Assembly passes a number of K-12 bills

On June 18, the state Assembly met in floor session to act on a number of bills.  K-12 education-related bills to expand the minority teacher loan program, include parent/guardian names as directory data under the state’s pupil records law, allow schools to provide prior notice of school safety drills to certain students and require certain information on school report cards were each approved on a voice vote (unanimously).  A bill requiring the DPI to create a guidebook on dyslexia and related conditions for use by school districts and parents was approved on a vote of 76-21. These bills now head to the state Senate for consideration.

Below is additional information on the bills that were passed.  This information comes from the  non-partisan Legislative Council and Legislative Reference Bureau and includes descriptions of amendments to the bills that were adopted and passed by the Assembly:

Assembly Bill 51 Current law provides for a minority teacher loan program, under which the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB) may award loans to eligible minority Wisconsin residents who are enrolled in a Wisconsin institution of higher education in a program of study leading to a teacher’s license in a discipline identified as a teacher shortage area. Current law also requires HEAB to forgive 25 percent of the loan for each school year that the recipient is employed by a public or private school located in the City of Milwaukee as a full-time teacher in a high-demand area related to the recipient’s college discipline and receives a rating of proficient or distinguished under the educator effectiveness system.

AB 51 expands the definition of minority student and changes the location in which a loan recipient must be employed in order to qualify for loan forgiveness. Specifically, the bill provides that a loan recipient may be eligible for forgiveness for each school year that he or she is employed by a public or private school located in a Wisconsin school district in which the enrolled pupil membership is comprised of at least 40 percent minority students, rather than located only in the City of Milwaukee. A loan recipient employed by a tribal school located in a qualified school district, as described above, may also be eligible for loan forgiveness.

Assembly Bill 53 Under current law, pupil records are generally confidential. One exception to this general rule applies to directory data. Directory data may be disclosed to any person if a public school notifies parents and guardians of the categories of pupil information the school has designated as directory data, informs parents and guardians of an opt out procedure for such disclosures, and provides sufficient time for parents and guardians to utilize the opt out procedure.

Under current law, the categories of pupil information included in the definition of “directory data” include the pupil’s name, address, telephone listing, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, dates of attendance, photographs, weight and height as a member of an athletic team, degrees and awards received, and the school the pupil attended most recently. This bill adds the name of a pupil’s parents or guardians to the list of categories of pupil information that a public school may designate as directory data.

Assembly Bill 54 Under current law, the person having direct charge of any public or private school must drill all pupils in what to do in the case of a fire, tornado, and school
safety incident. Current law requires that these drills be conducted without previous
warning. Under this bill, the person having direct charge of the public or private school may provide previous warning of any of these drills if he or she determines that providing previous warning of the drill is in the best interest of pupils attending the school.

Assembly Bill 67 Under current law, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) must annually publish school and school district accountability reports, commonly called “report cards.” AB 67 adds information that must be included in the annual report cards. Specifically, the bill requires that DPI include in each school district and high school report card the percentage of pupils participating in music, dance, drama, and the visual arts subjects both statewide and in the particular school district or high school. However, DPI may not use this information for purposes of determining a school’s performance or a school district’s improvement. DPI must include the required information in the report cards published for the 2020-21 school year, which will be published by November 30, 2021.

Assembly Bill 110 This bill was developed by the Legislative Council Study Committee on the Identification and Management of Dyslexia. The bill requires the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to develop a guidebook regarding dyslexia and related conditions, in consultation with a 19-member advisory committee.

The guidebook must contain a description of the following: (a) screening processes and
tools available to identify dyslexia and related conditions; (b) interventions and instructional strategies shown to improve academic performance of students with dyslexia and related conditions; and (c) resources and services related to dyslexia and related conditions available to students, parents and guardians, and educators. DPI must review the guidebook every three years, in consultation with the International Dyslexia Association – Wisconsin Branch, Inc., and the Wisconsin State Reading Association, Inc., and revise the guidebook as appropriate.

The bill imposes requirements related to appointments to the advisory committee. The
state superintendent must appoint two co-chairs for the committee, one from a list of three names submitted by the International Dyslexia Association – Wisconsin Branch, Inc., and one from a list of three names submitted by the Wisconsin State Reading Association, Inc. The superintendent must also appoint eight additional members from a list submitted by the first organization, and eight additional members from a list submitted by the second organization. Finally, the superintendent must appoint one DPI representative to the committee.

Individuals with certain financial interests may not be appointed to the advisory committee. The International Dyslexia Association – Wisconsin Branch, Inc. and the Wisconsin State Reading Association, Inc., cannot submit for appointment the name of any individual who has a financial interest in an entity that develops, sells, or markets a product: (a) for screening risk factors for reading difficulties; (b) to assess reading ability; (c) specifically intended to be used to teach reading; or (d) to treat reading difficulties. The organizations are also prohibited from submitting the name of any individual who received income from any entity to provide training on one of the described products if the training occurred within the preceding 12 months.

The state superintendent is also prohibited from appointing an individual with the specified financial interests to the advisory committee, unless the disqualification applies solely because of the individual’s employment at DPI.