Legislative Council Symposia Series on Early Literacy Begins Today

By John Forester | August 5, 2020

The Legislative Council Symposia on Early Literacy Policies will begin at 2pm today, Wednesday, August 5th.

The Symposia Series on Early Literacy Policies will present information on how children learn to read, focusing on the research done by cognitive psychologists, neuroscientists, teacher preparation professionals, and early childhood developmental researchers. The Series will include presentations each Wednesday at 2pm through September 2nd. Today’s session will feature an Overview of Research Surrounding Early Literacy, presented by Dr. Nell Duke, Professor, University of Michigan.

The SAA will monitor the proceedings of this symposia.  Interested parties may live stream the symposia session on YouTube at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcIqB0jiwl8&feature=youtu.be

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Fitzgerald Gauging Support Among Senate Republicans to Overturn Evers’ Mask Mandate

By John Forester | July 31, 2020

From WisPolitics.com …

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he wants the Legislature to overturn Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate and is gauging support in the Senate GOP to reconvene for a vote.

Fitzgerald’s statement came after several Senate Republicans urged the Legislature — which has been on the floor once since the pandemic began — to approve a joint resolution rejecting the order Evers issued yesterday.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said municipalities have been making their own decisions and he doesn’t support a statewide mandate. He also believes the way the guv wrote the order opens him up to legal challenges.

“Good luck enforcing this without local support,” Fitzgerald said. “Municipalities and counties are going to be tasked with deciding how to best handle this issue. Certainly, the last thing our police need to be doing right now is serving as part of the mask patrol.”

Evers said yesterday early calls for the Legislature to convene and overturn the mandate suggested that Republicans didn’t believe that masks matter in fighting COVID-19.

“But to come in and have the Republicans essentially say we don’t believe in science, pretty risky business. Pretty risky political business and real risky health business,” Evers said.

See the Fitzgerald release here.

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Evers Declares New Public Health Emergency, Issues Mask Mandate

By John Forester | July 30, 2020

From WisPolitics.com …

Citing a rise in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Tony Evers today issued a new public health emergency and along with a mandate that people wear a mask while indoors.

Under the mandate, effective Saturday, those 5 and older are required to wear a face covering when they’re inside or an enclosed space, other than a private residence, and around those who aren’t members of their household.

His executive order also strongly recommends face coverings in other settings, including outdoors, when it isn’t possible to maintain social distancing.

The mask order comes after Evers has said in recent weeks that he hesitated to issue such a mandate because he believed Republicans would sue to overturn it and he’d lose before the state Supreme Court.

The mask order was issued under a new public health emergency for 60 days.

It also likely sets up another legal clash with GOP lawmakers.

The mask order comes with several exceptions such as while eating or drinking.

See the order here.

See the mandate here.

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SAA Members Testify at Informational Hearing

By John Forester | July 27, 2020

At an informational hearing on virtual learning last Thursday, July 23rd before the the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection, three superintendents – John Gaier (Neillsville), Mary Pfeiffer (Neenah) and Brad Saron (Sun Prairie) – delivered outstanding testimony on their virtual learning experiences during the school closure as well as their plans for reopening schools in the fall.

Hats off to those school leaders, and many thanks to them for taking time out of their busy schedules to address the members of the committee.

John Gaier Testimony

Mary Pfeiffer Testimony

Mary Pfeiffer Testimony (Data)

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Evers Announces GEER Funding for K-12 Schools

By John Forester | July 27, 2020

From The Wheeler Report . . .

Governor Evers announced 155 local education agencies (LEAs) are eligible for funding through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. According to the release, “Based on recommendations from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and in consultation with State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor, the governor outlined eligibility criteria for schools most significantly impacted by COVID-19 based on economic disadvantage, access to personal computing devices, access to internet, and students’ score on the English Language Arts Assessment. Wisconsin’s three tribal schools will also receive the same per pupil payment as the 155 LEAs. The GEER Fund is in addition to the $174.8 million that Wisconsin received through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund).” (Map)(GEER Eligible Schools).

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SAA Advocates for Federal Education Stabilization Funding

By John Forester | July 22, 2020

The SAA today sent a letter to our U.S. Senators in support of K-12 education stabilization funding. 

Letter to Senator Johnson

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Governor Announces Additional Agency Budget Cuts

By John Forester | July 22, 2020

From The Wheeler Report . . . 

Governor Evers announced he has directed the Department of Administration to work with agencies to identify another $250 million in cost savings for FY20-21. The cuts are needed to offset the impact of Covid-19 on Wisconsin’s economy. Evers said, “All state and local governments are now experiencing the difficult balance of providing vital services to residents in crisis while also managing tough fiscal realities. While I am still hopeful that the federal government will adopt further bipartisan proposals to stabilize funding for state and local services, in the face of continued inaction and uncertainty, the unfortunate reality is that we must take these steps and make more significant cuts.”

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Senate Committee to Hold Hearing on Virtual Education

By John Forester | July 16, 2020

From The Wheeler Report . . . 

The Senate Committee On Government Operations, Technology, & Consumer Protection will hold an informational hearing on virtual education at 10:00 am, Thursday, July 23rd, in Room 412 East, State Capitol.

The Committee will hear invited testimony from:

  • Wisconsin Virtual Academy
  • Department of Public Instruction
  • Wisconsin Association of School Boards
  • School Administrators Alliance
  • School Choice Wisconsin

The committee will hear testimony from invited speakers only. Other organizations or persons, as invited by the Chair, may also appear.

The committee will meet, pursuant to s. 13.42, Stats. Due to the utilization of social distancing guidelines, seating in room 412 East may be limited.

Members of the public may also observe the hearing in the State Capitol Rotunda or through WisconsinEye coverage available at https://wiseye.org/live/.

An overflow room will be available in Room 400 SE.

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AASA Letter on School COVID-19 Liability Relief

By John Forester | July 15, 2020

On July 8th, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, joined other national school leadership groups in a letter to Congressional leaders in support of temporary and targeted liability relief legislation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The SAA continues to work on this important issue at the state level as well.

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State Revenues Lagging by $749 Million

By John Forester | July 9, 2020

From WisPolitics.com …

State revenues for 2019-20 collected so far are $749 million behind what Wisconsin took in during the previous fiscal year, according to a new Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Still, LFB Director Bob Lang noted it will be late August before the agency has a clear picture on how the economic fallout from COVID-19 has impacted the 2019-20 fiscal year. That’s because while the state pushed back the tax filing deadline to July 15, collections will still apply to the 2019-20 fiscal year.

Today’s memo lays out the latest snapshot of tax collections amid the pandemic.

For June alone, general fund tax collections were down $370 million compared to the same month in 2019. That was largely driven by a reduction in estimated payments for income and franchise taxes, reflecting the delayed filing deadline. The second was a drop in tax withholding payments, reflecting the “severe decline” in employment.

Meanwhile, sales tax collections last month were down $9 million compared to June 2019. LFB noted the drop of 1.7 percent was an improvement of the declines of 10.1 percent in May and 9.9 percent in April. The June collections largely reflect activity in May and reflect an uptick in activity after the state Supreme Court’s ruling in the middle of the month lifted the extended stay-at-home order. LFB also noted federal stimulus payments and enhanced unemployment benefits also likely helped allow consumers to make purchases they otherwise would’ve put off.

Read the memo here.

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