Assembly Passes Several Education Bills Today

By John Forester | January 20, 2022

In floor action today, the State Assembly passed several education bills today, including the following (SAA positions added in bold):

AB-495 Firearm Possession (Brooks, Rob) Possession of a firearm in a vehicle on school grounds by a person with a license to carry a concealed weapon. Am. 1 tabled, 60-35.  Passed, (Voice Vote).  Messaged. SAA Opposes. 

AB-843 Firearm Education (Pronschinske, Treig) Comprehensive firearm education for high school pupils. Passed, (Voice Vote).  Messaged. SAA Opposes. 

SB-235 Schools (Bradley, Julian) Measuring a school district’s improvement for the school and school district accountability report. Am. 1 adopted, (Voice Vote).  Passed, (Voice Vote).  Messaged.  SAA Opposes.

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Bond Referendum Bill Clears Senate Committee

By John Forester | January 20, 2022

The Senate Committee on Government Operations, Legal Review and Consumer Protection recommended for passage today on a 3-2 party-line vote Senate Bill 448, relating to including with a referendum question for issuing bonds a statement of the estimated interest accruing on the amount of the bonds.  The SAA opposes SB 448.  Please see below the testimony SAA submitted to the Committee on the bill, along with a memo from Attorney Allison Buchanan of Quarles & Brady in which she expresses her concerns about the bill from a bond counsel perspective.

SB 448 Testimony

Quarles & Brady Memo

Stay tuned.

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Wisconsin Falls Further Below National Average on K-12 Spending

By John Forester | January 20, 2022

In September 2020, you might recall that the Wisconsin Policy Forum (WPF) released a report in which it used 2018 U.S. Census Bureau data (the most recent available at the time) to conclude the following regarding Wisconsin’s K-12 spending trends in comparison to the rest of the nation:

Recently, the SAA reviewed 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau (the most recent available) and found (with WPF staff corroborating the accuracy):

In our estimation, Wisconsin’s continued decline below the national average is significant.  More to come.  The conversation continues.

Census Bureau summary table for 2018

Census Bureau summary table for 2019

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Vos Strips Ramthun of Staff Over “Election Lies”

By John Forester | January 20, 2022

From WisPolitics.com …Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has taken away the lone staff member assigned to Rep. Tim Ramthun, telling WisPolitics.com today the move was made after his fellow Republican told “bold-faced lies” about his GOP colleagues.Ramthun, R-Campbellsport, has introduced a series of measures in recent weeks seeking to revoke Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes cast for Joe Biden even though Leg Council has said it’s not possible.In a recent communication, he accused Vos, R-Rochester, and former Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, of approving drop boxes for the 2020 election. Vos said Ramthun has also falsely accused Republicans of signing a deal with Hillary Clinton’s lawyers to authorize them.He called it “not just a downright lie. It’s preposterous.”Ramthun’s lone staffer is being reassigned to Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna.

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DPI Submits Modified ESSER III Plan to JFC

By John Forester | January 20, 2022

From WisPolitics.com …DPI wants to use a smaller pot of federal COVID-19 funds to reward districts that provided in-person instruction during the pandemic.This comes after the U.S. Department of Education rejected an earlier proposal from GOP lawmakers to use more of the money for the effort.The new DPI plan would use some of the money that Republicans wanted to distribute based on in-person instruction to instead create new grant programs plus another initiative to distribute the funds. The plan was submitted to the GOP-run Joint Finance Committee yesterday.The proposal now faces the 14-day passive review process with JFC. If no member objects, the plan would take effect. If someone does, the committee would then meet to vote on a proposal.The offices of the co-chairs said late yesterday they didn’t have a comment on the Department of Public Instruction proposal.The disputed pot of money totals $114.6 million. JFC in May approved a motion to use those funds to reward districts that provided in-person instruction for at least 50 percent of the 2020-21 school year.But the federal government objected to pulling $77 million for that effort from a pot of money that was earmarked for addressing learning loss. Those funds were required to target students disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.Under the new DPI proposal:*$37.6 million would still go toward districts that provided in-person instruction. That money is from an unrestricted pot of discretionary funds, and it would benefit 151 districts.*of the just more than $77 million that was earmarked for learning loss, $10 million would be set aside for two new grant programs. One would be a $5 million competitive grant program for districts and community-based organizations for services outside of school. The other $5 million would target high school students who have been chronically absent during the pandemic.*the remaining $67 million would be used to ensure that all districts receive a minimum per pupil amount and per pupil grant.See the DPI proposal here.

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Vos Urges Nicholson to Forego Guv Race

By John Forester | January 20, 2022

From WisPolitics.com …Assembly Speaker Robin Vos today said conservative Kevin Nicholson should not enter the GOP race for guv and instead focus his efforts on 2024.During a WisPolitics.com luncheon at the Madison Club, the Rochester Republican said Nicholson would be better off saving his war chest for the next cycle instead of wasting money attempting to beat former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in a primary. Vos also said he isn’t officially endorsing Kleefisch, but added “she certainly in my mind is the best candidate.”“If Kevin Nicholson is listening: You need to not run for governor,” he said. “You need to be able to focus on something like 2024.”Nicholson, president and CEO of the conservative No Better Friend Corporation, tweeted back at Vos:“Thanks, @repvos, for the political advice. Our elections are a mess, law & order is eroding, schools are failing. How about you focus on doing your job?”Vos said 2024 will be a good year for Republicans to win office because the GOP will have a strong presidential candidate on the ticket, whether that’s Donald Trump or someone else. After President Biden’s first term in office, Americans will be more inclined to vote red because they will likely see those years as a Dem Party failure, he said.Vos also referenced Nicholson’s loss in the 2018 GOP U.S. Senate primary.“So if I’m Kevin Nicholson and I’ve already had one loss, why would you now run against Rebecca Kleefisch, who’s got such a far advantage?”With Kleefisch’s strong fundraising so far and her dominance in early polls, Vos said Nicholson would have to spend all his campaign cash trying to beat her.“That doesn’t help any Republicans get elected; that just hurts us,” he said.Nicholson needs to look around and consider what’s best for the larger GOP rather than for himself if he truly cares about the conservative movement, which might mean stepping aside until 2024, Vos added.Vos also said he believes U.S. Sen Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, will win his bid for a third term this year and suggested Republicans could take both Senate seats when U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, is up for reelection in 2024.See Nicholson’s tweet here.

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Executive Action by Assembly Committee on Education

By John Forester | January 20, 2022

From Wheeler . . .

The Assembly Committee on Education took the following action on education-related bills on Tuesday, January 18th (SAA positions added in bold):

SB-589 Reading Test License (Darling, Alberta) The Foundations of Reading test licensure requirement. Passage recommended, 12-0.  SAA support.

AB-611 Reading Test License (Mursau, Jeff) The Foundations of Reading test licensure requirement. Passage recommended, 12-0.  SAA support.

AB-617 Kindergarten (Rodriguez, Jessie) Early admission to kindergarten and first grade at a private school participating in a parental choice program. Passage recommended, 8-4.  SAA no position.

AB-721 Charter Schools (Steffen, David) The number of independent charter schools authorized by the College of Menominee Nation or the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College. Am. 1 (LRB-1146) no action taken, .   Passage recommended, 8-4.  SAA oppose.

AB-830 Law Enforcement Curriculum (Murphy, Dave) Model curriculum for pupils in grades 5 to 12 on interacting with law enforcement and granting rule-making authority. Am. 1 withdrawn, .   Am. 2 adopted, 12-0.   Passage as amended recommended, 9-4.  SAA oppose.

AB-843 Firearm Education (Pronschinske, Treig) Comprehensive firearm education for high school pupils. Passage recommended, 9-4.  SAA oppose.

If you should have any questions regarding the SAA position on any of these bill, please contact the SAA.

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Steineke Won’t Seek Reelection

By John Forester | January 18, 2022

From WisPolitics.com …Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, announced today he won’t seek reelection this fall.Steineke, first elected to the Assembly in 2010, has served as majority leader since 2015. He was the assistant majority leader in the 2013-14 session.In a statement, he called serving in the Assembly one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of his life.“However, I firmly believe the time has come to pass the torch and allow for others in our community to step forward and serve their neighbors,” Steineke said.Steineke, 51, is the eighth member of the Assembly to announce they will retire or run for another office. Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem, is running for Kenosha County exec in the spring and would have to resign if she won the seat.See the release here.

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GOP Lawmakers Take Second Run at Reading Assessment Bill

By John Forester | January 11, 2022

From WisPolitics.com …

Two GOP lawmakers signaled today they will take a second run at legislation that sought to overhaul how elementary schools work with students struggling to read.Gov. Tony Evers in November vetoed SB 454, which would’ve tripled the number of literacy tests young students take. It also would require educators to create a reading plan for students identified as at-risk, and Evers wrote in his veto message he objected to the bill because it lacked funding to cover the costs.Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, and Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, wrote to Evers today they are adding an amendment to the Assembly version of the bill. It would direct the guv to use at least $5 million in federal ARPA funds for grants to schools for teacher professional development and implementing the costs of the proposed assessments and interventions.While Evers vetoed the Senate bill, the Assembly version remains alive.Bernier and Kitchens wrote in their letter the state already reimburses the costs schools incur for screeners. They pointed to the $15.3 billion the state budget currently invests in K-12 education, the $2.7 billion in federal COVID-19 funds schools are set to receive and the $110 million in ARPA funds he has directed to schools. They pointed to the remaining ARPA funds if Evers believes more money is needed.Evers has nixed a series of GOP bills that have tried to dictate how he spends ARPA funds. Under federal law, he has sole discretion on how those funds are spent.“It’s not a question of if, but when Wisconsin will adopt these science-based reforms. Governor Evers, if you don’t sign this bill into law, someone else will,” the Republicans wrote..See the amendment here.

See the release here.

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Johnson Formally Announces Reelection Bid

By John Forester | January 9, 2022

From WisPolitics.com …GOP U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country, today formally announced he would seek reelection to “continue to fight for freedom in the public realm.”Johnson, R-Oshkosh, vowed before his 2016 reelection that he wouldn’t seek a third term. But he hedged on that promise after Dems won full control of Washington, D.C., in the 2020 elections.Johnson said in a statement this morning he promised during his first campaign in 2010 that he would “always tell people the truth and that I would never vote with reelection in mind,” adding those have been “easy promises to keep.”Johnson has become a lightning rod for criticism in recent years, particularly over his comments on COVID-19, and hinted at that in his reelection announcement.“It is not a decision I have made lightly,” Johnson said. “Having already experienced a growing level of vitriol and false attacks, I certainly don’t expect better treatment in the future.”See the release here.

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