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W E A C 2 0 1 1- 2 0 1 2 L E G I S L AT I V E A G E n d A


LETTER

frOM THE PrESIDENT

I appreciate the opportunity to share with you our 2011-12 Legislative Agenda on behalf of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and its 98,000 members. WEAC’s membership is diverse and includes teachers, education support professionals (ESP), faculty and support staff in the Wisconsin Technical College System and education and information professionals who are employed by the state. The 2011-12 WEAC Legislative Agenda comes from the expressed needs of members across the state based on the issues they face every day in schools, both inside and outside the classroom. The themes that came up time and time again during formal and informal conversations with members form the basis of WEAC’s priorities: 1) School Funding Reform 2) Health Care Reform 3) Professional Development and Licensure and 4) Closing Achievement Gaps. It is evident to our members that the school funding system is broken. Through the School Funding Reform priority, WEAC is calling for high quality comprehensive public education, funded through a fair and equitable tax system, to be provided to all Wisconsin citizens, with authority for local decision-making, adequate resources to meet the needs of students and competitive professional compensation. Health Care Reform remains at the top of our agenda. Members care deeply for kids and their families because they know that health care is also a learning issue. WEAC envisions a reformed health care system that controls costs while providing a baseline of coverage for all citizens with provisions for additionally bargained coverage. Professional Development and Licensure is also a focus of members in light of the changing needs of education professionals. Our schools and classrooms are changing and require skills and knowledge to be driven by the instructional needs of staff and their students. In addition, PK-12 teachers are working with licensure regulations known as PI 34 that impact their professional learning needs. Increasing numbers of our teachers are relicensing under PI 34. Under revenue controls, local school district support is constrained for both ESP and teacher professional development. Finally, closing achievement gaps is very close to the hearts of members. There’s not one member who doesn’t have a story about the kids for whom they’ve made a difference – and the kids who continue to struggle. In partnership with community, family and schools, WEAC is advocating for the resources required to allow all children to become 21st century citizens to pursue and achieve their dreams regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, disability or economic status. The educators of Wisconsin stand ready to work with policymakers to address these issues in a thoughtful and meaningful way that makes a difference for students, their communities and the state as a whole. Sincerely,

WEAC President

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WEAC Retired postcard project

Maple Dale School, Fox Point

conTEnTs AgendA for greAt SchoolS

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WeAc recommendAtion ProceSS for Eau Claire Area School District

PoliticAl cAndidAteS for StAteWide electionS

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for StAte legiSlAtive electionS

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2011-12 WeAc legiSlAtive AgendA School funding reform

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heAlth cAre reform

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ProfeSSionAl develoPment & licenSure

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cloSing Achievement gAPS

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Waukesha County Technical College

Student WEA Outreach to Teach event

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Ethan Allen School, Wales


agEnda

f O r G r E aT S c H O O l S

reat schools benefit everyone and all of us have a responsibility for the education of each child in Wisconsin. We owe all children access to educators who will give them the best chance to develop their potential and have a good life. The benefits of a great school go beyond the benefits to the student. Schools attract new jobs and encourage businesses to stay, help property values increase, and help children grow into people we want to have in our lives. Creating and maintaining great schools is a tradition in our state and something at which Wisconsin has always excelled. Great schools are something people in Wisconsin believe in, even apart from the tangible benefits they bring to students, economies and communities. The 2011-12 WEAC Legislative Agenda is designed with these ideas in mind. This agenda is based on the WEAC priorities of 1) School Funding Reform 2) Health Care Reform 3) Professional Development and Licensure and 4) Closing Achievement Gaps. WEAC will base its support for, or opposition to, a legislative initiative on the following criteria: • Does it advance WEAC’s priorities referenced in the Agenda for Great Schools? • Does it improve student learning? • Does it work to improve the wages, hours and working conditions of our members? • What are the fiscal ramifications of the proposal for the state? With these principles as our guide, WEAC will continue to advocate the ideas of a diverse, democratic society and quality public education. Our union will promote and advance the professional practice, personal growth, and economic welfare and rights of our members.

for AdditionAl informAtion, contAct deb Sybell, WeAc legiSlAtive ProgrAm coordinAtor, At 800-362-8034 ext. 227 or by e-mAil At Sybelld@WeAc.org.

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WEac

REc o M M E n d aT I o n P r O c E S S f O r P O l I T I c a l c a N D I D aT E S for StAteWide electionS 1. memberS Set the legiSlAtive PrioritieS. Each year, hundreds of delegates to the WEAC Representative Assembly establish legislative priorities. Based on these priorities, members of the WEAC Legislative Committee recommend a biennial Legislative Agenda to the Board of Directors. 2. memberS AnAlyze the AgendAS of cAndidAteS. A questionnaire on the Legislative Agenda is sent to each candidate prior to interviews with the WEAC Political Action Committee, which has 21 members who represent all parts of the state. The candidate questionnaire responses are used to determine his or her position on WEAC’s legislative priorities. 3. cAndidAteS Are Screened. The WEAC Political Action Committee screens candidates and makes recommendations to the WEAC Board of Directors, who then vote on the committee’s recommendations. 4. recommendAtionS Are mAde to WeAc memberS Who hAve PAid PoliticAl Action dueS (WeAc-PAc). The WEAC Board of Directors’ recommendations, along with information on the candidates’ positions on issues of importance to WEAC, are sent to all WEAC members who have paid political action dues (WEAC-PAC). Attached is a ballot to be returned to WEAC. On this ballot, the member can vote agreement with the recommendation, for a different candidate’s recommendation or for “no recommendation.” However, if a Board-recommended candidate is running in an uncontested race, such balloting is optional. In the case of a “no recommendation” from the Board, no balloting takes place. 5. WeAc memberS hAve the finAl SAy! Candidates receiving a majority of votes of the returned ballots become the WEACPAC recommended candidates and receive assistance.

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for StAte legiSlAtive electionS 1. memberS Set the legiSlAtive PrioritieS. Each year, hundreds of delegates to the WEAC Representative Assembly establish legislative priorities. Based on these priorities, members of the WEAC Legislative Committee recommend a biennial Legislative Agenda to the Board of Directors. 2. memberS AnAlyze the voting recordS of legiSlAtorS. After the legislative session, the WEAC Board of Directors assigns a weight to the legislative floor votes that affect public education. A percentage of support is calculated for each legislator. The WEAC Board of Directors also requires each incumbent to complete a written questionnaire on WEAC’s legislative priorities, the responses to which are included in the weighting procedure. The Board of Directors may vote to automatically recommend the re-election of any legislator who achieves a 70% or better weighted score. However, a local or UniServ president from a legislative district can request that the Board not support a particular candidate, regardless of his or her weighted score. 3. memberS intervieW the cAndidAteS And revieW their PoSitionS on iSSueS imPortAnt to children And Public educAtion. In districts where no candidate has a 70% record of support, or where an incumbent does not seek re-election, local members who have paid political action dues (WEAC-PAC) recommend candidates. First, a questionnaire is sent to each candidate to determine his or her positions on WEAC’s legislative priorities. Then each candidate is invited to an interview with a local committee of members who have paid political action dues (WEAC-PAC). This committee votes and sends its recommendations to the WEAC Political Action Committee, which has 21 members who represent all parts of the state. The WEAC Political Action Committee reviews the recommendations and can concur or modify the recommendations. A list of candidates recommended by the WEAC Political Action Committee is sent to the WEAC Board of Directors, which votes on each recommendation. 4. WeAc memberS hAve the finAl SAy! The WEAC Board of Directors’ recommendations, along with information on the candidates’ positions on WEAC legislative issues, are sent to all WEAC members who have paid political action dues (WEAC-PAC). Attached is a ballot to be returned to WEAC. On this ballot, the member can vote agreement with the recommendation, for a different candidate’s recommendation or for “no recommendation.” However, if a Board-recommended candidate is running in an uncontested race, such balloting is optional. In the case of a “no recommendation” from the Board, no balloting takes place. Candidates receiving a majority of votes of the returned ballots become the WEAC-PAC recommended candidates and receive assistance. From start to finish, dues-paying WEAC-PAC members control the recommendation process. Every election cycle, dozens of WEAC members spend hundreds of hours meeting candidates for public office, reviewing their records, and voting on recommendations. This is a Wisconsin Statute 11.29 communication with WEAC members.

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schooL fundIng rEfOrM

The Wisconsin Education Association Council believes Wisconsin’s public schools need a system of funding that provides all children with the resources needed to provide them with equal opportunities for a quality education guaranteed by the Wisconsin Constitution, the Supreme Court and federal and state statutes. A new system of funding should guarantee sufficient resources to educate all students to high standards, including additional, targeted funding for high-cost special education students, those who live in poverty, and English language learners, as well as additional aid for small, rural school districts and those with declining enrollment. New school funding resources should come from state – rather than local – sources in a way that lowers property taxes and increases fairness for all taxpayers. The new system should build on Wisconsin’s successful tradition of local control by trusting individual communities to decide how additional funding will be used, while assuring statewide accountability for improved student performance. To advance school funding reform, WEAC is a partner in the School Finance Network (SFN), a coalition of citizens, parents and education groups that came together to make Wisconsin’s system of school funding more effective. Dedicated to providing all children in Wisconsin equal educational opportunities, the coalition recognizes that 16 years of revenue controls have undermined the quality of public education, forcing ongoing cuts in curriculum, programs and services. All of the groups believe that new thinking and new ideas are needed to maintain our state’s strong tradition of first-class education. Under the SFN’s plan, all school districts would benefit, and money is targeted to where it is needed most. The SFN proposes to build upon the existing system of school funding instead of simply rearranging the money within it, and the plan invests in opportunities for all of Wisconsin’s students. As a result, no district loses money and every district gains from the plan. Acknowledging that every child does not cost the same to educate, the SFN proposal targets money to where it is needed most – to those with special needs, those who are English Language Learners, and those who come from low-income families. The plan also directs new money to districts most in need, such as small, rural schools and those with declining enrollment. To learn more about the School Finance Network and the coalition’s plan for school funding reform, visit: www.sfnwisconsin.org. These new investments are critical to securing a well-rounded education for all students. Without them, we risk losing not only basic programs that improve reading and math, but a wide range of class offerings including art, music, foreign language, vocational, business, and technical training programs. At risk, also, is our capability to employ high-quality teachers and support staff and maintain viable schools in rural communities. Investments in education are a proven path to help the economy grow. This is true for PK-12 schooling, higher education, and technical colleges alike. In the face of a struggling economy, Wisconsinites turned to technical colleges in record numbers for job retraining in 2009, straining the colleges’ capacity to meet demands. While many adults need basic training and education services, technical colleges do not cover the cost of these classes through tuition.

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To meet the growing need, WEAC supports creating a state categorical aid program to fund technical college basic skills and adult basic education costs. This investment helps ensure that adults in need of additional training will get the education they need, leading to high-skilled jobs that will help revive the economy. An independent 2007 study by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance found that each $1 invested in the Wisconsin Technical College System generates nearly $4 in new state economic output. In the end, students increase their earning potential, businesses get a higher-skilled workforce, and the state benefits from lower unemployment and a return on its investment.

Green Bay Area Public School District

Wisconsin’s elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools are the engine that drives economic and workforce development. But without sufficient resources, that engine will seize up, slowing economic recovery. All of Wisconsin’s citizens will be affected: from kindergarten students just beginning their education to displaced workers seeking the retraining they need to find family-supporting jobs. – Ginny Leith, Faculty Member, nicolet Area Technical College

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h E a LT h c a R E rEfOrM

The Wisconsin Education Association Council believes every Wisconsin resident should have access to preventive, diagnostic, routine and catastrophic care. Health care coverage in Wisconsin must not be denied based on age, health status, occupation or pre-existing conditions. Strategies must be implemented that reduce and contain costs to assure affordable coverage for all individuals and employers. Individuals, employers and government must be required to pay their fair share. Full, free and fair collective bargaining rights must be established which will allow unions to negotiate over both supplemental coverage beyond that provided by the universal plan, as well as a share of the savings from health care reforms. WEAC members see the impact of the health care crisis in their classrooms and school buildings every day. Poor health is an obstacle to learning for students. Children have a broad and unique range of health care needs. Children need regular, preventive care, including vision, hearing and dental care for their healthy development. That is why WEAC supports the inclusion of these as part of any basic health care package. Vision, hearing and dental care are among the services children need to develop and achieve their full potential. Children with vision problems may not learn to read if they don’t have glasses. A hearing impaired child may not develop speech appropriately without hearing aids. Untreated dental disease can lead to pain and infection, resulting in poor school attendance and performance. By ensuring vision, dental and hearing are covered in a basic health care package, we reduce the disparities in children’s health that contribute to achievement gaps. Our current health care system is unsustainable. Costs are out of control and rising. To put it in context, if the price of milk had skyrocketed at the same rate as medical services in the last four decades, a gallon today would cost a whopping $30. In Wisconsin, health insurance costs are 23% higher than the national average. In addition, too many hard-working people don’t have access to health care. While Wisconsin can take pride in having one of the lowest rates of uninsured in the nation, hundreds of thousands of our residents are uninsured or underinsured. Many educational support professionals fall into this category. They are the bus drivers who transport students to and from schools.

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They are the paraprofessionals who assist in the classroom and supervise children during recess and the lunch hour. They are the secretaries who maintain school records. They are the custodians who look after the school building and grounds. They are the school cafeteria workers who prepare and serve meals to children. The time is now to address the health care cost crisis and ensure that everyone has access to affordable health care. Educators want to be part of the solution. Over the years, educators have negotiated health care changes to assure coverage is cost-effective. In recent years, more than 90% of WEAC members have moved to three-tiered drug cards and locals have used the collective bargaining process to implement innovative, cost-saving health insurance plan designs. Wisconsin should continue to take the lead in tackling health care affordability and accessibility. Our state has been an innovator in health care reform, from Badger Care for the working poor, to Badger Care Plus for children, parents and other caretaker adults, to Badger Care Plus Core Plan for childless adults. The demand for these programs highlights the need for broader reform to bring affordable, quality coverage to all Wisconsinites.

When my students don’t have health care and are gone for too many days, they cannot catch up once they are back in school, perpetuating a vicious circle that keeps the poor and uninsured at a disadvantage – not only physically but also academically. – Edna Feldman-Schultz, World Language Teacher, Janesville 9


PRofEssIonaL

DEvElOPMENT & lIcENSurE

The Wisconsin Education Association Council believes educators, prepared through quality pre-service education, should be engaged by their district and their union in continuous relevant learning opportunities driven by locally bargained, growth-oriented models, coordinated with licensure and certification standards. WEAC supports full funding for the professional development initiatives and mentoring required under the new teacher licensure system, PI 34, to ensure its success in developing educators with a greater understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, a broader vision of their roles, and a deeper appreciation of the school-community relationship. PI 34 consists of three stages of licensure: initial, professional, and master educator. PI 34 requires school districts to provide initial educators with mentors who hold a Professional or Master Educator License and are trained to provide support and assistance to initial educators. It is a wellestablished principle that one of the most important factors in retaining new teachers is appropriate support and mentoring. Unfortunately, resources for such mentoring programs are scarce at both the state and local level. Current state categorical funding of $1.3 million to reimburse school districts for mentoring costs is inadequate. Under PI 34, educators also must create and implement a Professional Development Plan (PDP) and license renewal is based on the documented completion of the plan as verified by a PDP review team. The plan must embody the ten Wisconsin Teacher Standards, show verifiable professional growth, and evidence of the effect of that growth on student learning. An initial educator’s review team must include a peer, an administrator, and a representative from an institute of higher education. The professional educator’s team must include three peers. The state funds a peer review and mentoring competitive grant program at $482,500 annually with a 20% local match to implement peer review and mentoring programs; however, the funding does not meet the actual costs. Educators participate in a Professional Development Plan Training Program sponsored by Capital Area UniServ South

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In addition to an adequately funded PI 34 licensure system, meaningful professional development for educators is important to student success. Professional development programs or activities should be structured in a way that affords educators the opportunity for meaningful and collaborative reflection on their practice that leads to continual growth and effectiveness that ensures student achievement. The most effective professional development systems are collaborative efforts involving teachers, administrators and education support professionals. To facilitate such collaboration, WEAC supports making educator professional development a mandatory subject of bargaining. Our education system is served best when educators and administrators work together to create a professional development program in their school district that challenges educators to think about and improve their craft throughout their careers.

High quality professional development programs are critical to enhancing the knowledge and skills of all educators. Learning to teach effectively takes time and training. Professional development programs help beginning teachers, veteran teachers in new assignments, and experienced teachers expand their toolbox of teaching strategies. It is important that these programs are fully funded so that classroom professionals can continue to improve their effectiveness and in turn, improve student learning.

– Paula Hase, national Board Certified Teacher, Chair of the Wisconsin Professional Standards Council for Teachers, Wausau East High School Library Media Specialist A candidate for National Board Certification from the AdamsFriendship School District confers about one of her portfolio entries with an NBCT mentor from the Hudson School District

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cLosI n g

acHIEvEMENT GaPS The Wisconsin Education Association Council believes in partnering with communities, families and schools to advocate for the resources that will help all children become productive 21st century citizens and to pursue and achieve their dreams regardless of gender, ethnicity, race, disability, or economic status.

The achievement gap is generally measured by a difference in standardized test scores in reading and math between different groups of students in a particular grade level. Large differences can lead to effects such as increased dropout rates or fewer high school graduates pursuing a post-secondary education. Due to a host of complex reasons largely rooted in poverty, Wisconsin has one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation between economically disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students, and between African–American and white students. Achievement gaps affect the state as a whole. When students succeed, the benefits of economic growth and civic engagement are shared by everyone. When students do not succeed, however, the social and economic costs also are shared by everyone. All across the state, teachers and education support professionals are dedicated to the success of their students. They are committed to using their skills and experience to offer practical solutions to improve our schools, leading to better outcomes for students. In Milwaukee, for instance, teachers and community members are using grant monies from the National Education Association to make a difference. Funds from the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education created “Focus Schools,� which address achievement gaps through targeted, teacher-led professional development that is based on needs identified by teachers and the school community. In addition to meaningful professional development, educators know that smaller class sizes help to narrow achievement gaps. Wisconsin can take pride in its highly successful Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE) program which establishes a 15:1 student-teacher ratio in grades K-3 in participating schools. In addition to reducing class sizes, SAGE schools are expected to keep their doors open every day for extended hours, collaborate with community organizations to make educational and recreational opportunities available, develop rigorous academic curriculum, and provide professional development for teachers. 12


Unfortunately, SAGE funding levels have not kept pace with inflation. Originally set at $2,000 per pupil in 1996-97, it was not until 2007 that the Legislature increased the SAGE reimbursement rate for low-income pupils, which rose to $2,250. As a result of this virtual freeze in per-pupil funding, more and more school districts are finding it difficult to stay in the program. WEAC therefore supports increasing the SAGE per-pupil reimbursement level from $2,250 to $2,500. Such an investment is needed to maintain school participation in this program, which better provides equal opportunities for a sound and basic education for low-income students, and is proven to boost student achievement and long-term success, such as through increased graduation. The larger community, of course, is integral to school success. Parent and community involvement, community health, economic vitality and neighborhood safety are as important as any factor in helping students succeed. A school cannot do it alone. That is why WEAC supports creating a “community school” grant program to fund parent and community outreach, tutoring, literacy programs, mentoring, social services and after-school programs in school districts with high poverty–which brings community support to students as another strategy to help close achievement gaps. Under the program, school districts would be required to secure matching funds from the community through businesses, charities, foundations and other philanthropic organizations. Addressing achievement gaps and their multiple causes should be one of our state’s highest priorities. Only when every child reaches his or her full potential will the democratic ideal be realized and the state fully benefit from the growth of all its citizens.

The achievement gaps that we see in schools are really opportunity gaps. If we want to close these gaps, we need the support of the entire community. Schools can’t do it alone. – Lily Ramos, Education Support Professional, Racine

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I believe... ■

I BELIEVE EVERY KID DESERVES A GREAT SCHOOL.

Wisconsin’s public schools

are among the very best in the nation because of our state’s talented, caring and committed teachers and education support professionals.

Wisconsin students

have their best chance at a successful future with high graduation rates and individualized attention from highly qualified teachers and education support professionals.

Children reach their potential as students and human beings

when they have a well rounded education that includes a wide variety of courses and programs.

Students learn best with up-to-date learning tools and safe,

secure facilities.

COMMUNITIES.

I BELIEVE INVESTMENTS IN GREAT SCHOOLS BUILD STRONG Every great school is the result of successful teamwork:

students, educators, parents and communities working together for a brighter future.

Public schools work with parents and communities to instill the

character values that help children become lifelong learners, responsible adults, and kind, caring people.

Public schools build local economies by preparing

young people and attracting the jobs of the future to our communities.

Local

public schools are the heart of their communities and provide a place for friends and neighbors to come together. SCHOOLS.

I BELIEVE WISCONSIN TAKES PRIDE IN GREAT

The public schools we have today are the result of the investments,

ingenuity and commitment of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents. We take pride in the quality of our public schools and our Wisconsin way of living: successful students; happy and caring young people; a high quality of life; top graduation rates; the most highly qualified teachers and staff; top scores on the ACT and other tests.

Elected officials should take the

same pride in our public schools that we take.

Together

we can maintain our traditions and keep Wisconsin at the forefront of quality and innovation in public education. ■

WE BELIEVE GREAT SCHOOLS BENEFIT EVERYONE. 33 Nob Hill Road | PO Box 8003 | Madison, WI 53708-8003 608.276.7711 | 800.362.8034


WEAC Legislative Agenda 2011-2012