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Legislative Update

IDEA Full Funding Act Reintroduced in Congress

Special education is the largest, single unfunded mandate placed on Wisconsin schools and the continual underfunding of special education costs is a vexing problem for Wisconsin school boards.  However, relief may be on the way.

Federal legislation known as the IDEA Full Funding Act was reintroduced on Nov. 16.  The bill reflects an effort to finally ensure Congress fully meets its longstanding commitment to fund special education services required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The bipartisan and bicameral support for the bill–i.e., support from members of both parties in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives–is raising hopes for its passage.

The bill calls for increasing federal special education funding each year over a 10-year period to reach the funding level Congress originally pledged to meet when it enacted this landmark federal special education law.  It would correct Congress’ longstanding failure to uphold its end of the bargain.

Each year that Congress fails to meet its promise, local school districts are forced to pay a higher proportion of the special education cost.  As a consequence, districts are also often forced to make hard decisions about which programs to fund (or cut). Schools and districts are often forced to divert funds from programs that serve all students (including students with disabilities) to pay for the unfunded costs of meeting the IDEA’s mandates.

In 1975, when Congress initially passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (later tweaked and renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA) to ensure that every child with a disability has access to educational opportunity, it also committed to funding a substantial portion the increased costs to states and local school districts of providing additional services to students with disabilities.

Specifically, Congress committed the federal government to pay 40 percent of the extra cost for educating special education students with disabilities. In other words, the feds would pay for 40 percent of the additional cost required to educate students with disabilities (compared to the average cost per student for educating students without disabilities). However, that pledge has never been met, and current federal funding pays for just 15.7 percent of those additional costs.

One reason is that the number of students with disabilities served under IDEA has steadily increased while funding has not kept pace. For example, over the two decades from 1995 to 2015, the number of students with disabilities increased by 25 percent.

Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin is among the Senate co-sponsors of the IDEA Full Funding Act.

US Ed. Dept. publishes new FAQs on use of ESSER and GEER funds for student transportation

The U.S. Department of Education recently published a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document that provides information and answers questions about the allowable uses of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds by state education agencies (SEAs), such as the DPI, and local education agencies (LEAs), such school districts, for transportation.

The FAQ document includes information on the uses of these funds to “address the current regional and national challenges with hiring and retaining a sufficient number of school bus drivers.”  The new FAQs are intended to supplement the transportation-related questions included in the earlier ESSER and GEER Use of Funds Guidance published in May of this year.

Bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law; Democrats’ massive policy agenda bill clears U.S. House; possible government shutdown looms

Last week was a busy week in Washington, DC.  On Monday (11/15), President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill into law and on Friday (11/19), the House passed the $1.75 Trillion “Build Back Better Act,” which now heads to the Senate for consideration. 

That being said, however, the first order of business when Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break will almost certainly be the immediate need to deal with FY2022 appropriations since the stopgap measure currently funding the federal government, known as a Continuing Resolution, expires on Friday, Dec. 3. That will be followed closely by an urgent need to raise the federal debt ceiling to avoid a default on interest owed on federal borrowing. read more…

USED’s Office for Civil Rights Seeks Public Input on Civil Rights Data Collection for 2021-22 School Year

Last Thursday (11/18), the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced that it has submitted to the Federal Register for public comment a proposed Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) Information Collection Request package for the 2021–22 school year.

From the OCR:

“The package describes key civil rights data OCR intends to collect from the nation’s public schools and districts. OCR plans to introduce new data categories, such as those relating to students’ educational experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and restore key data categories from previous collections. read more…

Legislative task force releases education-related recommendations

Legislative task force releases education-related recommendations

On August 24, 2020, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) created a task force to focus on racial disparities, educational opportunities, public safety, and police policies and standards in Wisconsin. 

The task force formed two subcommittees: (1) a Subcommittee on Law Enforcement Policies and Standards (19 members); and (2) a Subcommittee on Education and Economic Development (13 members). Representatives Steineke and Stubbs served as co-chairs of the first subcommittee, in addition to serving as co-chairs of the full task force. The task force co-chairs appointed Representatives Kalan Haywood and Robert Wittke as co-chairs of the second subcommittee, which was tasked with exploring issues relating to racial disparities in education and economic conditions. read more…

Prof. Charles Franklin will examine public opinion/latest poll results on Friday

Prof. Charles Franklin will examine public opinion/latest poll results on Friday

Charles Franklin, professor of law and public policy at Marquette University and Director of the Marquette University Law School Poll, will be joining us for our third webinar in our 2021 Legislative Conference series this Friday (11/12) at noon. You can find more information about the Legislative Conference here.

What ARE They Thinking? A Closer Look at Public Opinion in Wisconsin
Friday, Nov. 12 at 12 pm

Examine the latest Marquette Law School Poll findings with a nationally noted pollster and political scientist. He’ll discuss the public opinion findings on K-12 education, school spending, state aid to schools, tax relief, the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the performance of our state’s top politicians, and more.

For more on the poll: website/Twitter

Charles Franklin: website/Twitter


$1.2 Trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill clears U.S. House, heads to President’s desk

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 228-206 on Friday to pass a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which now heads to President Biden, who has indicated he will sign the bill into law “soon.”

Thirteen 13 Republican House members and all but six House Democrats voted in favor of passage of the bill.  The U.S. Senate had passed the bill by a 69-30 margin back in August. read more…

Legislative task force releases education-related recommendations

Gov. Evers acts on several K-12 bills passed by the legislature

Signed into Law

Senate Bill 373, now 2021 Wisconsin Act 89: Requires the Department of Public Instruction to create an online portal, available beginning in the 2023-24 school year, that displays financial data collected from all school districts, county children with disabilities education boards, and independent charter schools; and  

Aimed at fostering financial transparency, this new law creates an 11-person advisory committee to develop and report a set of recommendations to the department by Feb. 1, 2023, including recommendations on the categories of information that will be accessible to the public through the portal and the resources necessary to implement and maintain the portal. read more…

New MU Law poll: strong support for elected state superintendent

New MU Law poll: strong support for elected state superintendent

The newest Marquette University Law School Poll was released by Prof. Charles Franklin and it included an array of questions on various election-related matters and other issues. Along with the strong support for an elected, rather than governor-appointed, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the poll showed satisfaction with public schools overall; however, satisfaction dropped between August 2021 and late October 2021.

Prof. Franklin will take a deeper look into these numbers next Friday (11/12) at noon during our Legislative Conference webinar series. This poll also tackled concerns about student learning and mental health related to the pandemic as well as masks in schools: read more…

Legislative task force releases education-related recommendations

Reading readiness overhaul legislation passes legislature, heads to governor

Senate Bill 454, a massive overhaul of the reading readiness program, including new state mandates relating to screening, assessments, interventions, parental notifications and reporting requirements, has passed both houses of the state Legislature this week and now heads to Governor Evers to either be signed into law or vetoed. read more…

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