Education Legislative Update for Oct. 30th, 2015

Over 2,500 Students Are Now Enrolled in
Statewide Voucher Program

Newly released figures from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) show that participation in the statewide voucher program rose substantially to over 2,500 students after lawmakers lifted the 1,000 student enrollment cap on the program in the 2015-17 state budget act.

Currently, per-district enrollment in the statewide voucher program is limited to 1 percent of that district’s student population.

According to third Friday in September counts, a total of 2,514 students are receiving vouchers to attend private schools under the statewide voucher program, known formally as the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP), up from about 1,000 students last year.

Of the 1,640 new students enrolled in the statewide voucher program for 2015-16, only 19.1 percent had attended a Wisconsin public school the previous year, while 74.8 percent had already attended a private school. (The remainder were either not in school, were home-schooled, or attended school out of state).

Private schools taking part in the voucher programs this year receive $7,214 per student in grades K-8, and $7,860 for each high school student. 

Continue reading Over 2,500 Students Are Now Enrolled In Statewide Voucher Program →

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Wisconsin's Graduation Rate Gap Between White 
and Black Students Widens to Largest in U.S.

First, the good news:

Wisconsin’s overall graduation rate rose by more than half a percentage point to 88.6 percent in 2013-’14, the most recent year available, and ranks third in the nation, according to preliminary data released last week by the U. S. Department of Education.

Now, the bad news:

While Wisconsin students in almost every other racial, ethnic and special-needs category made gains, the four-year graduation rate for African-American students held steady at 66.1 percent, widening the gap between black and white students.

As the four-year graduation rate for white students rose to 92.9 percent, which ranks third nationally, Wisconsin’s 2013-14 white-black graduation gap reached 26.8 percentage points, the largest in the nation.

And, some more good news:

In Wisconsin, graduation rates rose 3.8 percentage points to 78.1 percent for Latino students and 5 percentage points to 81 percent for American Indian students. The percentage gaps between white students and Latino and American Indian students narrowed to 14.8 points and 11.9 points, respectively.

According to the U.S.Department of Education’s preliminary data, 36 states posted increases in overall graduation rates, six saw decreases and eight were unchanged since the 2012-’13 school year. The majority of states also narrowed the graduation gap for black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities, English language learners and low-income students, the agency said.

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State Support for Public Schools 
in 2014-15: 62.3 Percent

Estimated state support for public K-12 schools totaled just under 62.3 percent last year, according to a new analysis released today by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB). That percentage was calculated using the same “partial school revenues” method that was used to determine state support during the period from 1996-97 to 2002-03, when the state had a statutory commitment to fund two-thirds (66.7 percent) of K-12 partial school revenues statewide. That mandate ended in 2003.

The 62.3 percent figure is the share of state support as calculated on a statewide basis for the 2014-15 school year. The share of state support for each individual school district will vary according to how the district is treated under the state general aid formula, which is based to a large extent on a district’s property wealth per pupil.

The LFB memorandum released today provides information on the estimated level of state support provided for K-12 education statewide and to individual school districts in 2014-15. You can find it here.

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Governor Signs School Board Vacancies Bill Into Law

Governor Scott Walker signed Assembly Bill 325, relating to filling vacancies on a school board of a common, union high, or unified school district, into law as 2015 Wisconsin Act 63 last Friday (Oct. 23).

The new law requires school boards to adopt local policies on filling board vacancies and makes a temporary distinction between the Racine Unified School District and all other school districts with regard to how certain school board vacancies may be filled (see below).

Under current law, when a vacancy occurs on the school board of a common, union high school, or unified school district, the remaining school board members may fill the vacancy by appointment. Current law does not provide an alternative method for filling a vacancy and does not address how a vacancy is to be filled in the event that the remaining school board members do not make an appointment.

Assembly Bill 325, as amended, addresses this situation generally by requiring school boards of common, union high school, and unified districts to adopt a policy on how to fill board vacancies if members are unable to settle on a replacement within 60 days of the date on which the vacancy first exists. School boards must adopt such a policy by July 1, 2016.

Continue reading Governor Signs School Board Vacancies Bill Into Law →

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