Governor to Sign Two Education Bills Today

Governor Walker plans to sign two bills relating to K-12 education today. They are:

AB 478 Pupil Records of Pupils in Out-of-Home Placement – Rep. Joan Ballweg (R-Markesan)

This bill is designed to permit child welfare workers to gain access to pupil records of pupils in out-of-home placement (e.g., foster care). It incorporates into state law recent changes made to the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the federal educational privacy law) by the Uninterrupted Scholars Act.

The bill will permit a school board, on request, to disclose pupil records that are pertinent to addressing a pupil’s educational needs to a caseworker or other representative of DCF, a county department, or a tribal organization that is legally responsible for the care and protection of the pupil, if the caseworker or other representative is authorized by the state Department of Children and Families (DCF), that county’s department, or that tribal organization to access the pupil’s case plan.

The bill also permits (but does not require) a school board to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, a county department or tribal organization that permits that disclosure of pupil records.

The WASB was approached early in the process by representatives of DCF and had an opportunity to review early drafts of the proposal and make suggestions.  The WASB supports this bill.

 SB 640  Education Technical Corrections (“Fix-Up) Bill – Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon)

This bill makes a number of changes intended to “fix-up” or “clean up” statutory provisions enacted earlier this session. The bill clarifies the DPI’s ability to raise questions related to independent financial audits of private schools participating in a voucher program.

The bill also clarifies the application to students with a disability of provisions enacted as part of 2015 Wisconsin Act 55 (the 2015-17 state budget) that make the successful passage of a civics exam a condition for obtaining a high school diploma. The bill requires an IEP team to include in a pupil’s IEP a statement about whether it is appropriate to administer the mandatory  civics (citizenship) exam to the pupil. If a pupil’s IEP or services plan includes a statement that it is not appropriate to administer the mandatory civics exam to the pupil, completion of the mandatory civics exam may not be required as a condition of graduation for that pupil.

The bill also eliminates certain requirements created in 2015 Wisconsin Act 55 relating to how the DPI determines school and school district performance for purposes of the school and school district accountability report. Current law requires DPI to weight pupil test scores to account for the length of time pupils are enrolled in a school or school district before taking a test used for purposes of the accountability report and to exclude information about certain pupils who change schools for the ninth grade. This bill eliminates these requirements. The WASB is neutral on this bill.

Additional bills affecting K-12 education that await action by the governor are:

AB 545 CPR (Lifesaving) Instruction – Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield)

This bill requires school boards to provide instruction in cardiopulmonary and cardiocerebral resuscitation in any health education course offered to pupils in grades 7 to 12 and to provide instruction about automated external defibrillators to pupils in grades 7 to 12, beginning in the 2017-18 school year. (Under current law, schools are required to offer instruction about cardiopulmonary and cardiocerebral resuscitation to pupils enrolled in high school grades.) The WASB is neutral on this bill.

AB-664 School Mental Health Services – Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay)

Under current rules promulgated by the Department of Health Services (DHS), in order to provide mental health services at a school, a provider must designate the school site as a clinic office. This bill abolishes this requirement.

As amended, the bill also requires DHS to provide reimbursement under the Medical Assistance program to licensed treatment professionals for mental health services provided at a school, to the extent federal law allows such reimbursement, regardless of whether the school site is designated as a clinic office and regardless of whether the licensed treatment professional is employed by, a contractor of, or affiliated with a clinic. The WASB supports this bill.

SB 449 Licenses to teach vocational education subjects – Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills)

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 Act 55 (the 2015-17 state budget) 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.)   The WASB is neutral on this bill.

SB 492   Student safety incident tracking pilot program for school districts – Sen. Mary Lazich (R- New Berlin)

This bill sets up and provides limited funding for a voluntary one-year crime reporting pilot program that is designed to operate in one urban, one suburban and one rural school district.

A school district that chooses to participate in the pilot program would have to report its aggregate data on crimes and other incidents to DPI twice: once halfway through the school year and once at the end of the school year. Incidents that must be reported include those involving bullying or harassment. After receiving the participating school districts’ reports, DPI would be required to report aggregate data to the Legislature.

A participating school district must omit or redact any personally identifiable information before releasing any records it maintains and may not include the identity of any individual involved in a crime or other incident in a report submitted to DPI.  The WASB is neutral on this bill.