Gov. Tony Evers took action on a number of education bills last week, passing three bills aiming to increase the number of teachers in the state and vetoing one related to student privacy.
Wisconsin Act 35 expanded a loan program for minority teachers statewide; it was previously only available to Milwaukee teachers. The goal of the program is to increase the number of non-white teachers in schools where at least 40 percent of the student population is comprised of students of color.
Under the new law, teachers would be eligible to receive up to $10,000 in loans each year if they are employed by a public school, private school or tribal school within a Wisconsin school district.
Authors of the bill seek to address Wisconsin’s achievement gap between white students and students of color — one of the highest in the country — by expanding the program.
"Increasing the number of teachers of color proves to reduce the disparity between students and passing this bill is a small step toward closing this gap," Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, said to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Evers also signed two bipartisan bills that make it easier for teachers to get licensed.
Under Wisconsin Act 44, applicants for a special education license no longer need to pass the Foundations of Reading Test if they complete a different, approved course fulfilling certain requirements.
The second act, 43, creates an alternative method for teachers who already have a license from another state to receive a Wisconsin teaching license. With this legislation, Wisconsin will be the 14th state to have this type of policy.
Both laws were developed after local southwest Wisconsin educators and school administrators identified problems existing in the current licensing system, and hoped to eliminate red tape for teachers.
“I am glad we were able to come together and get rid of unnecessary licensure barriers, and help our local school districts be able to recruit and retain the very best educators to serve in our rural communities,” Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, said.
However, Evers also vetoed a Republican-authored bill that would have given power to local school districts to decide if students’ parents’ names would be released publicly in their directories.
Currently, members of the public have access to certain student information known as directory data — like a student’s name, address, degrees, field of study or photographs.
Evers struck down the bill claiming it would “negatively impact the privacy of parents of students” in Wisconsin and provide fewer privacy protections than the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
“Wisconsin law should provide greater protections for privacy than federal law, not fewer,” Evers said his veto statement.
However, the authors of the legislation are upset with Evers’ veto, emphasizing the choice to add data was optional and claiming the Governor “can’t even see through the politics.”
“This bill simply gives local school boards more options to include in their directory data list, which is a choice, not a mandate,” Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said in a press statement. “His lack of understanding of the legislation is quite apparent, and it makes us question whether or not he’s even reading the bills that his staff puts in front of him.”