A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson
Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
As all eyes seem to be on Washington and the attempts undermine
health care there, it's important to keep an eye on our own state
Capitol where Republicans can't find agreement on a different major bill
that has huge implications: the 2017-2019 state budget.
Under Wisconsin law, our state biennial budget must be enacted by July 1
on odd-numbered years. If you've been following the budget process, you
are likely aware the Senate and Assembly GOP continue closed door
meetings on what will be in the budget, making it unlikely they will
meet the statutory deadline of tomorrow at Midnight.
One portion of our state budget that appears to have Republicans at an
impasse is how much our state should invest in our kids and their
future. Since being elected to the Senate in 2010, I have made
supporting our children's future by investing in our local public
schools my top priority. Serving as the ranking Democrat on the Senate
Education Committee, I continue to push for a better deal for our kids
than the one they've been getting these last seven years.
This week's Larson Report will provide an update on the Democratic
vision for supporting our schools and kids. In addition, We'll recap
some of the education proposals I've been championing already this
session, and ones that I will be introducing as session continues.
State Senator, District 7
State Budget Must
Invest in our Kids
we choose to invest in our children is one of the most important and
critical parts of our state budget. Each and every one of our kids
deserves a school that is fully able to meet their needs, but Walker and
legislative Republicans have failed in this task and have instead
focused on shifting more tax dollars to private, unaccountable voucher
I strongly believe one of core pillars of what makes Wisconsin a great
state is our dedication to a great education system, where every child
has access to a quality education. It's such a part of who we are that
it's actually in our state Constitution. Wisconsin must renew this value
of supporting our local public schools, as it is crucial to
strengthening our communities and state. Having strong neighborhood
schools benefits everyone. Our kids will have more opportunities to live
to their full potential. Even those who don't have children or whose
children are grown enjoy the benefits of higher property values and
community prosperity that come with having quality local public schools.
With Republicans at an impasse on
the state budget that has a looming deadline, my Democratic colleagues
on the Joint Finance Committee released a K-12 education plan that
invests more than the governor's proposal and lowers property taxes by
almost $25 million.
All of our children deserve a quality education. In order to achieve
this goal, our schools must be a priority and be adequately and fairly
funded. I'm proud to stand with my colleagues in standing up for our
kids and fighting for their future.
The Dem education plan:
- Puts an additional $514
million in the general aid formula, while implementing State
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers' Fair Funding
proposal, and ensures equal treatment of all districts.
- Reduces property taxes
statewide by increasing state support for schools. Compared to the
governor's plan, Dem plan cuts property taxes by $25 million
- Retains the $200/$204 per
pupil aid increases for all districts.
- Restores funding lost under
Republican restrictions on low-spending districts in 2011, and
increases funding for historically low spending districts beyond the
Assembly Republican K-12 budget proposal.
- Increases special education
funding for the first time in nearly a decade by close to $90
- Restores $500 million in local
revenue authority so districts can use the increased state funding
for actual classroom instruction.
- Allows local taxpayers to
decide via referendum if they want local tax dollars shifted to
unaccountable voucher schools.
- Allows local communities to
put in place school safety plans, save tax dollars with energy
efficient projects, and combat alcohol and other drug abuse outside
of spending limits.
Holding For-Profit Voucher
The Dem education plan also
incorporates key voucher accountability pieces from a bill that I
introduced last session. We know that our students and neighborhood
schools are still struggling to recover from the largest cuts to
education in our state's history. The Dem plan recommits and invests in
our kids and public schools, but also ensures that every school
receiving taxpayer dollars is held to the same standards and
Under 2015 Senate Bill 3, and included in the JFC education plan, are
the following provisions:
- Requiring Licensure for
Voucher School Teachers
Require that all instructional staff of private schools
participating in a choice program hold a license or permit issued by
- Administering Background
Checks for Teachers, Administrators, and Staff to Keep Students Safe
Require each private school participating in the voucher program to
conduct a background check of each teacher and administrator
employed by the private school. Require private schools to conduct a
background check before extending an offer of employment to a new
teacher or administrator in the school, and conduct background
checks annually. Prohibit a participating private school from
employing a teacher or administrator who would not be eligible for
employment in a public school as a result of the background check.
- Administer Early Reading
Require private schools participating in a voucher program to
administer an assessment of reading readiness to students in
4-year-old kindergarten through 2nd grade.
- Create Similar Graduation
Requirements as Public Schools
Require private schools to develop a policy for granting a high
school diploma to voucher students that includes the requirements
applicable to public school students under state law.
- Offer Due Process for
Direct DPI to promulgate rules establishing a procedure for the
expulsion of students attending a private voucher school, and ensure
that it is similar to that of public schools.
- Ban Corporal Punishment
Prohibit a private school participating in a choice program from
subjecting a student to corporal punishment.
- Require Building
Inspections for Safety Purposes
Require private schools located in a municipality that does not
issue certificates of occupancy to annually obtain a building
inspection of the school building before participation in the
- Protect our Tax Dollars by
Ensure that Private Schools Participating in the voucher program
only have 49% of their students receiving vouchers and specify that
the total number of pupils residing in a district who can
participate in the statewide choice program would be limited to no
more than 2% of the district's prior year membership in 2017-18 and
Budget and Beyond: Continuing to
Fight for our Kids and Neighborhood Public Schools
the lead Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Education, I have
met with all of the 7th Senate District school districts as well as with
educators, experts, other legislators, and advocates in order to come up
with legislation that puts our kids on the road to opportunity and
prosperity. As a public school parent, I remain committed to ensuring
each child gets the education and opportunity they deserve.
In addition to fighting for our children's future to be a priority in
the state budget, I have introduced several pieces of pro-public
education legislation. For instance:
Bipartisan Character Education Bill (SB 329)
Republican Senator Alberta Darling and I introduced a bill that
provides funding to the Department of Public Instruction for
awarding grants to allow for teachers and school leaders to
participate in professional development training in character
Our kids devote a lot their time in the classroom, which is a great
opportunity to develop and reinforce the core values upon which
character is formed.
Character education is a learning process that enables students and
adults in a school community to understand, care about, and act on
core ethical values such as respect, justice, civic virtue and
citizenship, and responsibility for self and others.
Schools like Brown Deer Middle/High School and school districts like
South Milwaukee have been named Wisconsin Schools of Character and
have been recognized for their exemplary character education
programs. In fact, South Milwaukee is even recognized as a National
School of Character.
This bill provides funding to the Department of Public Instruction
for awarding grants to allow for teachers and school leaders to
participate in professional development training in character
education. This bill would also allow teachers and school district
administrators to use their character education training toward any
professional development requirements needed for their license.
Special Education Reimbursement Rates (SB 211)
I introduced Senate Bill 211 to increase state aid to school
districts for special education programs. Funding for special
education categorical aid has been frozen since the 2008-09 school
year. This bill would bring Wisconsin back to reimbursing special
education rates to schools districts to 33%.
State aid that supports the education of students with disabilities
has remained frozen since the 2008-2009 school year, but the cost to
provide this education has continued to rise. This results in a
continuing slide in reimbursement rates for special education costs
that school districts incur and forces our already underfunded
schools to spread their resources dangerously thin to try and
accommodate all of the students in the district. For instance, they
may have to have one nurse be responsible for several schools. This
is problematic because some students require medications be
administered multiple times a day.
The thinner vital school staff are spread, the more likely important
student needs may not be met. In the very first year reimbursement
rates were established, 1980, school districts were reimbursed at a
rate of 66.1%. In the 1999-2000 school year, reimbursement rates
were 34.3%. For the 2014-15 school year, the rate fell to just 26.8%
of costs. We have an obligation to educate all students, including
those with disabilities.
The Special Education Restoration Act would give schools their fair
share of funding by bringing us back to reimbursing districts at a
very modest 33%.
Community School Start-Up Grants (SB 282)
Senate Bill 282 to creates a community school start-up grant
program, which would allocate funds to public schools that focus on
improving student learning, strengthening families, and working with
community partners to provide additional services to families in the
Republicans have failed to invest in the services desperately needed
in our schools and have neglected programming that is proven to be
beneficial in supporting families and bolstering student
The community schools model takes a wraparound approach, which
allows for more comprehensive, individualized services for students,
such as academic support and enrichment activities, including
expanded learning time and summer or after school enrichment and
learning experiences; programs that promote parental involvement and
family literacy; job training, internship opportunities, and career
counseling services; and health services, including primary health,
services by a school nurse, dental care, mental health counseling,
and nutrition services.
Through the holistic approach of community schools, our schools will
have the tools to address the complex range of factors that
contribute to student learning.
See a video of the press conference unveiling SB 282, here.
Public Education Reinvestment Act (PERA) (LRB 0996)
This legislation, proposed by Rep. Brostoff and me, would expand a
smaller class size model statewide across all K4-12 grades, through
the proven Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE). The
benefits of having smaller class sizes are far-reaching and include
students scoring higher in reading, language arts, and mathematics
as well as evidence of higher graduation rates.
SAGE was established in 1996-97 school year and currently allows a
teacher-to-student ratio of 18:1 for grades K-3. This bill would
expand the program to 4K-12. Our bill would also invest an
additional $2,250 for each eligible low-income student.
Smaller classes provide more opportunities for teacher-student
interaction, with fewer disciplinary disruptions and allow teachers
to tailor instruction to student needs. SAGE has been shown to
result in students scoring significantly higher in reading, language
arts, and mathematics.
See a video of the press conference unveiling LRB 0996, here.
Preserving access to the American
Dream starts with investing in the future of our children and
communities through quality and accessible education in our local public
Unfortunately, after years of intentional and harmful underfunding, our
neighborhood schools continue to suffer under Walker and legislative
Contact the Co-Chairs of the Joint Finance Committee and let tell
Education is a right that should be afforded to every Wisconsin
child. Senate and Assembly Democrats have an education plan that will
invest more than the governor's proposal and lower property taxes by
almost $25 million. Support the Dem education motion in the Joint
You can reach Senator Darling at
You can reach Representative Nygren
In Case You Missed
week, the Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth
information to its readers. Between editions, a lot happens in Madison
and our Wisconsin communities. I want to make sure you know the most
pressing issues facing our neighborhoods across the state. Below are
some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks:
- U.S. Supreme Court to Hear
Wisconsin Redistricting Case
Attempts to suppress the public's voice by politically
gerrymandering districts to weaken the voting power of targeted
groups is a betrayal of our fundamental democratic freedoms and
The Assembly district maps that were crafted in secret by Wisconsin
Republicans were declared unconstitutional last November in federal
court. That legal ruling recognized the Republican abuse of power
went too far in shutting out our neighbors' voices in elections.
Voters should choose their politicians; politicians shouldn't choose
their voters. While Walker and state Republicans have shown they'll
do anything to hold onto power, I believe that justice will prevail
and that the U.S. Supreme Court will confirm what we already know:
the legislative district maps are unconstitutional and must be
Click here for more information.
Also, check out this Wisconsin State Journal editorial
regarding the case.
- Neighbors Voicing Concerns
about Health Care
Our neighbor, Ellen, called the office last week. Her son is ill and
depends on our state's Medicaid program (BadgerCare) for basic
health care. In fact, she was heading to take him to the doctor
later that day but called my office first because she is worried
that he may lose his coverage if the Affordable Care Act is
Like Ellen's family, many of our Wisconsin friends, families, and
neighbors depend on the protections of the Affordable Care Act and
our Medicaid program. Stripping away these basic, but life-saving,
services leave our community dangerously vulnerable. It is wrong and
With estimates of Wisconsinites at risk of losing their health care
coverage exceeding 300,000, Ellen's concern is certainly warranted.
We must stand firm against efforts to destroy a system that our
neighbors depend on for their quality of life and health. We deserve
better than a partisan scheme crafted behind closed doors, and now
being rushed through the process. As referenced in the article
below, the Senate Republican health care plan may come up as early
as next week and be debated for less than a day.
I'm proud that Senator Tammy Baldwin has stood firm in protecting
our health care options from day one.
However, Senator Ron Johnson has waffled back and forth. Call and
tell him to protect health care for our neighbors by rejecting any
efforts to gut the Affordable Care Act. You can reach Senator
Johnson at 414-276-7282.
Click here for more information about the proposed federal cuts to
- Local Elected Officials
Taking Lead on Climate Change
Mayor Tom Barrett showed his leadership in fighting against climate
change by joining over 298 mayors in committing to the principles of
the Paris Climate Agreement. Mayor Barrett also joined 13 other U.S.
cities in republishing the EPA Climate information that was removed
from the federal website by the
Trump administration, which can be found at the link below.
With the Trump administration backing out of our commitment to
globally reduce the dangerous effects of climate change, it is up to
state and local governments to lead the charge in the fight for a
better, more prosperous future.
I am proud of Mayor Barrett for taking strong, fast action and
taking a stand for our shared values.
Like Mayor Tom Barrett, 35 State Representatives and 11 State
Senators know that climate change is real, it is happening, and we
must participate in, if not lead the worldwide efforts to combat it.
That's why my Democratic colleagues and I sent a letter calling on
Governor Walker to have Wisconsin to join the bipartisan United
States Climate Alliance and recommit our state to our tradition of
conservation by developing and implementing a state-based plan to
fight climate change.
Click here for more information.
Events in our
Community -- Fourth of July Edition
neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost
importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and
your family are listed below.
Tuesday, July 4, marks the 241st
anniversary of our nation's Declaration of Independence. It is a day of
celebration with family, friends, and neighbors. We must also remember
the sacrifices of those who came before us, in securing our nation's
freedoms, as well as the service of our military men and women in
uniform who cannot spend this holiday enjoying barbecues or fireworks
with their families. We owe them for everything they do to keep us safe.
Around the state, local communities will be hosting parades, ceremonies,
and fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July. Continue reading to see
what events will be going on in the Milwaukee area.
I'll be marching in the Bay
View and Cudahy parades and would love to have you join me!
If you are interested in marching in either or both parades,
please contact Nick Janis for details at 414.368.0135 or
If you are looking for fireworks in communities outside of the Milwaukee
area, click here.
Spend July 3, at the Lakefront for the Fireworks Kite Festival beginning
at 11 a.m. and for fireworks at dusk (about 9:25 p.m.) "Watch the skies
light over the lakefront in Milwaukee for 60 minutes of 'oohs and aahs'."
Plan to arrive early.
Click here to learn more about this event.
Since 1911, the city of Milwaukee has hosted safe and friendly
celebrations for families and friends to enjoy. In parks across the
city, neighbors and visitors come together for picnics, games, parades,
and more. These celebrations will take place Tuesday, July 4, and are
capped off by fireworks bursting all over town.
Click here to visit the Fourth of July Commission website to find a
celebration in a park near you.
South Milwaukee will be hosting the Mayor's Picnic (free hot dog lunch
for all attendees), and there will be a Fourth of July Celebration at
Grant Park at the Brown Pavilion, areas 5 & 6 that will end with a
Fireworks display at 9.30 p.m.
Click here to visit the city of South Milwaukee's website for more
The city of Cudahy will be celebrating the Fourth of July on Packard
Avenue. Starting at Grange and Packard at noon, the celebration will
include an opening ceremony and performances by high school groups such
as the Cudahy Bull Dog Cheer Team, Cudahy High School Pom Pons, and CHS
Varsity Cheer Team. Fireworks at approximately 9:20 a.m. at Sheridan
Click here to visit the city of Cudahy's website for more information.
Oak Creek will be celebrating the Fourth of July this year beginning
with a parade at 8 a.m. at E. Groveland Drive and S. Verdev Drive. The
events of the day include free ice cream and games for kids, a "Pay It
Forward To Our Veterans" performance by the Oak Creek High School
Marching Band, and fireworks at dusk.
Click here for a flyer and schedule of events.
This year the St. Francis Fourth of July celebration will include a
parade, judging of bikes/trikes/wagons, a horseshoe tournament, a dance
off at the band shell, live music, and fireworks at 9:15 p.m.
Click here for more information on the St. Francis Fourth of July
Plan to attend Franklin's Four-Day Civic Celebration in Lions Legend
Park. The celebration begins Friday, July 1, at 1 p.m. and ends on the
Fourth of July with fireworks at 9:30 p.m. Food, carnival rides, kids'
activities, and entertainment will be provided.
Click here for more information on the 2017 Franklin Civic Celebration.
Wisconsin State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707
(608) 266 7505
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