Committee recap: sparsity aid/low revenue ceiling bill amended, advanced

Joint Finance Committee:

  • Assembly Bill 835/Senate Bill 690sparsity aid, the revenue limit ceiling for school districts, and making an appropriation.
    The WASB supports these identical companion bills based on WASB Resolutions 2.16, 2.425 & 2.43.
  • A big thank you to Tim Stellmacher of the West Bend School Board (pictured) for taking the time to come and testify in support of the bill during the public hearing (on Feb. 7) along with administrators from Mukwonago, Oak Creek-Franklin, Oostburg and Slinger.

  • WASB and other groups, including the impacted school districts, urged legislators to remove or change the “freeze” provision in the bills that would prevent districts with a failed operational referendum going back to 2015 from utilizing the increase in the low revenue ceiling for three years.  In response, the bills were amended by the JFC the following day (Feb. 8) to give the nine districts that are currently subject to the “freeze” the ability to go to referendum to obtain permission utilize the low revenue ceiling increase.  If a majority of voters approve the referendum, the district could raise its local levy using the low revenue ceiling adjustment, beginning in the school year immediately following the school year in which the referendum is held.  (If the referendum fails, it is our understanding that this would not trigger a new three-year freeze; however, the district would have to wait until three years have passed since the prior failed operational referendum before it could utilize the low revenue ceiling adjustment–unless it passed a new operational referendum.)  The WASB supports this change.  While it is not the ideal solution, it at least gives affected districts a chance to avoid the freeze.
  • A separate provision in the amendment addresses a situation in which voters in a district rejected–at the same election–both a borrowing referendum and a referendum to raise the revenue limit that was tied to the school construction project for which the borrowing was requested.  Under the amendment, such a district would not be subject to the three-year freeze and could utilize the low revenue ceiling adjustment without obtaining approval from the district’s voters.
  • The amended bill was approved 16-0 by JFC and each companion bill can now proceed to the full Senate and Assembly.

Senate Education Committee:

  • Senate Bill 711: a pilot grant program to support college courses taught in high
    schools and making an appropriation.
    The WASB registered in support of this bill based on Resolution 3.63 (e).
  • Senate Bill 655: notice to a school of a permanency review or hearing, notice to a
    school district of a foster home or group home license or out-of-home care placement, and transfer of pupil records.
    The WASB registered in support of this bill.

Assembly Education Committee:

  • Assembly Bill 830: creates education savings accounts (ESAs) for low income gifted & talented pupils.
    This bill was scheduled for a committee vote but was pulled from the agenda at the author’s request. An amendment has since been introduced that would require repayments of the state money provided in situations involving fraud.
    The WASB opposes this bill based on Resolution 2.09.
  • Assembly Bill 851: a pilot grant program to support college courses taught in high
    schools and making an appropriation.
    This is the identical companion bill to SB 711. WASB registered in support of this bill based on Resolution 3.63 (e).
  • Assembly Bill 569:  changing the deadline for DPI to publish school and school district accountability reports.
    This bill was recommended for passage by a unanimous vote.  WASB supports the bill.  (This bill is an identical companion bill to Senate Bill 494, which the WASB also supports. Senate Bill 494 was passed by the state Senate on Jan. 23. )

Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee:

  • Senate Bill 402 and Assembly Bill 496These identical companion bills restore local school board discretion regarding suspending and expelling a pupil for possession of a firearm at school.
    The bills were recommended for passage by a unanimous vote.  WASB supports these bills based on Resolution 6.11 (a).  (See previous post.)  (Assembly Bill 496 was passed by the state Assembly on a voice vote on Jan. 23.)