Assembly education committee schedules meeting on June 13

The Assembly Committee on Education, chaired by Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), has scheduled a public hearing for Thursday, June 13 on a pair of bills that stem from the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding.   Both bills are authored by Rep. Joel Kitchens (R-Sturgeon Bay) and sponsored by Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green).

UPDATE: Assembly Bill 224 was removed from the hearing agenda. Only Assembly Bill 223 was heard.

The hearing will be held in Room 417 North (GAR Hall) of the State Capitol, beginning at 11:01 a.m on the following bills:

Assembly Bill 223, relating to: supplemental state aid for consolidated school districts and making an appropriation.

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau: This bill creates a new aid program for certain consolidated school districts. To be eligible for this aid, the consolidation must take effect on or after July 1, 2020, and the consolidated school district’s maximum allowable levy rate must be greater than the lowest levy rate of the school districts that were consolidated to create the school district (underlying school districts).

If a consolidated school district satisfies the above-described criteria, in the first school year following the consolidation, the consolidated school district is entitled to aid in an amount equal to the consolidated school district’s equalized value multiplied by the difference between the maximum allowable levy rate of the consolidated school district and the lowest levy rate of the underlying school districts (base aid amount). In the second school year following the consolidation, the consolidated school district is entitled to aid in an amount equal to 80 percent of the base aid amount. …The amount of the aid continues to be reduced by 20 percent each school year so that in the sixth school year following the consolidation, the consolidated school district no longer receives this aid.

The WASB has not yet taken a position on Assembly Bill 223.

Assembly Bill 224, relating to: determining shared costs and the secondary cost ceiling for the purpose of general equalization aids for school districts.

Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau: Under current law, the equalization formula provides three tiers of state support for school districts. The second tier of support is for costs per pupil between $1,000 and the secondary cost ceiling. Under current law, the secondary cost ceiling per pupil is set at 90 percent of the previous school year statewide shared cost per pupil. Beginning in the 2020-21 school year, this bill increases the secondary cost ceiling to 100 percent of the previous school year statewide shared cost per pupil. A school district’s shared cost is one of the factors used to calculate a school district’s equalization aid.

Generally, under current law, a school district’s shared cost is the sum of the school district’s expenditures from its general fund and its debt service fund. Under this bill, beginning in the 2020-21 school year, expenditures from either a school district’s general fund or debt service fund that are authorized by an operating or capital referendum held after the date on which this bill becomes law are excluded from the school district’s shared cost if the school district is a negative tertiary school district. A school district is a negative tertiary school district if its equalized valuation exceeds the tertiary guaranteed valuation per member. In other words, under the bill, a negative tertiary school district will not lose equalization aid for operating and capital expenditures that exceed the tertiary guarantee and are funded by referenda approved after this bill becomes law.

While WASB resolutions generally support raising the secondary cost ceiling (see WASB Resolution 2.43), they also call for boosting general aid as that change is made (see WASB Resolution 2.20 (p).  The WASB has significant concerns about Assembly Bill 224, because it would raise the secondary cost ceiling abruptly, without any accompanying increase in general aid.  The effect of the bill, as drafted, would be to redistribute a significant amount of state general school aid away from lower spending, lower property wealth per pupil districts toward higher spending, higher property wealth districts. The WASB will be recommending a number of changes to the bill to address this concern, including phasing in the change in the secondary cost ceiling to dampen the loss of aid to lower spending, lower wealth districts. We will also be recommending limiting the way “shared cost” is redefined in the bill so that it excludes only debt service expenditures authorized by a capital referendum held after the effective date of the bill. The latter recommendation is in keeping with WASB Resolution 2.20 (t).

The committee will also vote (executive session) on two bills affecting teacher licensure:

Assembly Bill 194, relating to: requirements for initial licensure as a special education teacher.

This bill removes the Foundations of Reading Test (FORT) as a requirement for initial licensure as a special education teacher if they successfully complete a course in the teaching of reading and reading comprehension.  It was requested by school administrators.  WASB supports AB 194.

Assembly Bill 195, relating to: a license to teach based on reciprocity and granting rule-making authority.

This bill allows a teacher licensed in another state with at least one year of teaching experience who seeks  a Wisconsin license based on reciprocity to gain a higher level of licensure than is allowed under current law.  WASB has not taken a position on AB 195.