Legislature Approves Bills on Off Duty & Former Law Enforcement Carrying Firearms in Schools and SAGE

Firearms on School Grounds

Wisconsin lawmakers have passed a bill (Senate Bill 70) to permit off-duty and former police officers to carry guns on school premises on a bipartisan vote.

The Senate voted 22-11 to pass the measure Tuesday. The Assembly followed suit shortly thereafter on a voice vote with no debate. The bill goes next to Gov. Scott Walker.

Current state law generally prohibits a person from possessing a firearm on the grounds of a school or within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a school.  An exception already exists for police officers who are on duty.

The bill that passed the Legislature on Tuesday would create exceptions for off-duty police officers and for former police officers who meet specified criteria, including that the former officer:

  • must have separated from service with their former  law enforcement agency in good standing;
  • must have served an aggregate of at least ten years, unless they retired due to a service-related disability after completing their probationary period;
  • has not been found by a qualified medical professional, employed by the law enforcement agency, to be unqualified to be a law enforcement officer for reasons related to mental health, and did not enter into an agreement with his/her agency that he or she is not qualified to be an officer because of mental health reasons;
  • is not prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm as indicated by a search of the TIME system and the national criminal background check system; and
  • has, during the previous 12 months at the former officer’s expense, been found by an Law Enforcement Standards Board-certified firearms instructor, to meet the standard for qualifications in firearms training for active officers established by the state..

The Senate bill passed with all Republicans voting in favor. Three Democratic senators broke with their party to support the bill: Janet Bewley of Ashland, Julie Lassa of Stevens Point and Kathleen Vinehout of Alma.

The Senate tabled a proposed amendment to the bill that would require school principals to be notified that the firearm would be brought into their school.  WASB had hoped to see such a provision included in the bill.

WASB did not support the bill. While our existing resolution supports an exception for off-duty police officers, we have reservations about one for former officers. (Resolution 6.11 (b))

SAGE

The Assembly passed a Senate bill (Senate Bill 32) that would modify Wisconsin’s SAGE program to allow schools with existing SAGE contracts to use alternatives to small class-size in order to improve student performance under the program.

The Student Achievement Guarantee Program provides aid to schools that maintain an 18-to-1 or 30-to-2 teacher-student ratio for poor students in kindergarten through third grade. Schools enter into five-year contracts under the program.

The bill would prohibit new SAGE contracts or renewals beyond one-year extensions for deals expiring at the end of this school year. The measure would create a program called Achievement Gap Reduction. That program would allow existing SAGE schools to earn aid by implementing one-to-one tutoring, instructional coaching in math and reading for teachers or maintaining SAGE class ratios or a combination of the three. Unlike SAGE, all participating grades wouldn’t have to meet the ratios.

The Assembly passed the bill 62-37 Tuesday. The Senate passed it in May on a 31-2 vote. It goes next to Gov. Walker for his signature.

The WASB supported this legislation to shift the emphasis of the SAGE program from class-size reduction to achievement-gap reduction. (See WASB Resolution 15-15)

Read More: Wisconsin State Journal