. Dr. Sander is the Senior Clinical Psychologist and Mental Health Coordinator for Hennepin County (MN) and Minneapolis Public Schools. In his testimony, he will discuss the need for school-based services as well as approaches, challenges and outcomes associated with delivering mental health services in schools.
The SAA would like to thank Chairman Olsen for his leadership in raising this important issue for information and discussion before the Senate Education Committee.
By John Forester | January 5, 2016
From the Legal Side…
The Boardman & Clark law firm recently published this School Law Update that recaps a recent IRS notice extending the deadlines for employers to file health insurance coverage returns with the IRS and furnish employees with those returns, as required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The SAA regularly receives these updates and we believe this is valuable information for SAA members. We are distributing this update to SAA members with the permission of Boardman & Clark.
By John Forester | December 18, 2015
The following SAA members testified in opposition to AB 481, relating to school referenda, at the public hearing before the Assembly Education Committee yesterday.
Charles Poches and Margaret Rudolph from Portage
Bob Chady from Marshall
Bruce Quinton from Pepin
Ken Bates from Green Lake
Steve Sedlymayr from Alma
Stan Mack from Oshkosh
Hats off to these members for their advocacy efforts on behalf of Wisconsin school children.
By John Forester | December 15, 2015
The SAA is issuing a Priority Legislative Alert on Assembly Bill 481.
Assembly Bill 481 (AB 481), relating to school referenda, will have a public hearing before the Assembly Education Committee at 10:00am on Thursday, December 17, 2015 in Room 417 North, State Capitol. You might recall that AB 481 would place restrictions on school district referenda ballot dates and implement a 2-year waiting period following failed referenda. The SAA is strongly opposed to the bill.
We believe the most effective testimony on this damaging legislation will come from those in the field that are living this issue. If you believe you have a compelling story to tell and would like to testify on AB 481 this Thursday, please call John Forester at 608-242-1370 as soon as possible. You can also respond to this legislative alert by writing to key members of the Assembly Education Committee and your own legislators, of course.
We urge SAA members to take action now! Please contact Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee) and Rep. Sondy Pope in opposition to AB 481. Representative Pope is ranking Democrat on the Assembly Education Committee. We recommend that you frame your communication drawing from the talking points below and add any personal reflections that complement this information. In addition to contacting Rep. Thiesfeldt and Rep. Pope, it is extremely important that you copy your own Assembly Representative and State Senator on this communication.
This bill is anti-local control.
- With revenue limits frozen for this budget cycle for the first time, referenda are the only way many districts can access resources. This proposal will significantly impact declining enrollment districts which are often small rural school districts many of which need referenda to maintain educational opportunities for children. This bill, if adopted, could have the effect of forcing districts to consider dissolving or consolidating if they cannot pass such referenda and are barred from going back to their voters for two years (or more).
- This bill will further exacerbate the trend of creating “Haves” who can pass referenda and “Have Nots” who cannot. Opportunities for students will further be determined by their zip code.
- The bill is extremely restrictive and inflexible for school boards – under the bill in odd number years boards will only have one opportunity to go to referendum (in the spring). If that referendum fails, boards will have to wait two years to the next odd number year where once again there will only be one opportunity. In a state budget year a district would have to wait until the following spring to react to funding decisions made by the state.
- Limiting referendum date selection for capital projects such as new buildings, renovations or additions will reduce the effective planning of these projects to meet the needs of students and citizens. What’s more, a poorly-timed referendum date could add to the construction time-frame and possibly increase costs to taxpayers.
If you should have any questions please email me. Thanks for listening and, as always, thank you for everything you do on behalf of Wisconsin school children.
By John Forester | December 14, 2015
The Assembly Education Committee will hold a public hearing on the following four bills at 9:30am on Thursday, December 17 in Room 417 North, State Capitol.
- AB 481 — school referenda
- AB 581 — licenses to teach vocational subjects
- AB 517 — reporting crimes and other incidents that occur on school property
- AB 602 — accrediting entities for private schools participating in a parental choice program
By John Forester | December 14, 2015
Sources inside the Capitol have indicated that Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R – Fond du Lac), Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, will likely agree to hear AB 481 (school referenda) at the Committee’s public hearing on Thursday, December 17th. We will not know for sure if AB 481 is on the Committee’s hearing agenda until later today when Rep. Thiesfeldt issues the public notice for the hearing.
You might recall that AB 481 would place restrictions on school district referenda ballot dates and implement a 2-year waiting period following failed referenda.
The SAA will inform the membership of the hearing agenda once the public notice is issued.
By John Forester | December 10, 2015
Check out the Wisconsin Budget Project analysis of a new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The study finds that Wisconsin has cut K-12 education funding more than only 3 states in the nation since 2008.
By John Forester | December 8, 2015
In a public hearing today before the Assembly Committee on Family Law, the SAA registered in opposition to Assembly Bill 489, a bill that would expand child abuse and neglect reporting requirements to contracted school employees and school volunteers who work directly with children at least 40 hours per year.
The bill would impose new training requirements for volunteers and staff, would likely necessitate new language in contracts for bus transportation and food service contracts could deter community members from volunteering in schools, and, because the bill provides no funding ensures that these new requirements would become unfunded mandates.
The SAA will inform the membership of future developments on this legislation.
By John Forester | December 4, 2015
Check out this article from the Wisconsin State Journal. In a turnout that stunned organizers, nearly 600 people filled the library in Mount Horeb Wednesday night to hear a public reading of a children’s book about a transgender girl, with many in the crowd expressing strong support for a local family with a transgender child.
By John Forester | December 1, 2015
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is administering a new program for Wisconsin public school districts. The Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Labs) Program will provide grants to districts to help them equip Fab Labs within public schools.
Fab Labs incorporate technologies such as 3D printing and computer-assisted design to give students hands-on experience, allowing them to put into practice concepts they have learned in science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) courses.
Grants to help public school districts create or expand these labs will be available in amounts up to $25,000 per district. The funds may be used to purchase equipment used for instructional and educational purposes by elementary, middle, junior, or high school students.
Fab Labs grants will be awarded through a competitive process, with applications for the first grant year due January 22, 2016.
View application details here: InWisconsin.com/fablabs.
If you have any questions about this grant, please contact WEDC Sector Manager: Kathleen Heady 608-210-6841.