SAA Opposes GOP Bond Referendum Bill

By John Forester | October 7, 2021

The SAA testified in opposition to Assembly Bill 475, relating to requiring including estimated interest and interest rate in a referendum question for issuing bonds, at a public hearing yesterday before the Assembly Committee on Government Accountability and Oversight. If you should have any questions or comments about the SAA’s position on the bill, please contact the SAA.  Many thanks to Allison Buchanan, Public Finance Partner at Quarles & Brady, for preparing a fabulous memo for the SAA summarizing her concerns about AB 475 from a bond counsel perspective.  Check out the SAA testimony and Attorney Buchanan’s memo linked below.

SAA Testimony

Buchanan Memo

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SAA Opposes Reading Bill in Senate Committee

By John Forester | October 7, 2021

The SAA testified in opposition to Senate Bill 454, relating to reading readiness assessments, at a public hearing yesterday before the Senate Committee on Education. See the SAA testimony linked below.  If you should have any questions or comments about the SAA’s position on the bill, please contact the SAA.

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GOP Plans to Take Up Redistricting By Mid-November

By John Forester | October 7, 2021

From WisPolitics.com …

GOP lawmakers plan to take up a redistricting plan before the end of the November floor period, according to their attorney.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, in recent interviews with WisPolitics.com declined to commit to passing new lines for legislative and congressional districts before the fall floor period closes Nov. 11. LeMahieu said last week GOP leaders didn’t “necessarily have an artificial timeline right now.”

But in a filing with the state Supreme Court yesterday, their attorney Kevin St. John informed the justices lawmakers are “committed to acting on redistricting legislation with all deliberate speed.” He noted legislative leaders have set an Oct. 15 deadline for public input on new maps and the next available floor period to vote on a plan ends Nov. 11.

“Legislative leadership intends to take up a redistricting plan before the end of that floor period, depending on the public input it receives,” St. John wrote.

The disclosure was part of a series of filings from parties in the redistricting case now before the justices, who are seeking input on when new maps need to be in place.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission has said in separate federal proceedings it needs maps finalized by March 1 so it can implement them in time for candidates to begin circulating nomination papers April 15.

St. John wrote in his letter to the court that GOP lawmakers believe the deadline to have new lines in place is the end of April. He also asked the justices to issue an order declaring when they believe new maps need to be in place to adequately prepare for the 2022 elections, adding that would send a message to the federal courts that Wisconsin’s branches of government plan to fulfill their duty to create new maps.

Meanwhile, the state Elections Commission again stated it believes the lines must be in place by March 1.

If it doesn’t have 45 days to prepare for nomination papers to begin circulating April 15, “there is a significant risk that there will be errors in the statewide system and, in turn, less time for the Commission to correct those errors before circulation of nomination papers begins,” the commission’s attorney wrote.

The question before the justices on when new maps should be in place come as a federal three-judge panel is weighing the same issue. The panel yesterday stayed discovery in a federal redistricting suit until at least Nov. 5 to avoid interfering in the Wisconsin Supreme Court case. It ordered the parties to provide an update on the state suit by that date and reserved five days starting Jan. 31 for a trial, if necessary.

Some of the parties in that federal suit are seeking to intervene in the Wisconsin Supreme Court case and weighed in on possible deadlines as well.

The state’s five GOP House members, for example, said maps may be needed by Feb. 28 to avoid the federal court intervening in the dispute over new lines.

A group of Dem voters who filed one of the federal suits want a new redistricting plan in place by Jan. 24 to avoid interference with the possible start of a federal trial.

See the letter from GOP lawmakers here.

See the Elections Commission letter here.

See the House GOP letter here.

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Reading Assessment Bill to Receive Hearing

By John Forester | October 4, 2021

The Senate Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on Senate Bill 454 (see below) at 10:30am on Wednesday, October 6th in Room 411 South, State Capitol.

SB-454 Reading Readiness (Bernier, Kathy) Reading readiness assessments and granting rule-making authority.

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Proposed Restrictions on What Can (and Cannot) Be Taught

By John Forester | October 4, 2021

I urge all SAA members to read the complete testimony of Representative Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego) on Assembly Bill 411, the so-called Critical Race Theory Bill.  Representative Wichgers is the Assembly author of the bill.  I forward his testimony simply to give SAA members a little taste of the current political environment inside the Capitol.  I recommend that SAA members pay particular attention to the addendum to Representative Wichgers testimony in which he lists about 80 terms that, in his estimation, educators could no longer discuss in class if AB 411 were to become law.  Check it out.

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GOP Retains Smaller Partisan Edge Under Evers’ Commission Maps

By John Forester | October 1, 2021

From WisPolitics.com …

Republicans would still have an advantage under drafts of Assembly and Senate district lines created for Gov. Tony Evers’ People’s Maps Commission, according to a WisPolitics.com review of the proposals.

But the partisan edge for Republicans wouldn’t be as big as it is under the current maps. Evers, for example, would’ve won more Assembly and Senate seats under all of the drafts released yesterday than he did in 2018 as he beat then-Gov. Scott Walker by 1.1 percentage points statewide.

Tufts University Math Professor Moon Duchin, who did a presentation on the drafts for the commission, said all of the proposed maps give some lean toward Republicans. That’s because Republicans have a geographic advantage with GOP voters more spread out across the state compared to Dems, who are more concentrated in metropolitan areas.

Duchin runs the MGGG Redistricting Lab at Tufts’ Tisch College.

“All of these maps have a little bit more of a lean towards Republicans,” she said. “And this is due to the well known fact that if you draw districts against the real political geography of most any American state, districts tend to confer a geographic advantage to Republicans, who at this time in U.S. history are a bit more spread out across rural areas while Democrats are a bit more concentrated.”

The People’s Map Commission late yesterday released three drafts each for the Assembly, Senate and House seats. The commission will now gather public comment on the options before settling on a final map that will be submitted to the state Legislature.

Under the three draft Assembly maps, Walker would’ve won at least 55, 56 and 58 of the 99 Assembly seats if the lines had been in place during the 2018 election.

A WisPolitics.com review of the 2018 guv results shows Walker won 63 Assembly districts under the current maps.

For the draft Senate maps, Walker would’ve won a majority of the two-way vote in 17, 19 and 20 seats, according to numbers released yesterday. He won 21 Senate districts in 2018, according to the WisPolitics.com review.

Dems have long decried the maps Republicans drew in 2011 as a partisan gerrymander, noting Republicans won a disproportionate share of legislative seats compared to their performance in statewide contests. When Evers announced the People’s Maps Commission, he said it would be charged with drawing “fair, impartial maps.”

The drafts underscore the challenge of drawing a true 50-50 map in either chamber of the Legislature because of the concentration of Dem voters in urban areas, particularly Madison and Milwaukee.

The commission’s drafts for the state’s congressional seats included one version in which Evers and Walker each would’ve won four of the House seats. Under the current lines, Walker won five of the eight seats.

The 4-4 map included one seat that Evers would’ve won with less than 51 percent of the vote.

Some of the biggest changes on that map to the current lines included:

*putting all of Rock, Walworth, Kenosha and Racine counties in the 1st CD while pulling in southern Milwaukee suburbs such as Oak Creek and Cudahy. The district, represented by Republican Bryan Steil, now splits Rock County with the 2nd CD while grabbing the southern half of heavily Republican Waukesha County.

*putting Dane County, Jefferson and Dodge counties into the 2nd CD. The district now includes heavily Dem Dane with the areas south and west of the state’s second-largest county.

*putting Columbia, Sauk, Iowa, Lafayette and Green counties in western Wisconsin’s 3rd CD while shedding communities such as Stevens Point in Portage County and portions of Adams, Wood and Juneau counties. The district now includes the counties that run along the Mississippi River and then have a portion that runs through the central part of the state to Portage County.

*the 6th CD, now a strongly Republican seat, would become a swing district. Had those lines been in place in 2018, Walker would’ve won 50.3 percent of the two-party vote there. It would include Fox Valley communities such as Fond du Osh Kosh and Appleton and then move west to pick up Stevens Point and Wisconsin Rapids.

Under that draft, the heavily Dem 4th CD would remain largely the city of Milwaukee, while the 8th would include the area along Lake Michigan that’s now part of the 6th CD while retaining Green Bay. The 7th CD would continue to be much of northern Wisconsin.

In one of the 5-3 GOP maps, Walker would’ve won two seats with less than 51 percent of the two-party vote.

See the release here.

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SAA Supports Tobacco 21 Bill at Assembly Hearing

By John Forester | September 30, 2021

The SAA submitted testimony in support of Assembly Bill 348, the so-called Tobacco 21 bill, at a public hearing today before the Assembly Committee on Substance Abuse and Prevention.

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Assembly, Senate Floor Action on Education Bills

By John Forester | September 29, 2021

In floor action yesterday, the GOP-controlled Senate and Assembly acted on a host of education-related bills in their respective houses.  The Senate action included passage of  a bill imposing a far-reaching requirement for school boards to make available to the public information on instructional materials and educational activities used in instruction.

On the Assembly side, members passed several education-related bills that would impose new instructional and information-posting requirements, as well as new restrictions on what can and cannot be taught in public schools.

A recap of Assembly and Senate floor action on these bills appears below, utilizing the informational resources of The Wheeler Report.  It remains to be seen how many of these bills will clear both houses and land on Governor Evers’ desk for his consideration.  Please contact the SAA with any questions you may have on these bills.

Senate

SB-358 CESA Employees (Felzkowski, Mary) Exempting cooperative educational service agency employees from wage payment frequency requirements. Passed, (Voice Vote).  Messaged. SAA no position. 

SB-373 School Finance (Felzkowski, Mary) Making school district and school financial information available to the public. Am. 1 adopted, (Voice Vote).  Am.2 adopted, (Voice Vote).  Am.4 rejected, 19-12.  Passed, 20-11.  Messaged.  SAA support. 

SB-449 School Grants (Wanggaard, Van) Grants to schools to provide critical incident mapping data to law enforcement agencies. Passed, 31-0.  Messaged.  SAA support. 

SB-463 School Boards (Stroebel, Duey) Requiring school boards to make information about learning materials and educational activities used for pupil instruction available to the public. Am. 2 adopted, 18-12.  Passed, 19-11.  Messaged.  SAA oppose. 

Assembly

AB-411 Employee Training (Wichgers, Chuck) Anti-racism and anti-sexism pupil instruction and anti-racism and anti-sexism training for employees of school districts and independent charter schools. Am. 1 adopted, (Voice Vote).  Passed, 60-38.  Messaged. SAA oppose. 

AB-435 Cursive Writing (Thiesfeldt, Jeremy) Incorporating cursive writing into the state model English language arts standards and requiring cursive writing in elementary grades. Passed, 59-39.  Messaged.  SAA oppose. 

AB-561 School Board Reporting (Duchow, Cindi) Requiring school boards to report information regarding credit recovery courses. Am. 1 adopted, (Voice Vote).  Am. 1 to Am. 2 adopted, (Voice Vote).  Am. 2 adopted, (Voice Vote).  Am. 3 adopted, (Voice Vote).  Passed, 60-38.  Messaged.  SAA oppose.  

AB-563 Civic Education (Vos, Robin) Required instruction in civic education in the elementary and high school grades; high school graduation requirements; and requiring the exercise of rule-making authority. Am. 3 adopted, (Voice Vote).  Am. 5 adopted, (Voice Vote).  Am. 6 tabled, 60-38.  Passed, 61-37.  Messaged.  SAA oppose. 

AB-564 Covid Funds (Plumer, Jon) Reports concerning state agency expenditure of federal coronavirus relief funds and allocating federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 funding for grants to school districts, independent charter schools, and private schools for mental health programs. Sub. 2 tabled, 60-38.  Passed, 60-38.  Messaged.  SAA no position.

SB-373 School Finance (Felzkowski, Mary) Making school district and school financial information available to the public. Passed, (Voice Vote).  Messaged. SAA support. 

SB-463 School Boards (Stroebel, Duey) Requiring school boards to make information about learning materials and educational activities used for pupil instruction available to the public. Passed, 60-38.  Messaged.  SAA oppose.  

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Senate, Assembly to Take Up Education Bills Today

By John Forester | September 28, 2021

From WisPolitics.com …

— The Assembly and Senate, hitting the floor today for the first time during the fall floor period, will take up legislation to require school districts to post more information about what they teach.

AB 488/SB 463 would require school districts to post on their websites learning materials organized by subject area, grade level and teacher. Districts wouldn’t have to post teachers’ lesson plans under an amendment to the bill, though the materials covered would include syllabi, outlines and handouts.

Meanwhile, AB 378/SB 373 would require the Department of Public Instruction to create an online portal that displays financial information from all school districts starting in the 2023-24 school year. Under the bill, an 11-member committee would advise DPI in developing the portal.

— The Assembly has several other education bills on its calendar, including one that GOP backers say would ban teaching critical race theory in K-12 classrooms.

Along with AB 411, the chamber plans to take up AB 414, which would bar anti-racism and sexism training for state and local government employees.

Other education bills on the calendar include:

*AB 435, which would require the state superintendent to incorporate cursive writing into model academic standards for English language arts;
*AB 563, which would require DPI to develop model civics curriculum that includes topics such as an understanding of the founding principles of the U.S., “a sense of civic pride,” and understanding of effectively advocating before governmental bodies and officials.
*AB 564, which would direct Gov. Tony Evers to direct $100 million in ARPA funds to school mental health programs.

See the calendar:
https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/210923Final.pdf

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LFB Releases Estimated School Aids

By John Forester | September 27, 2021

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau released the 2020-21 Estimated State Support for School Districts.

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