Numerous K-12-related bills could still be passed on March 20

The state Assembly has closed the curtain on the 2017-18 legislative session.  However,  before adjourning, the Assembly passed a large number of bills and sent them to the Senate.  Here are the Assembly bills affecting K-12 education that are still alive and could be passed by the Senate when it meets on March 20 and sent on to the Governor’s desk.

Bills the WASB Supports: 

AB 111  Relating to: threats to use a dangerous weapon on school property to injure or kill a person and providing a criminal penalty.

The bill, as amended, would make it a Class I felony to make a threat to use a dangerous weapon, which includes a firearm, on school premises.  Specifically, the bill prohibits a person from intentionally conveying or causing to be conveyed any threat or false information, knowing such to be false, concerning an attempt or alleged attempt being made or to be made to use a dangerous weapon to injure or kill another individual on property owned or leased by a school or school district, on transportation provided by a school or school district, or at an event sanctioned by a school or school district.  The penalty for a Class I felony is a fine not to exceed $10,000, imprisonment not to exceed three years and six months, or both.   Under current law, if a threat is made toward an unnamed person, the most that the threat maker can be charged with is a misdemeanor offense, typically disorderly conduct.  Increasing the penalty would help assure such threats are given the attention they deserve and would give prosecutors, law enforcement and county agencies more leverage to ensure students and their parents appreciate the severity of such an act.  The WASB supports this bill based on WASB Resolution 6.11 (b).

AB 477  Relating to: supplemental aid for school districts with a large area.

This bill repeals DPI administrative rules promulgated to administer a supplemental aid program for a school district having 500 or fewer pupils and that is at least 200 square miles and incorporates the repealed provisions into current law.  The bill also changes, from enrollment to membership, the terminology used to determine the school district’s eligibility to receive the supplemental aid. The WASB supports this bill based on WASB Resolution 2.20 (r).

AB 496  Relating to: suspending and expelling a pupil for possession of a firearm at school.

This WASB-initiated bill, at the request of a number of districts and district administrators, restores local discretion to suspend or begin expulsion proceedings under specific circumstances in which a student brings a firearm onto school grounds. It does not alter the requirements that schools notify law enforcement officials, but would only change school district discipline procedures if a board so chooses.

Bills the WASB Opposes:

AB 300  Relating to: providing information about mandatory pupil examinations.

This bill requires each school board to annually provide parents or guardians with a copy of or instructions on how to access a summary of the pupil examinations administered under state and federal law.  The summary of pupil examinations must include:

  • Each examination that is required by state and federal law, except an examination required for high school graduation;
  • Each examination administered by the school to assess pupil, school, or school district performance, except for those that count toward a grade for a class or that is required for graduation;
  • The grade level to which each examination will be administered;
  • The expected date on which each examination will be administered;
  • The duration of each examination;
  • The source of the requirement to administer each examination as well as the purpose of administering each examination and description of how the school will use data derived from each identified examination.
  • The subject areas assessed in each examination;
  • The process the school board uses to determine an appropriate alternative in-school activity for pupils excused from taking an examination;
  • The policies and procedures of the school board regarding a parent or guardian opting out a pupil from any examination; and
  • The time and format for disseminating the results of each examination.

The also requires that if a school in a school district maintains an Internet site, the school board of that district must require the school to post the examination summary on the school’s Internet site.

The WASB opposes this bill because it appears to largely duplicate existing requirements already imposed by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and does so in a slightly different way and with different timelines than ESSA requires. As such, it imposes an unfunded mandate.

Bills the WASB is Monitoring:

AB 65  Relating to relating to: grants to school districts that employ an armed school safety officer; furnishing, purchasing, or possessing a firearm for a person who is prohibited from possessing a firearm; mandatory minimum sentences for individuals who commit certain firearm violations; and providing criminal penalties.

This bill started out as a bill that would have imposed additional background checks on the transfer of firearms.  However, it was amended to completely remove all of the original provisions.  The bill, as amended, authorizes the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide grants to school districts to employ current or former law enforcement officers as armed school safety officers.  Funding for any such grants would come from an existing DOJ appropriation for gifts, grants, and proceeds from certain sales of publications and promotional materials. A school district that receives a grant could expend the grant moneys only on costs associated with employing armed school safety officers.

The bill, as amended, requires school districts’ grant applications to include proposed plans of expenditure and to provide that any armed school safety officer must report to the principal of the school at which he or she is assigned.  A school district may receive a grant for three consecutive years.  Grants would cover 75% of the relevant costs in the first year; 50% in the second year; and 25% in the third year. Finally, the bill as amended requires DOJ to indemnify a school district that receives a grant, and an armed school safety officer employed using such grant funds, for any actions taken in good faith.  WASB views this proposal as a good start, but is hopeful additional and comprehensive school safety measures will be taken up and passed and that additional funding will be provided.

AB 71  Relating to: an inventory of pupil data.

This bill was developed by the Joint Legislative Council Study Committee on School Data.

AB 72  Relating to: responsibilities of state superintendent related to privacy and security of pupil data.

This bill was developed by the Joint Legislative Council Study Committee on School Data.

AB 304  Relating to: allowing a pupil’s parent or guardian to opt out of certain statewide examinations.

This bill requires a school board, upon request of a parent or guardian to excuse a pupil enrolled in any grade from 3 to 12 from taking any examination required under state or federal law, except the civics test that is a requirement for high school graduation. Under current law, upon request from a parent or guardian, a school board must excuse a pupil in 4th, 8th, 9th, 10th, or 11th grade from taking the knowledge and concepts examination adopted by the state superintendent of public instruction that is required to be administered to pupils in that grade.

The WASB took a neutral position on this bill.  As a practical matter it seems hard to justify to a parent requesting an opt out that while his or her 4th grader is required to be excused, his or her 5th grader might not be excused if a board chose not to allow the student to be excused.

AB 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.

This bill requires the DPI to make available, upon request, practice examinations or sample items related to knowledge and concept examinations required to be administered in grades 4, 8, 9 and 10 under state law.  Current law, enacted when these exams were administered in a paper and pencil format, requires the DPI to adopt administrative rules to allow a person to view these tests required by state law to be administered and the high school graduation exam, if a request is made with 90 days after the examination is administered. This bill repeals those administrative rules and updates the statutes protecting the security and proprietary property of the test vendor, while still providing individuals with an opportunity to access sample tests that are generally made available for viewing.

AB 804  Relating to: merit scholarships for certain University of Wisconsin System students and making an appropriation.

This bill would require the UW System Board of Regents to award merit-based annual $5,000 scholarships (in each of the next five years only) to students enrolled in two- or four-year UW System schools who have graduated from an in-state high school or been granted a high school diploma by the administrator of an in-state home-based private educational program. Student merit is to be based on performance on standardized college entrance examinations and, if applicable, cumulative high school grade point averages.  The provisions in the bill creating these merit-based scholarships would terminate after five years.  The bill would also give the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands authority to sell lands from any of the board’s trust funds to another of the board’s trust funds for the appraised value of the land.

AB 843  Relating to: open enrollment and repealing outdated or expired reporting requirements and tuberculosis screening (suggested as remedial legislation by the Department of Public Instruction).

This bill was introduced by the Law Revision Committee.  It eliminates two provisions of the open enrollment statute—one that expired and another that was ruled unenforceable—and corrects a drafting error by adding a missing cross-reference to the make the changes to the tuberculosis screening requirements under 2017 Wisconsin Act 107 applicable to the Milwaukee Public Schools.

AB 872  Relating to: career and technical education incentive grants for school districts and completion awards for students and making an appropriation.

This bill creates an incentive grant program for school districts that provide training for certain public safety occupations (e.g., fire fighters and emergency medical responders)and provides completion awards for students who complete those programs.

AB 907  Relating to: continuing education in prescribing controlled substances for certain health care practitioners; maintenance and detoxification treatment provided by physician assistants and advanced practice nurse prescribers; requiring school boards to provide instruction about drug abuse awareness and prevention; graduate training of psychiatric nurses; training materials for social services workers handling substance abuse-related cases; substance abuse counseling and modifying and creating administrative rules related to substance abuse counseling; granting rule-making authority; and making appropriations.

This omnibus bill makes a number of modifications to current law, including requiring each school board to incorporate drug abuse awareness and prevention in its health instructional program.  Current law already requires school boards to provide instruction about the effects of controlled substances and alcohol on the human system, subject to parental opt-out. Current law also requires school boards to provide instruction to pupils on the relationship between highway safety and controlled substances and the relationship between youth suicide and controlled substances.  References to controlled substances in these requirements would include prescription drugs included in the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

AJR 100  Relating to: encouraging the use of television white space technology to increase access to the Internet.

The WASB Bill Tracking Chart lists all the bills affecting K-12 public education in the current 2017-18 legislative session and indicates whether the WASB supports, opposes or is monitoring each bill.