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(608)266-5780 | State Capitol, Room 307 West, P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708 |



La Crosse County Dairy Breakfast

Saturday, June 20, 6-11 a.m.

Ruedy Farm, W104 Culpitt Road, Bangor, WI

Celebrate Dairy Month by enjoying a delicious breakfast at one of our local farms!


Juneteenth Day Celebration
Saturday, June 20

Copeland Park, 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.


La Crosse River Fest

Wednesday, July 1 through Saturday, July 4

E Veterans Memorial Dr, La Crosse, WI 54601


Freedom Fest
Saturday, July 18

UW-La Crosse Veterans' Memorial Field Sports Complex



State Capitol
Room 307 West
P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708


(608) 266-5780
Toll Free:

(888) 534-0095


Friends and Neighbors,

Recently released information from the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that Wisconsin continues to rank dead last in job growth in the Midwest, and 35th in the nation overall. With stagnant job growth numbers like this, my legislative colleagues and I are looking to switch gears and create a budget that will work to bring our state back to the top.

With deliberations in the Joint Finance Committee drawing to a close in the next couple of weeks, the budget will soon move to the legislative bodies for discussion. I am hopeful that members of both houses will take job growth numbers into consideration, and make amend the budget to include significant investments in our workers, families and students to foster economic growth across the state.

Continue reading this week's newsletter to learn about progress on the state budget, important policy issues, and local events.



Best Wishes,

Jill Billings
State Representative
95th Assembly District





Last week, prominent officials in Wisconsin education visited the capitol to discuss the future of public schools with Democratic legislators. The resounding message from the officials was that education was not enough of a priority in the 2015-2017 biennial budget. Over the past few years, education was cut by billions and many areas of public education saw significant reductions in offerings. Should this budget proposal pass, Wisconsin would fall below the national average for per-pupil education spending for the first time in state history.

From the meeting, legislators and education leaders were able to come up with a list of the 8 top priorities for education, moving forward.

  1. Retain adequate standards for teacher licensure. The Republican budget proposal would remove the requirements of needing a Bachelor's degree to teach in specific subject areas and completing sufficient hours of pedagogical training.
  2. Stop Voucher Expansion. Voucher expansion will bleed funding away from public schools to pay for unaccountable private education. Almost 90 percent of our school kids attend public schools and we should fund them adequately before attempting to fund a second school system. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the proposed voucher expansion could cost up to $800 million over the next 10 years.
  3. Remove Special Needs Voucher program. Special needs vouchers are opposed by nearly every disability rights group and would create a voucher for these students to attend private schools. These vouchers cost taxpayers $12,000 per student. Children attending these schools could face discrimination and would not have legal protections or rights that would typically be afforded to them by federal law.
  4. Maintain school district and local control by discontinuing expansion of (2r) charter school program. The expansion of authority to create independent or (2r) charter schools will create more schools that utilize state funding but aren't under the control of local school boards.
  5. Maintain local control for Milwaukee schools and remove Milwaukee take-over proposal. This provision would allow for schools with the lowest ratings in the Milwaukee Public School district to be taken over by the county executive and converted to a charter or private school that is not subject to local control. This provision also provides possibilities for future takeovers of larger, more urban districts. All of these changes would occur without ANY evidence that charter or public schools perform any better than public schools.
  6. Use one statewide exam for student testing to ensure consistent comparisons. All schools receiving public funds should be held to the same testing standards. Testing parity would ensure a level playing field for all schools and prevent unfair and biased comparisons between school systems and districts.
  7. Index Revenue to inflation according to Consumer Price Index (CPI). Revenue indexing would be a big step toward adequate funding for public schools. Schools cannot continue to operate with limited, stagnant funds while costs of services, supplies and personnel continue to rise. Inadequate funding also makes it difficult to attract and retain talented teachers who aren’t currently afforded a cost of living pay increase.
  8. Raise the Special Education Reimbursement Rate. State aid that reimburses costs involved in teaching special education students remains frozen in the current budget proposal. The current reimbursement rate is 26.8 percent. The target rate for this reimbursement should be a minimum of 33 percent.

There are currently two draft bills circulating in the legislator that address the education administrators' concerns. Representatives Barnes and Riemer plan to introduce legislation that would increase school district revenue limits and increase special education funding.






Since the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) made changes to education in the budget, I've had many people in La Crosse come up to me and ask how this will affect their children's schools. "Will we have teachers without bachelor's degrees?" "Can someone teach without a high school degree?" "I've heard teachers won’t even need background checks -- is that true?" These are just a few of the many questions I've received about new teacher licensing requirements from my constituents.

In a nuanced issue like licensing requirements, it's easy to get caught up in a telephone-game situation. It's true: should this proposal pass, teacher licensing will change drastically. Since this issue will affect every child and family in La Crosse, it is exceptionally important that we all know what's really going on.

Motion 457 -- Joint Finance Republicans' omnibus proposal on education -- included a provision describing "alternative teacher licensing." Under this provision, an individual could teach grades 6-12 in Wisconsin public schools with fewer qualifications than are currently required.

The proposed teacher licensing provision involves a point system to determine whether the individual has enough experience to qualify for a license. In order to obtain a license, they would need 100 or more points, with 25 points in industry experience and 25 points in pedagogical, field teaching experience minimum.

Under this point system, teachers would not necessarily need a bachelor's degree. However, having a bachelor's degree would earn an applicant 90 points in industry experience, making their licensing process much simpler.

The more concerning point levels include other factors for industry experience and teaching experience. For industry experience, 5 points would be awarded for every 40 hours of work for up to 90 points. So after 7 months -- or 720 hours -- of work in a specific field a teacher would be considered to have the same amount of experience as a 4-year degree holder.

For teaching experience, 5 points would be awarded for every 50 hours of work for up to 25 points. So, an applicant would only need 250 hours -- or 2 and a half months -- of actual teaching experience.

Overall, this system would allow an individual to get a teaching license with less than a year of experience in their field. For comparison, in the state of Wisconsin a cosmetologist must have at least 1,550 hours of instructional training or 3,712 hours of practical training to get a license. It seems all-too-obvious that our teachers should be held to a higher standard.

Allowing teachers with such limited experience, and potentially little understanding of the subject they will be teaching, is wrong for our students.

Students graduating from the Education Department at UW-La Crosse or Viterbo have received specialized instruction in areas of performance evaluation, child psychology, managing a classroom and meeting the needs of children with different learning styles. They also have months of training under a teacher in a classroom. Once licensed, teachers fulfill continuing education requirements throughout their careers. This is the additional training one needs to be successful in a classroom as opposed to simply having knowledge or experience on a subject.

This week, Rep. Mary Czaja (R-Irma) has stated that she will make changes to the original proposal to alter teacher licensing. After outrage from parents and teachers across the state, it looks like Republican legislators have backed off their initial proposal ever-so slightly in attempt to appease constituents. Rep. Czaja states that the new proposal would only allow alternatively licensed teachers to teach part time, and within one school district (the district where they are hired) and allow time for a background check. Rep. Czaja also states that her new proposal will include language that would require a minimum of a high school diploma to teach a non-core subject. However, much like the initial proposal, this "fix," avoids the root problem entirely.

The issue in allowing alternative teacher licenses is that we are lowering the bar for educators in our state. In fact according to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) we would be below all other states in terms of standards for teaching licenses. We're telling our students and our future educators for that they don't deserve the best education our state can provide.

The number of educators in our state is declining because legislative Republicans keep devaluing education. After Act 10 our state lost so many hardworking teachers. I've heard friends and neighbors dissuade their kids from becoming educators. Enrollment in the UW Schools of Education is slipping each year. But that doesn't mean we fill in space with underqualified teachers -- it means we should start valuing education as a profession again and bring back qualified students to the field.

My two children received an excellent education in our La Crosse public schools. I want the children who attend La Crosse schools after them to have the same opportunities -- and that includes great, qualified teachers.





Last week, the Assembly met to debate AB 49/SB 35, which would repeal the 48-hour waiting period to purchase a handgun.

The 48-hour waiting period, instituted 40 years ago, was meant to reduce gun violence and gun-related crime. The 48-hour waiting period served as a "cooling-off period" to prevent quick access to handguns. While the 48-hour waiting period may not prevent all gun violence, it is assumed that a full background check can be performed, and some emotion-filled snap decisions to purchase a gun and commit a crime can be prevented. Opponents to this legislation include domestic violence prevention groups, the Wisconsin Medical Society, and the City of Milwaukee. Assembly Republicans voted, along party lines, to repeal the 48-hour requirement.

Considering the rise in gun-related incidents in our state, one would think it wise to increase regulation on gun purchases.

To counteract the likelihood of dangerous individuals having easy access to guns, Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd (D-Milwaukee) has proposed legislation to require background checks on all gun sales. Currently, a criminal background check is required for gun purchases through federally-licensed dealers. However, background checks are not conducted in many private sales of firearms. According to recent polls, 80 to 90 percent of Wisconsin residents support background checks on all firearm sales. Sen. Harris Dodd's bill requires that all firearm sales be done through federally licensed dealers, thus requiring a background check.





From the beginning of budget debates, cuts to the UW System have been a major concern for Wisconsin's workforce and economy. The University of Wisconsin System is one of the largest state employers, and cuts to its funding will likely lead to employment reductions on every UW campus.

The proposed cuts to the UW System -- passed by the JFC Republicans -- involve slashing $250 million from base university funding over the next two years. In the past four years, the UW budget has been cut by more than $600 million. In La Crosse alone, budget cuts could result in a multimillion decline in funding. UW-La Crosse administrators have already indicated that budget cuts will mean a loss of over $1 million in jobs. With student loan debt reaching record highs, slashing the UW System budget is not the right choice for the future of our state.

This cut not only hurts our future workforce -- it hurts our current workforce. These are our neighbors, friends, and people we see every day in our community, who spend most of these dollars locally. The choices Republicans are making in Madison will have real consequences in our communities.





On Wednesday, I got the chance to meet with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse about the ‪#‎ItCanWait‬ campaign. #ItCanWait encourages youth to not text...or use Instagram, Snapchat, or other smartphone distractions…while driving. Although, the event is always a good reminder for me and my kids too!

Texting and other cell phone use while driving causes numerous accidents every year. To avoid a costly ticket or accident, follow these tips when driving:

  • Turn off your phone or switch to silent mode

  • Use voice mail to tell callers that you are driving and will return the call as soon as possible.

  • If you must use your cell phone, pull over and stop in a safe area.

  • Ask a passenger to call or text for you.





Last Saturday, the Logan High School Rangers Softball team played their way to the school's first state championship in any girls' sport.

The team had a 3-0 win over Waupun at the WIAA Division 2 state championship, played at the Goodman Diamond at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Rangers reached the final tournament by defeating New London 3-1 in Friday's semifinal game.

The team held a record of 28-1 over the year. Not only is this win the first WIAA championship in a girls' sport in Logan High's history, but it also makes Logan High the first La Crosse school to win a WIAA softball title.

Congratulations to the team for doing our schools and city proud!





Attending an Artspire concert for Cloud Cult

Juneteenth Day groundbreaking of Poage Park, named in honor of George C. Poage.

Climbing to the top of the World's Largest Letter M with Lola Roeh, along with the rest of the Governor's Council on Tourism.



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