Jun 15 2017

Public Schools Under Assault in Wisconsin – Again

Dear friends of Wisconsin public schools,

The Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection announced at the last minute that it will take up two bills that would limit local control of school referenda at noon tomorrow, Thurs. June 15. The committee chair Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) is also the author of the two bills.

SB-191 Bonding Resolution Consideration – this bill would prohibit a school board in a unified district from voting on a resolution to exceed a school district’s revenue limit at a school board meeting that is not a regularly scheduled monthly meeting, and would prohibit voting in a common or union high school (UHS) district on a resolution to exceed a school district’s revenue limit at a school district special meeting. The bill would further provide that the electors of common and UHS districts may vote upon an initial resolution to raise money through a bond issue only at the annual meeting.

SB-195 School Referenda – This bill would eliminate recurring operating referenda to raise revenue authority on a permanent basis. It would also limit multi-year non-recurring operating referenda to 5 years. Finally, and possibly most troubling, the bill eliminates referendum-approved revenue authority from a school district’s base budget that was approved in any previous recurring referendum five years after the effective date of the bill.

As if the last-minute announcement doesn’t make public testimony difficult enough, the hearing will likely overlap with the already-scheduled public hearing of the Assembly Education Committee that starts at 10am – that has THE SAME BILLS on the agenda (plus one more):

Assembly Bill 282, relating to: restricting consideration of resolutions to issue bonds by common and union high school districts and prohibiting voting on a resolution to exceed the revenue limit of a school district at a special meeting. 

This bill, authored by state Rep. David Murphy (R-Greenville), would prohibit a school board in a unified district from voting on a resolution to exceed a school district’s revenue limit at a school board meeting that is not a regularly scheduled monthly meeting, and would prohibit voting in a common or union high school (UHS) district on a resolution to exceed a school district’s revenue limit at a school district special meeting. The bill would further provide that the electors of common and UHS districts may vote upon an initial resolution to raise money through a bond issue only at the school district’s annual meeting.

Assembly Bill 268, relating to: restricting school board referendums to exceed revenue limit applicable to a school district.

This bill, authored by state Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), would eliminate recurring  referendums to exceed revenue  limits and would limit the duration of successful non-recurring (temporary) operating referendums to 5 years, creating an automatic “cliff effect” when those referendums expire. The bill would also convert all previously approved recurring (permanent) operating expense referendums to non-recurring (temporary) operating referendums with a duration of 5 years, which would create a similar “cliff effect.” The five-year clock would begin ticking in the year the bill, if enacted as a new law, is published.

Assembly Bill 269, relating to: restricting the scheduling of school district referendums to exceed revenue limits

This bill, authored by state Rep. Michael Schraa  (R-Oshkosh) would require, with certain exceptions (e.g., in cases of fire or natural disaster) that all referendum votes must be held on the dates of Spring and Fall General Elections. (The Spring election is held annually on the first Tuesday in April. The Fall General election occurs in even-numbered years on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November.) This would limit school boards to only two opportunities in an even-numbered year and only one opportunity in an odd-numbered year.

If you plan to testify in person, you can fill out a form to register in favor or opposition to the bills even if you don’t plan to speak. You can also submit testimony in writing if you cannot attend in person.  

Thanks to our friends at WASB (which opposes all three bills) for the updates:

Speak up for local control of local schools! Your voice matters!

Heather DuBois Bourenane

hdb@WisconsinNetwork.org • (608) 572-1696 • WisconsinNetwork.org
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