Assembly education committee schedules public hearing and vote

The Assembly Committee on Education will hold an executive session and a public hearing on Thursday, September 19 at 10:00 a.m. in Room 417 North, State Capitol.

The committee is chaired by state Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) and is scheduled to take public testimony on the following bills:

PUBLIC HEARING

Assembly Bill 115 Relating to: an emergency exception for high performing school districts to the number of hours of direct pupil instruction requirement.

By Representatives Ott, Katsma, Snyder, Duchow, Edming, Horlacher, Hutton, Knodl, Kulp, Murphy, Mursau and Tusler; cosponsored by Senators Kooyenga, Feyen and Kapenga.

This bill requires the Department of Public Instruction to count hours of direct
pupil instruction that are canceled because school is closed due to an emergency or
inclement weather if the school district was in one of the top two performance
categories on the most recent school and school district accountability report
(commonly known as the state report card). In other words, under the bill, a school
district that was in one of the top two categories on the state report card is not
required to make up hours of direct pupil instruction that were missed because
schools were closed due to an emergency or inclement weather.

The WASB has concerns about this bill in that it would give relief to some districts but not others.  Many districts that would be considered high-performing likely have individual students who are not reaching proficiency and might benefit from increased instructional time.  To treat struggling learners differently because they reside in different districts seems unfair to those individuals.

Assembly Bill 368 Relating to: the school district revenue limit adjustment for declining enrollment and the prior year base revenue hold harmless adjustment.

By Representatives Quinn, Kitchens, Duchow, Kulp, Skowronski and Tusler; cosponsored by Senators Marklein and Olsen.

This bill, which is a product of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding  makes changes to the school district revenue limit adjustment for declining enrollment and terminates an adjustment establishing a minimum initial revenue limit, commonly known as the prior year base revenue hold harmless adjustment.

Current law generally limits the total amount of revenue per pupil a school
district may receive from general school aids and property taxes in a school year to
the amount of revenue received per pupil in the previous school year. Per pupil
revenue is calculated using a three-year rolling average of pupil enrollment,
comparing the average number of pupils enrolled in the three previous school years
and the average of the number of pupils enrolled in the current and two preceding
school years. There are several exceptions to the revenue limit, including a revenue
limit adjustment for a school district with declining enrollment. If a school district’s
enrollment declines, its revenue limit is increased in the year of the decline by the
amount of additional revenue that would have been allowed had there been no
decline in enrollment.

This bill modifies the revenue limit adjustment for declining enrollment in two
ways. First, a decline in enrollment is measured by comparing the three-year rolling
average of pupil enrollment ending with the current school year against the three-year average of pupil enrollment for the 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 school years. Second, if a school district’s enrollment declines, the school district receives an adjustment to its revenue limit equal to the allowable revenues that 90 percent of the decline in enrollment would have generated. However, there is a limit to this adjustment, as for purposes of the adjustment calculation a maximum 10 percent decline in enrollment is used.

Current law also provides that if a school district’s initial revenue limit for the
current school year, after consideration of certain factors, is less than the district’s
base revenue from the previous school year, the district’s initial revenue limit is set
equal to the prior year’s base revenue. The bill terminates this adjustment, for the
2019-20 school year and each school year thereafter.

The WASB also has some concerns about this bill.  One of those concerns is that if the bill were to take effect in the current 2019-20 school year, we think it would likely reduce the revenue limit authority of nearly every declining enrollment district in the state due in part to the elimination of the prior-year base hold harmless adjustment.  If this is indeed the case, school boards and districts in declining enrollment districts that are already deeply involved in trying to finalize their budgets could be faced with an unanticipated decrease in revenue limit authority and little time to adjust to that decrease.

Revenue limits are complicated and changes to them are not necessarily intuitively understood, particularly given that the Legislature has sometimes allowed annual adjustments to revenue limits and sometimes has not. Those decisions could significantly effect how this change will impact declining enrollment districts in future years. The WASB is closely examining this proposal.  One way to address our concern might be to delay the effect of the change in the bill for one year, while another might be to retain the prior- year base revenue hold harmless adjustment for this year only.

EXECUTIVE SESSION

Before the public hearing begins, the committee will vote on whether to recommend the following bill to the full Assembly:

Assembly Bill 232 Relating to: teacher preparatory programs and granting rule-making authority.

By Representatives L. Myers, Rohrkaste, Stubbs, Ohnstad, Crowley and Subeck; cosponsored by Senators Kooyenga, L. Taylor, Carpenter, Jacque, Feyen and Smith.

This bill authorizes the state superintendent of public instruction to approve
a teacher preparatory program if the program requires students to complete the
equivalent of the student teaching required under current law, as determined by the
state superintendent by rule. Under current law, the state superintendent may
approve a teacher preparatory program only if students in the program are required
to complete student teaching that consists of full days for a full semester at a
cooperating elementary or secondary school. Current law further specifies that the
hours, days, and semester of student teaching are determined based on the
cooperating school’s schedule.

The WASB supports AB 232.