- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 20, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Wisconsin Legislature’s budget-writing committee early Wednesday approved its long-anticipated funding plan for education in the state over the next two years.

The entire state spending plan is expected to pass the Joint Finance Committee next week, and then head to the Senate and Assembly for votes.

The education proposals approved would:

- Undo a $127 million cut in public school funding next year as proposed by Gov. Scott Walker, then add $100 per student in funding for the second year, an increase of about $69 million above current spending.

- Lift a 1,000-student enrollment cap in the private school voucher program and create a new funding mechanism that mirrors the public school open enrollment program that allows students to attend another nearby public school. The change is expected to cost public schools about $48 million over the next two years. No more than 1 percent of a district’s total number of students could enroll initially, but in 11 years there would be no limit.

- Create a special needs voucher program for students with disabilities. The move is opposed by a coalition of disability rights groups because private schools don’t have to provide the same services as required under federal law for special needs students in public school.

- Require high school students to pass a civics test before graduation.

- Allow home-schooled students and those attending private, virtual or charter schools to play sports and participate in extracurricular activities at their local public school.

- Require all schools to be rated in report cards on a five-star system, rather than letter grades as Walker proposed. There would be no sanctions for low-performing schools, and a federal waiver would be requested to allow for schools to choose from between three to five standardized tests to measure the performance of students.

- Create alternate paths for people to be licensed to teach, including those with experience in the fields of science, math and technology, even if they don’t have a bachelor’s degree.

- Give a commissioner the power to convert the worst-performing Milwaukee Public Schools into independent charter or private voucher schools, starting with three a year then growing to five annually.

- Prohibit the state superintendent from forcing local school districts to adopt Common Core academic standards.


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