Report from the Capitol: Assembly Education Committee Passes Four Bills, Discusses Amendments

Assembly Education Committee – Executive Session 4/26/11

Here’s a breakdown of yesterday’s Executive Session, which discussed four bills up for voting in the Assembly Education Committee and several proposed amendments to these bills.

Assembly Bill 37 – Gives the city authority to sell vacant MPS buildings –

Substitute amendment reduces vacancy time to 12 months, with proceeds to go to MPS school operations fund – which would allow for debt management within the system. City can decide to sell an already leased building, but it would have to be empty for the 12 preceding months. Substitute amendment passes on party line, 7-4.

Amended bill passes on party line, 7-4.

Assembly Bill 92 – Lifts the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) enrollment cap, and allows Milwaukee County private schools to participate –

Amendment 1 – Eliminates expansion into Milwaukee County (Introduced by Rep. Hintz, who suggests that expansion will be harmful to city schools ). Rejected on party line, 7-4.

Amendment 2 – Reinstates 22,500 enrollment cap for the MPCP. (Introduced by Rep. Hintz, who suggests that uncertain enrollment figures would damage financing in MPS). Rejected on party line, 7-4.

Discussion – The discussion amongst the committee touches on several topics, most of which are concerns brought up by democrat members. These include: concern about the funding flaw between MPCP students and MPS, concern about a parallel school system being built up by the program and then failing, concern about losing money in public schools, concern about scope of fiscal effect with an uncapped program, and a concern about special needs students being left behind in MPS.

Unamended bill passes on party line 6-4 (Rep. Pridemore absent).

Assembly Bill 94 – MPCP – families that have more than 1 student applying for school only have to fill out one application, can combine payments for pupils in the same family into one check, other fiscal bookkeeping features to consolidate payment transfer mechanics. The bill also cuts summer school payments (40% of tuition cost) from the MPCP.

Amendment 1 – restores reduced payment rate for summer school students. Passes unanimously 10-0 (Rep. Knudson absent).

Amended bill passes along party line 6-4 (Rep. Knudson absent).

Senate Bill 2 – Open enrollment timing – Expands open enrollment period to Feb – Apr, effectively lengthening the enrollment time from three weeks to three months.

Amendment 1 – (Introduced by Rep. Clark) – eliminates criteria (item #7) that allows student to allow at any time of year if student and district agree that the transfer isn’t best for student/district. Amendment rejected on party line 7-4.

Amendment 2 – School board must give teachers notice of contract renewal by May 15 instead of March 15. Amendment is attached so schools can have a better idea of next year enrollment before sending renewal/layoff notices. Amendment passes 7-3 (Rep. Marklein absent, Rep. Clark votes in favor).

Amendment 3 – Amends item #7 (parent, resident and non-resident school boards have to agree that the transfer is in the best interest of pupil). Amendment passes unanimously 11-0.

Amended bill passes on party line 7-4.