Voucher Programs Closing in on 30,000 Students

By John Forester | December 9, 2014

In this morning’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Erin Richards notes that the total number of students receiving private-school tuition vouchers in Wisconsin is about to cross the 30,000 threshold, costing Wisconsin taxpayers an estimated $211 million this fiscal year.  Richards also discusses a variety of questions surrounding the taxpayer-subsidized private school tuition programs in Wisconsin.

See the article here.

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State Senate Committee and Office Listings

By John Forester | December 5, 2014

​​​​Numerous SAA members have been asking for Capitol Office contact information for their legislators.  This has been complicated by not only the number of new legislators moving into the Capitol but also  the “office shuffle” among veteran legislators.

 The Wheeler Report has just put out the following information on the Senate offices as well as the Senate Republican committee assignments.

Sen. Fitzgerald announced the committee structure and Republican appointments yesterday.  The link below is a chart of all Senate committees and Republican appointments.  Included on the list is the committee chair with office location and office phone number.  Please note the office location is the offices the legislators will be in for the 2015-16 session.  Office moves are expected to be completed by Thursday, December 18. Also, senator-elects office locations and phone numbers are listed, but they do not officially take office until January 5.

Senate Democrats committee assignments will be added once announced.

Senate Committee Listing

Senate Alphabetic Office Listing

Senate Numeric Office Listing

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Vouchers, Open Enrollment a Budget Headache for Racine Unified

By John Forester | December 2, 2014

I thought this article from the Racine Journal Times was interesting and instructive on the impact of vouchers and open enrollment on school district budgets.  The data and insights from RUSD Deputy Chief Financial Officer Marc Duff is the real highlight of the article.

 

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Transportation Budget Request Would Divert Resources from Schools

By John Forester | December 2, 2014

​In its budget blog post from yesterday, the Wisconsin Budget Project notes that the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has proposed, in DOT’s biennial budget request, that the state divert resources normally used to support strong schools, communities and health care systems, and instead use the money to construct and repair highways.  The post contains facts and figures regarding the transfer of funds from the general fund to the transportation fund over the past 14 years.  An interesting read.

 

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Lawmaker Promises to Pass Special Needs Vouchers

By John Forester | November 21, 2014

A Republican lawmaker whose daughter has Down syndrome promised Thursday that a divisive proposal to create a voucher to help students with disabilities attend private school in Wisconsin will pass “one way or another.”

See the article by Scott Bauer of the Associated Press here.

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MacIver Institute Suggests Changes to Public Retirees’ Health Care Benefits

By John Forester | November 20, 2014

​A report published by a Dallas-based libertarian think tank and Wisconsin’s conservative MacIver Institute calls for changes to the state’s health care benefit program for public retirees.

Read more here.

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A Beginning: Public Release of SAA’s WI’s PK-12 Pathway to World-Class Student Success

By John Forester | November 20, 2014

Yesterday, the SAA publicly released its evidence-based policy agenda.  Please click here for photos, video and news coverage of the event.

The public release marked the beginning of our efforts to build support for evidence-based state educational policies.  And, we know that the most important conversations, moving forward, will not be held in Madison but rather in every school district throughout the state.  When educators sit down with student leaders, parents, and community and business leaders to share the impact of state policy on educational opportunities we know that these stakeholders, over time, will become advocates for evidence-based state educational policy.

In the coming weeks we hope that every administrative team begins to plan how to engage their stakeholders in this conversation.   Please click here for materials to help you get started.

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Lawsuit Announced Over Special Needs Open Enrollment; Links to Special Needs Vouchers

By John Forester | November 20, 2014

From WisPolitics:

A conservative legal group yesterday announced a lawsuit over the state’s open enrollment program, which it says discriminates against children with disabilities.

The complaint — filed Tuesday in the western Wisconsin federal district court by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty — argues more than 1,000 disabled children applying for open enrollment were denied in the 2013-2014 academic year “solely on the basis of their disability.” The group alleges current state law violates federal disability law and is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

“Wisconsin’s open enrollment program gives parents the freedom to find a public school that best meets their child’s individualized needs,” said WILL Education Policy Director CJ Szafir. “All children, regardless of whether they have a disability, deserve equal access to this program.”

WILL says it represents four children with disabilities who were denied open enrollment; three of the districts to deny those applications — Elkhorn, Greendale and Muskego-Norway — are named in the lawsuit, along with state Superintendent Tony Evers and the Department of Public Instruction.

Backers of legislation to create a scholarship for special needs students to attend private school, a charter or a school outside the districts they live in say they plan to bring the bill back again next session.

Legislation to create such a scholarship of $13,500 passed the Assembly in 2012, but failed to make it through the Assembly. Gov. Scott Walker then included a version in the 2013-15 budget he proposed that would allow up to 5 percent of the state’s special education students enroll in a private, charter or public school at no cost, but it was pulled by opponents.

A separate bill sponsored by Rep. John Jagler, R-Watertown, and Sen. Leah Vukmir, received hearings in both houses last session, but did not receive a vote. It would allow students to qualify for the scholarships if they meet certain criteria, including applying to attend another public school through open enrollment, but being denied.

“I’m confident with the changing landscape in both houses that we’ll be able to get it done this time,” Jagler said. “Unfortunately, the families that are affected by this have had to wait another year.”

Teachers unions have general opposed the bill, as have some disability rights advocates who fear special needs students who used the scholarships to attend private schools would not receive services that public schools have to provide under federal law.

 

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SAA Releases Evidence-Based Policy Agenda

By John Forester | November 19, 2014

At a news conference this morning, at the Institutes for Discovery on the UW Madison campus, the SAA publicly released it’s evidence-based policy agenda.  Please find the links below to the SAA’s press release and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel news coverage.

Press Release

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article

The SAA’s supporting documents can be found here or on our website on the right side under Advocacy Documents.

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Schools’ Broadband Costs Often High for Slow Service

By John Forester | November 12, 2014

​Interesting article by Rick Barrett and Erin Richards of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the state of school broadband services in Wisconsin.

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