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Legislative Advocacy

The School Board likes to take an active role in advocating for public education at the local, state and federal level.  Check back here for monthly updates about legislative topics and ways that you can get involved.

If you have an idea or suggestion regarding legislative matters, please contact Joe Luginbill, Legislative Liaison to the School Board, at 715-255-0819.

To view resolutions adopted by the ECASD School Board, click HERE.

January Legislative Update

During the Governor’s visit to Eau Claire this past Friday, he talked about his support for increasing funding for Youth Apprenticeships. I thanked him for his increase in funding and support for school-based mental health)
State Treasurer:
There will be a referendum question on the spring ballot to determine whether we continue to have a state Treasurer's office or we become the only state in the union without this office. One of the fears is that even more power will be consolidated into the Office of Administration that would include control of the Public Trust Fund - this fund controls up to $26,000,000 that goes directly into public education. This could be more money redirected to the voucher program or other places.
If the Office of the State Treasurer is removed, Wisconsin would be the only state in the U.S. without a constitutional financial officer.
Teacher Protection Act:
Assembly Bill 693, dubbed the “Teacher Protection Act” by its author, has been scheduled for a public hearing in the Assembly Committee on Judiciary for Thursday, January 11, 2018 at 9:00 AM. You can use the legislature website to send your comments.
The school board association opposes this bill as written, stating “While all teachers deserve to teach in a safe environment, this bill would unnecessarily upset the administrative chain of command in schools and districts by allowing teachers to unilaterally suspend and remove students from class for up to two days without having to adhere to school board disciplinary policies, school district behavioral intervention plans, a student’s individual educational plan or a student’s service plan. Under the bill, teachers could override a building principal’s decision to return a student to class.  The bill would also inject school boards into decisions about student suspensions that customarily have been delegated to principals and district administrators by allowing teachers to petition the school board to schedule a suspension hearing before the school board if the teacher’s written request that a pupil be suspended has been denied.”
All of the major public education advocacy groups and advocates for students with disabilities oppose this bill.  There is no Senate companion bill and AB 693 has no Senate co-sponsors.

Joe Luginbill will be presenting the Voucher Transparency resolution to the delegate assembly - this is the same day that the Governor will be speaking, so we will have a great opportunity to gain some traction on this.
2.  The state Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing tomorrow on several bills, many of which would impose mandates on public schools.  The hearing will begin at 1:00 p.m. in Room 411 South of the State Capitol.Bill scheduled to be heard include:
Senate Bill 159, relating to: nutrition education. This bill would impose a graduation requirement that students must complete a half-credit health education class that includes nutrition education.
Senate Bill 222 and Assembly Bill 300, a pair of identical companion bills relating to: providing information about mandatory pupil examinations.  This bill would require school boards to annually publish on the district’s website a plain language summary of the pupil examinations that the school board must administer under state and federal law and any other pupil examinations used to assess pupil, school, or school district performance.
Senate Bill 234 and Assembly Bill 304, a pair of identical companion bills relating to:  allowing a pupil’s parent or guardian to opt out of statewide examinations required by federal law.  Current law requires school boards to grant opt-outs of statewide examinations required by state law.
Senate Bill 427, relating to: notification of certain construction activities in school buildings.  The bill would require a school board to make certain notifications to “interested parties” regarding planned construction projects that exceed $10,000 in cost at least two months in advance of the project start date. “Interested parties” include parents and guardians of pupils enrolled in a school of the school district, teachers, administrators, and other employees of the school district who are assigned to the school, and members of the community. One goal of this legislation is to make sure students with specific sensitivities or health issues are notified prior to any construction work. The WASB recommends that school districts and families address this type of issue directly in a written Section 504 plan that addresses sensitivities on an individualized basis.
Senate Bill 483, relating to: robotics league participation grants. This bill expands the category of teams eligible to receive a grant to participate in a robotics competition to include teams containing pupils in grades 6, 7, and 8. Current law permits a team containing pupils in grades 9 to 12 to apply to receive such a grant. 
Senate Bill 491, relating to: the collection and maintenance of certain public library data by the Division for Libraries and Technology, authorizing small, rural libraries to apply for information technology block grants and educational technology training grants, and making appropriations.
Senate Bill 494, relating to: publication of school and school district accountability reports.  This bill requires the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to publish its annual school and school district accountability report (a/k/a school and school district report cards) by November 30, rather than in September. This is a good move that is supported by WASB and other educational groups.
Senate Bill 536 and Assembly Bill 488, relating to: access to pupil assessments that are required to be administered by school boards, operators of independent charter schools, and private schools participating in a parental choice program and repealing rules related to accessing pupil assessments. The bill requires the DPI to make available, upon request, practice examinations or sample items related to knowledge and concept examinations required to be administered under state law.
Senate Bill 556, relating to: requiring an evaluation to determine whether a pupil with an extended absence from school is a child with a disability. While this bill may have good intentions, there are a number of concerns that this may lead to profiling students.
3.  The Federal Tax Plan has passed in both houses and has completed the reconciliation process as well. It is expected that it will be before the President’s desk before the holidays.  

One neutral thing about the bill is that is ended up not impacting the available $250 tax deduction for teachers who spend their own money on classroom supplies. It will remain as it is.
As we anticipated, the final legislation bans school districts from using the tax-free method of refinancing their school bond debt, which is a move that has helped districts save millions of dollars. Thanks again to Abby Johnson and others for bringing this to our attention so that we could act proactively and refinance our 2011 Referendum.
The pending legislation also eliminates the ability of people to deduct their state and local taxes that go directly to local services, including public schools, while at the same time providing a $10,000-dollar incentive for people to send their kids to private schools. It is expected that the elimination of state and local tax deductions could ultimately cost public schools upwards of 17 billion dollars. There was also a successful amendment made by Senator Ted Cruz, which provides a tax incentive to parents who wish to homeschool. According to the Congress Joint Committee on Taxation, this would provide a tax incentive of 500 million dollars over 10 years for homeschooling families.
There are a number of areas of this legislation that negatively impact public schools. Over 90 percent of our country’s children go to public schools. So… it begs the question – what happened to the concept of no child left behind?