Dismantling K-12 Education in Wisconsin

Budget Motion #457 Voucher/Independent Charter Expansion (Milwaukee Info in Separate Section) Voucher Schools 

  • Statewide Voucher Expansion.  For Racine and Statewide Voucher program creates an open enrollment mechanism that will send money from the resident public school district to the voucher school.  Pupil can still be counted by district of residence for general aids and revenue limit purposes, but district cannot levy to backfill the aid reduction.  Resident school district can send no more than 1% of pupils to voucher schools through 2016/17.  From 2017/18 forward adds 1% of school district pupils each year until number hits 10% of prior year enrollment.  The year after 10%, no enrollment limit at all.
    • Projected Cost $48 million this biennium.  Money comes from resident public school district equalization aid.
    • New voucher schools in the statewide program must have operated since May 1, 2013.  
    • Eliminates occupancy permit for statewide voucher schools--currently issued by municipality where school located.  


  • Independent Financial Audit for Voucher Schools.  Beginning 2nd year of participation. DPI must certify audit in 90 days from date of receipt.  DPI may only contact auditor with single written communication under specified circumstances.


  • Special Needs Vouchers.  Pupils can obtain voucher/independent charter funding if rejected from attending non-resident school under open enrollment.  To participate, pupil must have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and the child must have attended public school the entire preceding school year before participation.  Private voucher/independent charter schools must be accredited as of August 1 preceding the school term in which pupils first attend under the program.  Pupil and parent must be notified by DPI of state and federal (IDEA) rights of the child.  Resident public school district is required to administer state standardized tests (if not administered by voucher school) and update the pupil’s IEP every three years, unless parent and school district agree otherwise.  


    • Participating schools must:
      • comply with health and safety code laws that apply to private schools
      • hold valid certificate of occupancy as required
      • comply with Federal discrimination laws
      • comply with state law related to physical restraints
      • conduct criminal background checks of employees
      • Complete an annual financial audit to be submitted to DPI


    • Audit Bureau to contract for study of special needs voucher program with one or more researchers with experience evaluating voucher programs.  Study must include:
      • satisfaction of parents and pupil participating
      • % of pupils who were victimized because of special needs at resident public school--compared to voucher school
      • % of pupils with behavioral problems at resident public school--compared to voucher school
      • average class size at both types of school
      • fiscal impact of program on state and resident school districts

 Independent Charter Schools 

  • Independent Charter Operators Additional Schools.  Charter operators that have received one of the top two ratings in the most recent school accountability reports can open additional schools without additional approval.


  • Deletes governor’s Charter School Oversight Board


  • Independent Charter School Payment.  Estimated at $8,087 per pupil 2015/16 and $8,195 in 2016/17.  

 Athletics and Extracurricular Activities 

  • School Board must allow pupils who reside in the district and attend voucher, independent charter, home-based schooling, or virtual charter school can participate in athletics and extracurricular activities at the resident school district.  School districts must allow this to be a member of an athletic association.  School board may charge participation fees--the same fees charged public school students (no more).  

 Overall School Aids Picture General Aid 

  • Frozen Aid.  Per pupil aid frozen at zero from previous year (Walker cut removed).  No increase for inflation.
  • Frozen Revenue Limits.  No increase in state imposed revenue limits over the next 2 years, voucher and independent schools will syphon money away from school districts using open enrollment methodology ($48 million).  This leaves public schools with less state general aid than 2010.  
  • Frozen Special Education Aid.  8th consecutive year.
  • Chapter 220 Integration Aid Phase Out.  Phases out integration aid over time, which will limit open enrollment options for students in Milwaukee, Madison.  
  • Open Enrollment Transfer Amount.  Estimated at $6,647 in 2015/16 and $6,755 in 2016/17.  
  • Open Enrollment Students with Disabilities.  Resident school district can no longer deny an open enrollment application on the basis of undue financial burden.  Sets a per pupil aid transfer amount of $12,000 per special education pupil in 2016/17.  Removes requirement that resident school district pay tuition to the nonresident school district under open enrollment.

 Categorical Aid 

  • Increase in Sparsity Aid, High Cost Transportation Aid.

 CESA Changes

  • Deletes current law, which gives $21,000 in state aid to CESAs to cover administrative costs


  • Allows school districts to opt-out of participating in CESA (including paying fees/dues)


  • Retains current law that allows CESA’s to set their own fee rates for school districts (Gov proposed strict limits)

 Academic Standards and Testing 

  • Prohibit State Superintendent from Enforcing Common Core Standards.  School boards include academic standards on the first school board agenda of each year and annually notify parents of the selected standards (electronically if they wish).


  • School District Accountability.  Change from letter grades to 5 star system.  Virtual Charter Schools are exempt from school report card if at least 50% are attending through open enrollment.


  • Allow Multiple Assessments.  Request waiver from Feds to allow between 3 and 5 assessments, with each school district, independent “2r” charter school, and private voucher school to select an assessment to administer in each year.  VARC would provide list of nationally recognized assessments and choose the final 3-5 tests.  Schools do not have to administer the test chosen/preferred by DPI Superintendent.


  • Statewide Assessment System.  DPI has to review and approve a statewide summative assessment system for federal and state accountability purposes beginning in 2015/16.  Will assess pupils in grades 3-10s.  The system must:
    • be vertically-scaled, standards-based system
    • document progress toward national college and career readiness
    • Include subject matters English, reading, writing, science, mathematics
    • be administered primarily in computer-based format
    • be predictive of performance on college readiness assessments used by higher ed


  • School Districts Reading Readiness.  School Districts and Independent Charter Schools can choose a reading readiness assessment beginning 2016/17.  Could be computer adaptive tests.  4k through 2nd grade will still have literacy fundamentals exam in 2015/16.  DPI to pay school districts for tests, if funding insufficient payment will be prorated.  


  • Civics Assessment for High School Graduation.  School Boards, Independent Charter Operators, Private Voucher Schools may not grant a diploma unless student successfully passes a civics assessment beginning 2016/17.  Identical to questions on U.S. Citizenship exam.  Students may retake the test until a passing score is achieved.  Students with IEPs (special needs) must take the exam, but do not have to pass prior to graduating.  Limited-English proficient students can take it in language of choice.

  School Board Powers 

  • Sale of excess property.  Districts can sell any property belonging to district.


  • High School Graduation Standard.  School Boards can allow credit through competency or creating a learning portfolio.  Board can waive state law requiring pupils to participate in class or activity approved by school board.  Students can earn no more than half of their credits through this process.  Such high school diploma is equivalent to a diploma earned through course completion, would be treated the same by institutions of higher education.  Assuming this is to have high school students work instead of attend class and have it count toward graduation.


  • Teacher and Administrator Contract Renewals.  Modifies data by which school board must give a teacher or administrator written notice of renewal or refusal to renew their contract to be 15 days after passage of the state budget in odd-numbered years, and May 15th in even numbered years.  Contract must be accepted or rejected no later than 30 days after notification deadline.

 Teacher Licensure Changes For Grades 6-12 (3-year license/permit) 

  • Technical Education Subjects.  Requires DPI to create a teacher licensure point system for education/experience in technical subject areas.  Does not require a bachelor’s degree. DPI will have to set up approval process for applicant qualifications based on the point system.  DPI must approve or deny teaching license application within 15 business days of receipt--if not, presumptive approval and the individual can begin teaching.


  • Bachelor’s Degree Only Teaching License: English, social studies, mathematics, science If school board, operator, governing body of school district, independent charter school, or voucher school determines an individual is proficient to teach a subject, DPI must issue teaching license.


  • Teaching Permit Other Subject Areas.  Creates a teaching permit if governing body of school (see above) determines individual is proficient and has relevant experience in subject area he or she intends to teach.    


  • Online Teacher Training Program.  DPI must make an online teacher training program consisting of at least 40 hours of instruction available to any individual holding a license or permit based on school board determination.  


  • Licensure: Montessori Teacher Education Program.  DPI must grant teaching licenses to those who have a Bachelor’s degree and have completed a teacher education program accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education.  

   Dismantling Milwaukee Public Schools 

  • Milwaukee Funding Flaw Continued.  MPS is required to send a large portion of their equalization aid to the voucher program.  This was to be gradually phased out starting last budget.  This phase out was put on hold (or likely eliminated).  


  • Research Study of Milwaukee Voucher Schools.  Audit Bureau to hire independent researcher (qualified university faculty) to evaluate voucher program with cooperation of DWD, DCF, and DHS.  Would look at data regarding pupils participating in voucher program to evaluate effects.  

 Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP) 

  • Privatization Goal.  This is a targeted effort to allow the takeover of schools in Milwaukee by an unelected commissioner, with the goal of privatizing public education.  Unlike MPS, independent charter and voucher schools can pick which students they accept.  
  • Commissioner.  Takeover of targeted schools by a commissioner appointed by County Executive.  Candidates for commissioner will be identified by the Governor, Mayor of Milwaukee, County Executive or their designated appointees.  County Executive has 120 days after effective date of bill to select commissioner from the list.  
  • Budget and Staffing.  County Executive can create budget, set commissioner salary.  Commissioner can hire staff, solicit funds for operation from private gifts and grants (i.e. Bradley Foundation).  Commissioner can fire all of the current staff in a takeover schools and rehire them with complete discretion.  
  • Eligible Schools and Buildings.  State Superintendent must provide Commissioner with list of schools that have received lowest ranking on school accountability report.  He must also identify schools that are vacant or are “underutilized” buildings.  
  • Sale of Schools.  The MPS School Board must prepare an inventory of all school buildings in the district within 30 days of effective date of bill and annually thereafter.  The motion spells ove months.  In that case anyone can submit a letter of interest to purchase.  Proceeds of sale gut the process for selling off MPS schools.  Only education operators could purchase eligible schools buildings, unless the property has been deemed eligible for more than 24 consecutive months into the school operations fund.  
  • Loss of School Property.  The MPS School Board is required to transfer to the Commissioner the possession, care, control, and management of all land, buildings, facilities, and other property that is part of the school being transferred immediately upon the transfer of a public school to the OSPP.
  • Per Pupil Funding.  Funding for OSPP students would come out of MPS equalization aid ($8,075/per pupil).  District is prohibited from levying to backfill, can count students toward revenue limit and equalization aid count.  The appropriation would be sum sufficient.  The Commissioner could charge to OSPP schools a fee of up to 3% per pupil payment amount beginning in 2017/18.  Total amount of this fee revenue could not exceed $750,000/year.  
  • Pupils in Takeover Schools.  For students in a school that was taken over by OSPP, the commissioner must find alternative education option if student does not want to attend or if number of applicants exceeds seats.
  • Reporting.  Commissioner creates an annual report to MPS Board and County Exec on makeup of schools, how managed.  The commissioner is required to report on pupil achievement and assessment data to the MPS Board and DPI.  The report cannot be modified by the Board.
  • Improved Schools.  Schools can be turned over to MPS, private school operators or independent charters if “turned around.”
  • MPS Superintendent.  The Superintendent will be granted parallel powers as the Commissioner to transfer operation and general management to the same set of operators as the Commissioner.  The Commissioner would select schools from the list first, the Superintendent second.  

 Information Technology 

  • Digital Textbook Marketplace.  $10,000 in 2015/16 to create a contract with vendors to develop a digital textbook marketplace and resource center.  Public School districts, independent charters, private voucher schools would all have access.  


  • Microsoft IT Academy.  DPI must designate an individual to serve as coordinator for the Microsoft IT Academy.  

 Racine School Board 

  • Political Changes to School Board.  Change school district from at-large to defined districts, with goal to change make-up of school board (Wanggaard/Vos effort).  Recent 5-4 vote by the Racine Unified School District to allow employee unions to retain a key role in discussions to change the employee handbook.