Senate Committee Recommends Passage of CRT Bill

By John Forester | November 30, 2021

The Senate Education Committee voted along party lines yesterday to advance legislation that proponents say would ban the teaching of critical race theory in K-12 schools.The committee voted via paper ballot 4-3 to advance SB 411 and AB 411. All Republicans on the committee supported the bills, while all Democrats were opposed.AB 411 cleared the Assembly in September. The legislation prohibits race or sex stereotyping in 1) instruction provided to pupils; 2) training provided to school employees.  The bill provides for the withholding of up to 10% of state aid and allows for parents/guardians to bring legal claims against districts for violations. It also requires school boards to post all curricula used in the district and provide a printed copy of curriculum at no cost to the requester. The SAA strongly opposes this legislation.

On October 4th, the SAA posted the complete testimony of Representative Chuck Wichgers (R-Muskego) on Assembly Bill 411.  Representative Wichgers is the Assembly author of the bill.  I forwarded his testimony simply to give SAA members a little taste of the current political environment inside the Capitol.  At that time, I recommended 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 this bill were to become law.  If you haven’t already done so, I urge you to check it out.

Stay tuned.  We will keep you apprised of any developments on this issue.

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Evers Vetoes GOP Redistricting Maps

By John Forester | November 18, 2021

From WisPolitics.com …Gov. Tony Evers today vetoed GOP proposals to revamp Wisconsin’s legislative and congressional boundaries, all but ensuring the courts will draw the maps for the 2022 elections.The move was widely expected after Evers had called on GOP lawmakers to start over after they released plans that would help lock in their majorities in the state Legislature.In a video statement, Evers called the GOP maps “gerrymandering 2.0.”See the release here.

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School Report Cards Released for the 2020-21 School Year

By John Forester | November 17, 2021

From The Wheeler Report…

The Department of Public Instruction released the public and choice school and school district report cards for the 2020-21 school year today. The report is released with a cautionary statement, “Both federal and state law require DPI to annually release accountability reports, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these report requirements were suspended for the 2019-20 school year. Because of ongoing pandemic impacts, the U.S. Department of Education again waived federal Every Student Succeeds Act accountability requirements for 2020-21 school year data. However, the Wisconsin State Legislature did not grant another suspension. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DPI urges using caution when interpreting scores and ratings.”

According to the DPI release, 2,101 public schools, 376 choice schools and 421 school districts received report cards for 2020-21. However, 199 public schools and 240 choice schools did not have enough available data to receive scored report cards. The results showed:

Report card scores are calculated based on four priority areas:

Each of these areas is given a score of 0 to 100, then those scores are combined using a weighting scheme which produced a weighted average Overall Score. The weighting for the achievement and Growth varies depending on the percent of economically disadvantaged (ECD) students in the schools. In most instances, the weighting for Target Group Outcomes and On-Track have equal weight (25%0, but they can vary if there is no Targe Group Outcomes score. The resulting final overall score, the rating, and stars are what are then reported on the front page of the report card.

New to the report cards this year is the Target Group Outcomes, which replaced the Closing Gaps priority area. According to DPI, the Closing Gaps priority area was designed to focus on closing statewide achievement gaps for students from traditionally marginalized populations. However, “Over the last few years, some issues with this priority area became clear. Scores for small schools could see large fluctuations year-to-year, with score swings largely influenced by changes in student population, rather than changes in student performance. Additionally, The Office of Educational Accountability (OEA) heard from school and district staff that while gap closure is an important focus the calculations were overly complex, making it difficult to convey a clear data story to the public.” The new category – Target Group Outcomes addresses both of those issues; a DPI paper says it does the following:

Course and program data are reported by schools and districts, this is the first time DPI included the data on report cards. The schools are required to provide the following information:

DPI Release.

2020-21 Report Card Guide.

2020-21 Report Card At-a-Glance

What’s New for the 2020-21 School and District Report Cards?

Accountability Resources.

Report Cards.

 

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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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