Legislative Council Memo on Recent Wisconsin Supreme Court Case

By John Forester | April 6, 2021

From The Wheeler Report…

The Legislative Council has written an IssueBrief on the Fabick v. Evers case which was decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court last week. The case centers on the Governor’s ability to call multiple emergency orders based on the same conditions.

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Testifying at Joint Finance Committee Hearings

By John Forester | April 6, 2021

As you know, beginning this Friday, April 9th, the Joint Finance Committee plans to hold 4 public hearings (three in-person and one virtual) on the Governor’s 2021-23 State Budget.  Those hearings include:

Friday, April 9, 2021 (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)*
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Irvin L. Young Auditorium
930 West Main Street
Whitewater, WI 53190

Public Parking Available in LOT #1
105 North Prince Street
Whitewater, WI 53190

Prior to visiting UW-Whitewater, attendees are encouraged to review the Warhawks Return website for COVID-19  guidelines https://www.uww.edu/warhawks-return

Wednesday, April 21, 2021 (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)*
The Hodag Dome
School District of Rhinelander
665 Coolidge Avenue
Rhinelander, WI 54501

Thursday, April 22, 2021 (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)*
University of Wisconsin-Stout
Great Hall, Memorial Student Center
302 10th Avenue East
Menomonie, WI 54751

Public Parking Available in LOT #29
400 13th Avenue East
Menomonie, WI 54751

For more information on UW-Stout’s COVID-19 policies and guide to visiting campus, please visit https://www.uwstout.edu/community-visitors-0.

Hearing attendees must follow the COVID-19 safety protocols at each host facility, including wearing masks and maintaining social distance. Available seating may be limited due to social distancing guidelines. The process and arrangements for the virtual public hearing, to be held April 28th, are still being ironed out by Capitol staff.  We will forward that information when it is available.

All public hearings will be streamed by WisconsinEye and can be viewed at WisEye.org/live.

*The Committee will conclude taking testimony at the time specified.  Written comments can be emailed to the Committee at:

Budget.Comments@legis.wisconsin.gov

http://www.legis.wisconsin.gov/topics/budgetcomments

or sent via U.S. mail to Joe Malkasian, Room 305 East, State Capitol, Madison, WI  53702.

We have been told by Capitol sources that it is extremely important for administrators, board members and parents to show up at these hearings to advocate strongly on behalf of the children we serve.  Those SAA members interested in testifying at one of these four hearings should let me know so I can help to coordinate the arrangements for your testimony.

For those of you planning to testify at one of the in-person hearings, here are my suggestions:

SAA Budget Alert
SAA Legislative Agenda

Once again, we need a strong showing at the JFC budget hearings.  If you have questions about testifying please call me at 608-242-1370.

Thank you.

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State Budget Alert: Joint Finance Committee

By John Forester | April 6, 2021

The SAA is reissuing this State Budget Alert, originally posted last Monday, March 29, as many SAA members were on spring break.  It is extremely important that Joint Finance Committee members receive communications from all Wisconsin school districts.

With the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s (LFB) summary of Governor Evers’ State Budget proposal having been released, the 2021-23 State Budget process has begun to pick up speed.  The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) will conduct state agency briefings April 6th and 7th and hold a total of four public hearings (three in-person and one virtual) on the budget bill beginning on April 9th and concluding on April 28th.  We will follow up with a separate post on coordinating SAA member testimony at the JFC budget hearings.

I would like to thank all those SAA members that have already begun conversations with their legislators regarding the Governor’s budget recommendations.  For those that have yet to communicate with their legislators, it’s time to do so.  To be successful on this state budget, SAA members in every school district must contact their legislators repeatedly throughout the long budget process.

I suggest that each district leadership team, behind the leadership of the superintendent and business manager, develop your district message and craft your plan for influencing your parents, your staff, your community, your media and your lawmakers — and then coordinate the delivery of that message.  This budget is vitally important for your school district and the children you serve.   It is critically important for you to reach out to your legislators and your community.

In your communications, please cover the following:

  1. Consider inviting your legislators to your school(s).  Use the opportunity to show them some of the great educational opportunities afforded to the children in your district.  Show them what learning looks like today in your district.
  2. Discuss your district’s 2020-21 spending on COVID safety, technology, additional staffing, etc., and how you used your initial federal aid for these purposes.  Also, share your plans for using additional one-time federal aid on your district’s student recovery efforts.  Finally, make sure to explain that one-time federal aid is designed for COVID relief and recovery.  Resources to support continuing educational opportunities for your students must come from the state budget process.  Keep in mind that some legislators have openly expressed the opinion that, because of this one-time federal aid, public schools in Wisconsin don’t need ongoing support in the 2021-23 state budget.
  3. Express your strong support for the Governor’s proposal to increase the level of special education aid to reimburse 50 percent of aidable costs by the end of the 2021-23 biennium.  First and foremost, this proposal will help us meet the ongoing needs of our most vulnerable students.  Also, Wisconsin school districts collectively transfer about $1.15 billion annually from district general funds to cover the funding gap between required special education costs and current state funding.  Explain your district’s “general fund to special education fund” annual transfer and how significant increases in special education aid can help meet the needs of all students in your district.
  4. Express your strong support for at least a $200 per pupil general revenue increase in each year of the biennium.  Explain the importance of these increases in per pupil revenues in both fiscal and human terms.  In particular, emphasize the impact on educational opportunities for the kids you serve.
  5. Express your strong support for comprehensive pupil count mitigation including: 1) Allowing districts to use the greater of the 2019-20 or 2020-21 pupil count for revenue limit calculations; 2) Increasing special adjustment aid from 85 percent to 90 percent of prior year general aid in each year of the biennium; and 3) Treating the non-recurring declining enrollment exemption and base revenue hold harmless as recurring adjustments for one year only.  Be sure to explain your district’s projected fiscal impact of the pupil count decline and what that could mean for educational opportunities for the kids you serve.
  6. Express your strong support for the Governor’s $46.5 million proposed expansion of the School Mental Health Categorical Aid program to provide financial support for services provided by school psychologists, nurses, counselors and social workers.
  7. Express your strong support for setting the low revenue ceiling (LRC) at 90 percent of the statewide average maximum revenue limit per student.  The current LRC amount of $10,000 is 87.3 percent of the current state average revenue limit of $11,450. A steadily improving LRC policy is an important part of ensuring equitable resources for all children no matter where they live.
  8. Express your strong support for the Governor’s $204 million proposal to expand access to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet and attack the “homework gap”.  While the bulk of this proposal is directed at much-needed broadband expansion, it would also allocate $20 million annually to fund broadband subscriptions for low-income families.
  9. Tell your district’s story.  Your legislators need to hear it.
  10. Encourage your legislators to stand up for the children you serve.
  11. Thank them for listening and for serving the citizens of Wisconsin.

Please forward your communications using the information discussed above (and the SAA Legislative Agenda) to the members of the Joint Finance Committee and your legislators as soon as possible.  Many SAA members prefer sending letters or emails to their legislators.  Some members have found that their legislators prefer phone conversations.  Several members have said they plan to produce a video to advocate for the needs of their students. All these methods work great.  All I ask is that you copy your written or video communications to the SAA so we can post them as examples for your colleagues.

I know many of you have already discussed these issues with your legislators, and I thank you.  I also ask that you contact them again.  For your convenience, I have provided links to the Senate Directory, the Assembly Directory and Who Are My Legislators.

Make no mistake about it.  We have to fight hard for funding increases for public school children.  Many legislators are pushing back against the governor’s proposed increases to K-12 education.  In particular, some legislators point to the one-time federal aid received by schools and contend that schools don’t need additional financial support in the state budget.

So, let’s stand up and fight for the needs of Wisconsin school children.

Thanks for your attention, and for all your efforts on behalf of the children you serve.

Topics: Legislative Action, SAA Capitol Reports, SAA Capitol Reports with Email Notifications, SAA Latest Update | No Comments »

Wisconsin Supreme Court Decision Invalidates Governor’s Public Health Emergency But Not School District Mask Requirements

By John Forester | April 1, 2021

From the Legal Side…

In its most recent Legal Update, the Strang Patteson Law Firm focuses on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court’s March 31 decision invalidating the Governor’s public health emergency as well as the implications of that ruling for local school districts.

The SAA regularly receives these legal updates and we believe this is valuable information for SAA members.  We are distributing this update to SAA members with the permission of the Strang Patteson Law Firm.  The information in this update is no substitute for consulting with your district legal counsel, and we encourage you to do so.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court Rules Evers Exceeded Authority

By John Forester | March 31, 2021

From WisPolitics.com …

The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-3 today that Gov. Tony Evers exceeded his authority in issuing multiple public health emergencies over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Justice Brian Hagedorn, in the majority opinion, wrote that state law on public health emergencies “must be read to forbid the governor from proclaiming repeated states of emergency for the same enabling condition absent legislative approval.”

Hagedorn added the guv’s power “to act unilaterally on an emergency basis is limited by both a 60-day limit and by the legislature’s power to terminate the emergency declaration.”

Hagedorn was joined by fellow conservatives Rebecca Bradley, Pat Roggensack and Annette Ziegler in his decision.

State law gives governors the power to declare a public health emergency that lasts for up to 60 days unless the Legislature approves an extension. Evers issued his first public health declaration March 12, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the state. He subsequently issued a stay-at-home order. Once that was about to expire, his Department of Health Services secretary issued a second directive that the state Supreme Court later overturned, ruling she had exceeded her authority under state law.

Evers then issued a new public health emergency on July 30 that served as the foundation for his first statewide mask mandate. He has followed that up with additional emergency declarations and mask mandates. That includes one issued in February immediately after the Legislature voted to overturn one of the declarations.

Hagedorn wrote in today’s decision Evers exceeded his authority in doing so and declared the action unlawful.

Read the decision here.

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JFC Hearings: Who Plans to Testify?

By John Forester | March 29, 2021

As you know, beginning on Friday, April 9, the Joint Finance Committee plans to hold 4 public hearings on the Governor’s 2021-23 State Budget.  The first three hearings listed are in-person hearings.  The final one will be a virtual hearing.  We will forward additional information about these hearings as it becomes available.

We have been told by Capitol sources that it is extremely important for administrators, board members and parents to show up at these hearings to advocate strongly on behalf of the children we serve.  Those SAA members interested in testifying at one of these four hearings should let me know so I can help to coordinate the arrangements for your testimony.

We need a strong showing at the JFC budget hearings.  If you have questions about testifying please call me at 608-242-1370.

Thank you.

Topics: SAA Capitol Reports, SAA Capitol Reports with Email Notifications, SAA Latest Update | No Comments »

State Budget Alert: Joint Finance Committee

By John Forester | March 29, 2021

With the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s (LFB) summary of Governor Evers’ State Budget proposal having been released, the 2021-23 State Budget process has begun to pick up speed.  At this point, we believe the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) will conduct state agency briefings April 6th and 7th and hold a total of four public hearings (three in-person and one virtual) on the budget bill beginning on April 9th and concluding on April 28th (see March 10 post).  We will follow up with a separate post on coordinating SAA member testimony at the JFC budget hearings.

I would like to thank all those SAA members that have already begun conversations with their legislators regarding the Governor’s budget recommendations.  For those that have yet to communicate with their legislators, it’s time to do so.  To be successful on this state budget, SAA members in every school district must contact their legislators repeatedly throughout the long budget process.

I suggest that each district leadership team, behind the leadership of the superintendent and business manager, develop your district message and craft your plan for influencing your parents, your staff, your community, your media and your lawmakers — and then coordinate the delivery of that message.  This budget is vitally important for your school district and the children you serve.   It is critically important for you to reach out to your legislators and your community.

In your communications, please cover the following:

  1. Consider inviting your legislators to your school(s).  Use the opportunity to show them some of the great educational opportunities afforded to the children in your district.  Show them what learning looks like today in your district.
  2. Discuss your district’s 2020-21 spending on COVID safety, technology, additional staffing, etc., and how you used your initial federal aid for these purposes.  Also, share your plans for using additional one-time federal aid on your district’s student recovery efforts.  Finally, make sure to explain that one-time federal aid is designed for COVID relief and recovery.  Resources to support continuing educational opportunities for your students must come from the state budget process.  Keep in mind that some legislators have openly expressed the opinion that, because of this one-time federal aid, public schools in Wisconsin don’t need ongoing support in the 2021-23 state budget.
  3. Express your strong support for the Governor’s proposal to increase the level of special education aid to reimburse 50 percent of aidable costs by the end of the 2021-23 biennium.  First and foremost, this proposal will help us meet the ongoing needs of our most vulnerable students.  Also, Wisconsin school districts collectively transfer about $1.15 billion annually from district general funds to cover the funding gap between required special education costs and current state funding.  Explain your district’s “general fund to special education fund” annual transfer and how significant increases in special education aid can help meet the needs of all students in your district.
  4. Express your strong support for at least a $200 per pupil general revenue increase in each year of the biennium.  Explain the importance of these increases in per pupil revenues in both fiscal and human terms.  In particular, emphasize the impact on educational opportunities for the kids you serve.
  5. Express your strong support for comprehensive pupil count mitigation including: 1) Allowing districts to use the greater of the 2019-20 or 2020-21 pupil count for revenue limit calculations; 2) Increasing special adjustment aid from 85 percent to 90 percent of prior year general aid in each year of the biennium; and 3) Treating the non-recurring declining enrollment exemption and base revenue hold harmless as recurring adjustments for one year only.  Be sure to explain your district’s projected fiscal impact of the pupil count decline and what that could mean for educational opportunities for the kids you serve.
  6. Express your strong support for the Governor’s $46.5 million proposed expansion of the School Mental Health Categorical Aid program to provide financial support for services provided by school psychologists, nurses, counselors and social workers.
  7. Express your strong support for setting the low revenue ceiling (LRC) at 90 percent of the statewide average maximum revenue limit per student.  The current LRC amount of $10,000 is 87.3 percent of the current state average revenue limit of $11,450. A steadily improving LRC policy is an important part of ensuring equitable resources for all children no matter where they live.
  8. Express your strong support for the Governor’s $204 million proposal to expand access to affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet and attack the “homework gap”.  While the bulk of this proposal is directed at much-needed broadband expansion, it would also allocate $20 million annually to fund broadband subscriptions for low-income families.
  9. Tell your district’s story.  Your legislators need to hear it.
  10. Encourage your legislators to stand up for the children you serve.
  11. Thank them for listening and for serving the citizens of Wisconsin.

Please forward your communications using the information discussed above (and the SAA Legislative Agenda) to the members of the Joint Finance Committee and your legislators as soon as possible.  Many SAA members prefer sending letters or emails to their legislators.  Some members have found that their legislators prefer phone conversations.  Several members have said they plan to produce a video to advocate for the needs of their students. All these methods work great.  All I ask is that you copy your written or video communications to the SAA so we can post them as examples for your colleagues.

I know many of you have already discussed these issues with your legislators, and I thank you.  I also ask that you contact them again.  For your convenience, I have provided links to the Senate Directory, the Assembly Directory and Who Are My Legislators.

Make no mistake about it.  We have to fight hard for funding increases for public school children.  Many legislators are pushing back against the governor’s proposed increases to K-12 education.  In particular, some legislators point to the one-time federal aid received by schools and contend that schools don’t need additional financial support in the state budget.

So, let’s stand up and fight for the needs of Wisconsin school children.

Thanks for your attention, and for all your efforts on behalf of the children you serve.

Topics: Legislative Action, SAA Capitol Reports, SAA Capitol Reports with Email Notifications, SAA Latest Update | No Comments »

Governor Signs OE Bills, Vetoes SB 39

By John Forester | March 29, 2021

On Friday, March 26th, Governor Evers took action on three education-related bills detailed below.  He signed two bills related to open enrollment, Senate Bills 109 and 110.  The SAA took no position on these bills.  The SAA rarely takes positions on open enrollment bills because they tend to affect districts differently.  Governor Evers also vetoed Senate Bill 39.  The SAA opposed SB 39.  The Governor’s veto message is linked below.

SB-109 Open Enrollment (Ballweg, Joan) Full-time open enrollment to attend a fully virtual program offered by a nonresident school district during the 2021-22 school year. Signed (Act 18)

SB-110 Open Enrollment (Ballweg, Joan) Applications for full-time open enrollment. Signed (Act 19)

SB-039 Extracurricular Activities (Stroebel, Duey) Participation in interscholastic athletics and extracurricular activities and school district membership in an interscholastic athletic association in the 2021-22 school year. Vetoed (Link)

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DPI: ESSER II In-Person Hours Data Collection

By John Forester | March 29, 2021

From the Department of Public Instruction . . .

Friday, March 26, 2021

On February 10, the Joint Finance Committee adopted Motion #16 to approve the Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI’s) allocation plan for ESSER II funds under the CRRSA Act with one modification. Under that modification, $65,537,642 is allocated among 174 local education agencies (LEAs) that would otherwise receive less than $395 per pupil under the Title I-A formula and $100,000 LEA minimum, in proportion to each LEA’s share of the total number of in-person instructional hours provided in the 2020-21 school year.

DPI requested clarifications from the Joint Finance co-chairs on the definition of in-person instruction and how data would be collected. Based on those clarifications, we have developed a plan for this data collection under a method similar to the PI-1804 Summer School Report. Eligible LEAs will be provided a workbook to compile their hours of in-person instruction by class, using an average daily in-person attendance. Each LEA will compile and report a single total number of in-person hours to DPI. A list of the affected LEAs is available in the Excel workbook on ESSER II allocations.

For this collection, in-person instructional hours are defined as hours in which pupils are together in the same physical location, being taught by a licensed teacher who is in the same location. Hours of virtual or other remote instruction may not be counted under any circumstance, including but not limited to:

The SFS Team is developing an Excel workbook, FAQ, and other guidance on this data collection. More information, including a timeframe for the data collection itself, will be released as soon as it is available.

For questions about this information, contact Daniel Bush (608) 266-6968, Roger Kordus (608) 267-3752

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Study: Wisconsin Schools Could Save With ETF-Style Health Plan

By John Forester | March 25, 2021

From WisPolitics…

Wisconsin’s school districts could save up to $5,000 a year per employee by pooling health care resources, a new think tank study says.

Study author and former Deputy Insurance Commissioner J.P. Wieske, now with Horizon Government Affairs, said if schools teamed up on health resources in a model similar to the state’s Employee Trust Funds health plan, districts could save more than $500 million in the aggregate.

He noted most schools developed their current health plans based on regulations from 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 meant to expand insurance options. And while language in the law did benefit some districts, according to Wieske, costs also have huge differences between districts in ways that can’t be attributed to the health plans themselves.

“Even though many school districts were able to take advantage of the flexibility of Act 10, we found that what school districts paid for health insurance varied widely,” Wieske said, noting costs ranged from $450 per month all the way to $1,400 for single coverage. “The savings aren’t magic.”

The study argues the larger risk pool through an ETF-like program would help lower costs by spreading risk and cutting back on administration.

According to the report, school districts on average spend over $21,000 a year on family health policies, with 21 districts having family policy deductibles $10,000 or higher. It said the high costs in part factor in because school employees tend to be older on average than private-sector employees.

A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s leading teacher’s union, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

See the plan here.

See the release here.

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