Assembly to Vote on Several Education Bills This Week Before Adjourning

The state Assembly plans to meet on Tuesday and Thursday this week and then adjourn for the session. The Senate plans to continue meeting until the middle of March. The floor period schedule the Legislature passed at the beginning of the session calls for the 2015-16 session to end April 7.  Leaders in both houses have decided to end the session earlier than scheduled.  Before adjourning the Assembly plans to take up a number of K-12 education related bills.

The following bills are on the proposed Assembly calendar for Tuesday, February 16:

AB-751 Special Needs Scholarship Program (Jagler, John (R)) This bill makes technical changes to the special needs scholarship program created in the 2015-17 state budget (Act 55).  The WASB is neutral on this bill but strongly opposes Assembly Amendment 3 which would reduce the revenue limit authority of the 142 public school districts that currently have resident pupils participating in the statewide and Racine voucher programs by $14.2 million annually. This revenue limit authority protects the affected school districts against the loss of state aid that follows resident pupils to the voucher school.

AB-517 School Crime Reporting (Jagler, John (R)) This bill requires high schools to report the numbers of specified crimes and other incidents that occur on school property, on school transportation, and at school sanctioned events and granting rule−making authority.  While we are sympathetic to the author’s intent, the WASB has opposed this bill, in part, because it will impose new unfunded costs and responsibilities on school districts.  (The future of this bill in the Senate is unclear at present.)

After the bill was voted out of the Assembly Education Committee the author introduced a new substitute amendment that makes a number of improvements to the bill but no funding.  Even with those changes, the WASB still has concerns with the bill, including: (a) that schools rather than law enforcement must supply the information about these incidents; and (b) that it requires reporting on incidents that are violations of municipal ordinance definitions of disorderly conduct rather than violations of disorderly conduct under the state law definition.

AB-581 Vocational Teaching Licenses (Knodl, Daniel (R)) Licenses to teach vocational education subjects.  WASB is neutral on this legislation. (An identical Senate companion bill (SB 449) passed the Senate on Feb. 9—see earlier post.)

This bill creates a new experience-based pathway for obtaining a 3-year initial teaching license to teach a vocational education subject patterned on a similar pathway created in the 2015-17 state budget (Act 55) for “technical education” licenses.  Licenses granted under this new pathway would not be portable–i.e., they would be valid only in the school district in which the license holder is authorized to teach.  (Under the bill, vocational education subjects include agriculture, child services, clothing services, food services, housing and equipment services, family and consumer education, family and consumer services, home economics−related occupations, health care−related occupations, business education, and marketing education.)   

AB-602 Private School Accrediting (Katsma, Terry (R)) Accrediting entities for private schools participating in a parental choice program. The WASB is neutral on this bill.

AB-664 School Mental Health Services (Kitchens, Joel (R)) Mental health services in schools. The WASB supports this bill. (An identical Senate companion bill (SB 591) passed Senate on Feb. 9—see earlier post.)

AB-665 Robotics Competitions Grants (Neylon, Adam (R)) Grants for participation in robotics competitions and making an appropriation. The WASB supports this bill, which provides additional funding for local school districts that receive grants.

AB-722 School Accountability Report (Neylon, Adam (R)) School and school district accountability report. The WASB is neutral on this bill.

AB-873 Interscholastic Athletic Associations (WIAA) (Nygren, John (R)) Participation in interscholastic athletics and application of the public records and open meetings laws to interscholastic athletic associations.

The following bills are on the proposed Assembly calendar for Thursday, February 18:

AB-748 Tech Ed Equipment Grants (Petryk, Warren (R)) This bill would provide technical education equipment grants for school districts, grant rule-making authority and provide an exemption from emergency rule procedures, and makes an appropriation to fund the grants.  The WASB supports this bill.

AB-824 Sparsity Aid (Mursau, Jeffrey (R)) Sparsity aid. This bill would provide sparsity aid this year for two districts (Crivitz and Spring Valley) that formerly qualified for sparsity aid but narrowly missed the enrollment cutoff this year for unanticipated reasons.  There are sufficient funds in the sparsity aid appropriation to cover the costs without reducing the allocations paid to any other recipient districts. The WASB supports this bill.

AB-843 Charge-Back of Property Taxes (Novak, Todd (R)) This bill would require the Department of Revenue to  chargeback rescinded or refunded property taxes to the other underlying taxing jurisdictions in certain cases where a municipality is determined to have over-assessed a particular parcel.  The WASB had strong concerns about this bill as originally introduced; however, those concerns are addressed to a large extent by a substitute amendment that provides schools with a revenue limit exemption to cover the cost of the refund charged back to a school district.