Although the Wisconsin State Assembly stands adjourned until January 2017, the state Senate continues its work, aiming toward a March 15 adjournment. On that date, the Senate will have the opportunity to give final consideration (i.e., vote) on many of the more than 160 bills the Assembly passed last week. Without Senate concurrence those bills will die.
To that end, several Senate committees will be busy leading up to the March 15 floor session including the Senate Education Committee, which has scheduled a public hearing and executive session (committee vote) on March 3 on a number of Assembly bills affecting K-12 education.
Bills that will receive a public hearing include:
Assembly Bill 722, relating to: school and school district accountability reports.
This bill requires each school that maintains an Internet site and for which the DPI has published an accountability report to prominently display a link to the school’s most recent accountability report on that school’s Internet site within 30 days after the department publishes the accountability report. The bill requires each private school participating in a parental choice program and independent charter school that maintains an Internet site to do the same. The WASB has not taken a position on this bill.
Assembly Bill 665, relating to: grants for participation in robotics competitions and making an appropriation.
This bill authorizes the DPI to award grants to teams of pupils in the 9th through 12th grades in the 2016−17 and 2017−18 school years. The grants are to be used to facilitate participation in robotics competitions. The bill provides $500,000 in 2016-17 from an appropriation. Individual teams of pupil selected via an application process may receive up to $5,000 per team. The WASB has not taken a position on this bill.
Assembly Bill 824, relating to: sparsity aid.
This bill authorizes the DPI to pay unexpended dollars in the sparsity aid appropriation to a school district that qualified for sparsity aid in the previous school year but, because of an increase in the school district’s membership, does not qualify in the current school year. Current law permits the department to award up to $300 per student in sparsity aid per pupil to a school district that has a membership of up to 725 pupils if the school district’s membership divided by the school district’s area in square miles is less than ten. The bill also changes the membership cap of the school district to 745 pupils beginning in the 2016−17 school year.
In practical terms the bill would allow two school districts (Crivitz and Spring Valley) that received sparsity aid last year to receive sparsity aid this year even though their enrollment (with summer school enrollment factored in) rose above the 725 student threshold. There are sufficient funds in the sparsity aid appropriation to allow these two districts to receive full payments this year without any need to prorate payments to other qualifying districts. The WASB supports this bill.
Bill scheduled for a committee vote include:
Assembly Bill 734, relating to: career and workforce education pilot program and making appropriations.
This bill creates a two-year career and workforce education pilot program granting funds to a CESA for hiring a career and workforce education coordinator. The bill requires the DPI to work with the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to select the CESA applicant to receive the grant, subject to Joint Finance Committee approval. Under the bill, the DPI may reimburse the CESA for eligible expenses, up to $125,000 in each of the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. The WASB supports this bill.
Assembly Bill 517, relating to: reporting crimes and other incidents that occur on school property, on school transportation, and at school sanctioned events and granting rule-making authority.
As amended on the Assembly floor, this bill requires both public and voucher high schools to collect and report to the DPI statistics on the incidents of certain crimes or ordinance violations that meet all the following: occur on Mondays through Fridays between the hours of 6:00 am and 10:00 p.m.; occur on property owned or leased by the governing body of the school or on pupil transportation either provided by or contracted for by the school; are reported to law enforcement and for which, as a result of the incident, a charge was filed or a citation was issued.
Statistics of incidents of the following must be collected and reported under AB 517: homicide, sexual assault; burglary, robbery, or theft; battery, substantial battery or aggravated battery; arson; use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance; possession of a firearm in a gun-free school zone; or disorderly conduct in violation of a municipal ordinance.
The DPI must include the following information derived from these reports on the school’s report card under the accountability system:
- The total number of incidents per 100 pupils reported by the school or school district;
- The average total number of incidents per 100 pupils reported statewide;
- The total number of incidents of “violent offenses” (homicide; sexual assault; battery, substantial battery or aggravated battery, as those crimes are defined under state statutes; and incidents of disorderly conduct as defined by municipal ordinance) per 100 pupils reported by the school or school district.
- The average total number of incidents of “violent offenses” (homicide, sexual assault; battery, substantial battery or aggravated battery, as those crimes are defined under state statutes; and incidents of disorderly conduct as defined by municipal ordinance) per 100 pupils reported statewide.
Under AB 517, the DPI may not factor the statistics reported by a school into the school’s accountability rating.
The bill provides no additional funding for school districts to cover the additional costs and responsibilities the bill mandates.
The WASB opposes this bill. The bill, in its present form, places the responsibility for reporting these incidents on school officials rather than law enforcement agencies which have these statistics and because it uses a local ordinance definition of “disorderly conduct” rather than the definition in state statutes. Because local ordinances differ widely in their definitions of disorderly conduct this could result in wide variations in the statistics reported by school districts, making comparisons inaccurate or misleading.