Legislative Update ENewsletter Banner

November 11, 2011

For more information, contact Dan Rossmiller or Joe Quick

The WASB Legislative Update newsletter is provided to all school board members and district administrators.

In this issue:

  • DPI Releases 'Framework for Educator Effectiveness' Report
  • School Referendum Results Mixed
  • WASDA Survey Shows Fewer Teachers, Student Options
  • Ohio Voters Reject Limits on Collective Bargaining
  • DPI Releases Environmental Education Plan
  • Democrat Billings Wins Special Assembly Race in La Crosse
  • MMAC Pushes Plan to Revamp Education in Milwaukee
  • JFC Releases Statewide Student Information System Funding

DPI Releases 'Framework for Educator Effectiveness' Report;
First Step Toward Model Evaluation System

Teachers' and principals' performance evaluations would be based 50 percent on what their students are learning and 50 percent on their practice, according to a Department of Public Instruction (DPI) report released Monday (Nov. 7) that outlines steps toward a model educator evaluation system in Wisconsin.

Student outcome data will come from multiple measures. Those include value-added data from state assessments, data from district benchmark assessments (such as MAP tests), student learning objectives, school-wide reading at the elementary level and graduation at the high school level, and district choice data based on improvement strategies.

The report reflects the work of the Wisconsin Educator Effectiveness Design Team. State Superintendent Tony Evers appointed the group last December. It included representatives from the state’s two major teachers’ unions, as well as the WASB.
View DPI press release
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel “School Zone” blog coverage
Appleton Post Crescent (AP) article
The Capital Times “Chalkboard” column


School Referendum Results Mixed;
Voters Approve Lifting Revenue Limits, Reject Debt Insurance

Fourteen school referendum questions were on the ballot on Nov. 8. Voters in three of the four districts seeking to exceed revenue limits on a non-recurring basis approved referendums.  Districts seeking to issue debt didn’t fare as well. Voters approved three such referendums but rejected seven.

Referendums to raise revenue limits were approved in Independence, Prescott and White Lake, but failed to garner voter support in Lake Holcombe. Referendums to issue debt for various school construction and remodeling projects were approved in New Glarus, River Falls and White Lake, but were rejected in Antigo, Arcadia, Dodgeville, Lake Holcombe, Muskego-Norway, Prescott and River Falls.

Three referendum questions regarding debt issuance were on the ballot in River Falls, where voters rejected $19.3 million between two referendums, but approved a third in for just over $19 million.
See referendum results


WASDA Survey Shows Fewer Teachers, Student Options

The annual Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA) survey providing a glimpse into the impact of cuts in state aids and revenue limits was released this week by the DPI. The findings demonstrate that Wisconsin’s 424 school districts all have different circumstances and that it is difficult to make sweeping generalizations about the effects of the collective bargaining law changes and state aid reductions.

According to the DPI, the data shows:

  • Many more jobs were lost in the K-12 sector than under prior years of budget cuts. Wisconsin has 1,655 fewer teachers, 172 fewer administrators, 765 fewer aides, and 776 fewer support staff working in schools in districts responding to the survey. Net cuts were two to three times greater for the current school year than in 2010-11. Staffing cuts in 2011-12 were double the combined cuts in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. Newly hired teachers and staff are younger and less experienced and have fewer veteran teachers to rely on due to retirements.
  • Four in 10 students attend a district with larger class sizes in grades K-6; 90 percent of students attend a district that had a net staff loss in one of the four categories surveyed. These cuts mean students have fewer opportunities to take career and technical education classes. Districts also are offering fewer art, music, physical education, Advanced Placement, and foreign language classes. Forty percent of students are in districts that eliminated sections or increased class size for the core subjects of English, mathematics, science, and social studies.
  • Support programs were cut, and roughly three in four students attend a district reducing at least one such program; one in five students attend a district that cut five or more of these programs. The biggest cuts were to special education programs (in 100 of responding districts), followed by library and media center staff, reading coordinators, programs for at-risk youth, and drug and alcohol abuse programs.

View DPI press release
View WASDA survey results
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel news story
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analysis
Wisconsin State Journal story
Beloit Daily News story
WKOW-TV coverage
Wisconsin Radio Network report (text & audio)
Statement from WASB Executive Director John Ashley


DPI Releases Environmental Education Plan

Late last week, State Superintendent State Superintendent Tony Evers announced the completion of Wisconsin’s first plan to address environmental literacy and sustainability for schools.

Also last week, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) completed its work on a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  The bill creates a new “Well-Rounded Education” grant program that makes environmental education eligible for funding under Title IV of ESEA.  Senators hope to pass the reauthorization bill before Christmas.
See new state environmental education plan (59 pages long)
See executive summary (2 pages long)
See DPI Press Release
See general information about environmental education in Wisconsin       


Ohio Voters Reject Limits on Collective Bargaining

Ohio voters on Tuesday (Nov. 8) approved a statewide referendum to repeal a controversial bill limiting public employee collective bargaining rights signed into law by Ohio Gov. John Kasich last spring. The Ohio referendum, known as Issue 2, was perhaps the most closely watched ballot fight of the 2011 election.

By a roughly 62-38 percent margin, voters repealed Senate Bill 5, which hadn't taken effect yet. It would have limited public employees' right to collectively bargain for anything except wages, and would have covered government officials, teachers, protective services employees and nurses.

Tuesday's result means Ohio’s current union rules will stand, at least until the GOP-controlled Ohio Legislature determines its next move. Republican House Speaker William Batchelder predicted last week that some elements of the collective bargaining bill - such as higher minimum contributions on worker health insurance and pensions - are likely to be revisited after the dust settles.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article
New York Times


Democrats Hold Seat in Special Assembly Race in La Crosse

Democrat Jill Billings defeated GOP candidate David Drewes in the special election to fill the 95th Assembly District in the La Crosse area. Billings, La Crosse County Board Vice Chair, will fill the seat vacated by Jennifer Shilling (D- La Crosse), who won a recall election this summer for the state Senate.  Billings took 72 percent of the vote in the historically Democratic district.
Read La Crosse Tribune story


MMAC Pushes Plan to Revamp Education in Milwaukee

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) is behind a new framework to revamp portions of Milwaukee’s public school system.  Among its suggestions:

  • merging vocational training with high school studies, for pupils not on the college track;
  • allowing the school boards of various districts to collaborate with their local technical college to create dual enrollment. Juniors and seniors who don't plan to go to a four-year college would go to school half days at the public high school and then half days at the technical college;
  • funding for nonprofit groups like Schools that Can and Teach for America, which recruits high-achieving college graduates for teaching careers;
  • taking the lowest performing schools in MPS and putting them in a separate district where they’d be targeted for overhaul; and
  • grading all city schools that receive public funding on a common public report card.
Charter schools would play a big role under the new framework.  In fact, MMAC is raising millions of dollars to recruit and establish a number of them.
Read Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage


JFC Releases Statewide Student Information System Funding

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) has approved the release of $5 million in funding for the 5-year, $15 million Statewide Student Information System (SIS) project. Committee members backed the DPI’s plan for a single vendor for the SIS project with an exemption for the Tomah school district, which has developed its own non-vendor system that can meet each of the specified criteria for the exemption recommended by the DPI. 

Under the motion adopted by the JFC, $5 million would be available  for the SIS in 2011-12, with another $5 million available in 2012-2013; the DPI can come back to JFC with a progress report in order to seek release of additional funds. Base level funding in the 2013-2015 state budget would be $5 million, but funding for the SIS would end in 2014-2015.  Because the SIS project will be phased in over 5 years, how the latter years will be funded remains an issue.

State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point), whose district is home to Skyward, one potential vendor, had urged JFC members to support a multi-vendor plan for the SIS.  
See JFC Issue paper on SIS 
View Sen. Lassa letter to JFC members


News Briefs ...

news brief iconSuperintendent Tony Evers released his “framework” for teacher/administrator evaluations this week, the elections for the 2011 recalls finished with Democrat Jill Billings handily winning the 95th Assembly District seat vacated by Sen. Jennifer Shilling, and several districts commented on the potential impact of Senate Bill 237, which modifies human growth and development curriculum and passed the Senate last week. A collection of this week’s Wisconsin education stories is available through this link.


Upcoming Hearings

Assembly Education Committee
Public Hearing 
Wednesday, Nov. 16, 10:00 a.m.
Room 417 North, State Capitol (GAR Hall)

Assembly Bill 337, relating to: providing instruction in human growth and development. (The WASB is monitoring this bill.)

Assembly Insurance Committee  
Public Hearing 
Thursday, Nov. 17, 10:00 a.m.
Room 417 North, State Capitol (GAR Hall)

Hearing agenda includes two bills to curb “double dipping”

Assembly Bill 318, relating to post-retirement employment of annuitants under the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). (The WASB opposes this bill because of its potential impact on hiring of administrators and educators in critical licensure shortage areas.)

Assembly Bill 352, relating to participating employee status and the WRS and post-retirement employment of WRS annuitants. (The WASB opposes this bill because of its potential impact on hiring of administrators and educators in critical licensure shortage areas.)


inside scoop graphicInside Scoop

Results of the 43rd annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll on public schools related to charter schools and private school vouchers are worth sharing. 

The poll found that Americans continue to embrace the concept of charter schools, giving them a 70 percent approval rating, the highest recorded since the question was first asked 10 years ago. Charter school support has increased steadily over that period. Support for public charter schools is strongest among Americans under age 40 (76 percent) and Republicans (77percent).

Americans increasingly support public school choice—allowing students and parents to choose which public schools to attend in their community or another regardless of where they live—and this support is consistent across age differences and political affiliation.

Vouchers, however, received the lowest approval rating in the past 10 years—only one of three Americans favor allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend with public dollars.

In addition to overturning the Ohio law, teachers' unions also scored a victory in Michigan. In Tuesday's election, the Republican chairman of the House Education Committee, Paul Scott, was recalled after being targeted by the Michigan Education Association for weakening teacher tenure and cutting education funding.

On this Veteran’s Day, the WASB salutes all our nation’s veterans.  If you see a veteran, please thank them for their service to our country.


No Other Comment Necessary
"From our perspective, there's absolutely no need for this bill. Wisconsin already has more charter schools than most other states. Furthermore, there's no evidence that charter schools authorized through SB 22 will outperform either existing charter schools or traditional public schools," – WASB Government Relations Director Dan Rossmiller speaking to a reporter about SB 22, related to creating an independent charter school board of mostly political appointees

"School finance is fairly complicated and it is difficult to compare district finances across the state. The long-term issue continues to be how we as a state fund the education of our children." – Reedsburg Supt. Patrick Ruddy, on Gov. Walker’s Web site that contends Reedsburg saved $1.31 million, while the district laid off seven staff members and raised the local property tax levy

"The taxpayers may save the money, but it's not helping our district, really. What (the governor) is saying, I believe, is he gave us the tools to cut teachers' pay and teachers' benefits. But that doesn't help us. That hinders us, because it makes it harder for us to attract and retain quality staff." – Black Hawk Supt. Willy Chambers, commenting on Gov. Walker’s Web site