Empowering Parents K-12 Education Bills

Earlier this month I joined Sens. Darling, Roth and other Assembly colleagues in releasing a package of K-12 education bills promoting school effectiveness, transparency, accountability, and re-asserting parental choice and rights. As a result of the COVID-19 health emergency, failing school leadership and the elimination of educational opportunities, our children are suffering consequences.

As we work to improve Wisconsin's K-12 performance, we need bold reforms or we will lose yet another generation of kids. Some 600,000 identified students can't read at grade level. Our schools should be effective in their teaching and be able to provide students with skills that go beyond the classroom.

This week I testified before the Assembly Committee on Education, and the Committee later voted to send each bill mentioned below to the full Assembly for a vote.

  • Milwaukee Public School Accountability (AB 966) would re-organize the Milwaukee Public Schools (MOS) and create in its place four to eight public school districts within the city. The bill would create a commission to determine the boundaries and implementation measures of the new districts. Commission members include the Governor and two appointees, the City of Milwaukee Mayor and two appointees, and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

  • School and School District Report Cards (AB 965) would require the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to establish by rule, the method and formulas used to create school report cards.

  • School Choice Expansion: AB 970 would open school choice to all Wisconsin families by removing state enrollment caps, and family income limits – marking the beginning of true school choice for all our students.

  • High Performing Charter Schools (AB 967): Provides that a contract to operate a charter school must allow the governing board to open additional charter schools.

  • Charter School Authorizing Board (AB 968): Creates a charter school authorizing board to approve new independent charter schools statewide.

Addressing Worker Shortage

The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that there are nearly 100,000 fewer people in the workforce than before the health emergency began in 2020. Not having enough workers has directly impacted other elements of our economy including increased prices and product shortages. Despite offers of increased wages and hiring bonuses, nearly every industry is dealing with workforce shortages.

Several of the bills addressed during Thursday's Assembly session focused on solutions to the workforce shortage in Wisconsin. Assembly Bill 932 promotes and expands both youth and registered apprenticeship programs. This legislation will utilize federal dollars to promote youth apprenticeships in Wisconsin, as well as provide funding for new career pathways in adult apprenticeship programs. These programs offer valuable opportunities for both students and adults to learn while working.

The 2021-23 budget included a provision that required the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to expend $3 million from its existing surplus funds on the talent attraction and retention initiative. WEDC has yet to implement the program. Assembly Bill 940 would require the CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to begin expending funds for the talent attraction and retention initiative within 30 days after the effective date of the bill.

 

Assembly Honors Bonnie Ladwig and Tommy Thompson

The State Assembly took time on Thursday to honor some of its own. One special honoree, Bonnie Ladwig served with distinction for many years as a state representative from Racine County. Her legacy includes a high standard of constituent service. I was pleased to join Rep. Vos and others in co-sponsoring Assembly Joint Resolution 131 in honor of Representative Bonnie Ladwig.

We also honored Governor Tommy Thompson as he prepares to depart from his role as interim president of the University of Wisconsin System. Governor Thompson has enjoyed a long career of public service and I’ve enjoyed personal conversations with him on a broad range of subjects. The Assembly Parlor, which sits to the back of the Assembly Chamber, will now be known as Tommy Thompson Assembly Parlor. Assembly Joint Resolution 121 passed in honor of Governor Tommy Thompson.

 

Constituents at the Capitol

It was great to welcome visitors to the State Capitol this week. Mark and Sue Gracyalny, owners of The Depot Tavern, were in town for the Wisconsin Tavern League Legislative Day. They met me in the Assembly Parlor during session, Tuesday.


Members of the Racine and Kenosha Chapters of ABATE of Wisconsin visited the Capitol for their legislative day. It was nice to meet them in the Assembly Parlor during session, Thursday.

 

Things to Do

  • Saturday, February 19 - Town of Norway Wine and Winter Craft and Vendor Fair

  • Thursday, February 24 - Pop-Up Biergarten; Milaeger's

  • Thursday, February 24 - Milaeger's Chili Cook Off Benefit

  • Saturday, February 26 - Racine Home Expo

  • Saturday, March 5 - Winos for Rhinos at the Racine Zoo

  • Racine County Eye

  • Real Racine