Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

A co-author of a bill eliminating required hours of instruction in some public schools said his legislation had “accountability,” while a budget provision from Gov. Scott Walker that was pulled by the Joint Finance Committee last week did not.

Rep. Jesse Kremer said the legislation, co-authored by Sen. Luther Olsen, allows certain school districts to opt out of requirements to provide a minimum number of hours of student instruction, gives schools more flexibility and is “based on results.”

That’s compared to Walker’s budget provision, which Kremer said was “blowing the lid off of it” by making it statewide right away.

“I would love to see it go statewide, but I still want the accountability portion attached to it so we don’t let every school do what they want right away,” said Kremer, R-Kewaskum.

And Olsen, R-Ripon, expressed hesitation about the guv’s plan, saying if it was adopted it, it would make Wisconsin the only state without any hours of instruction requirements. Walker’s proposal would’ve repealed the minimum hours of instruction across all K-12 public schools statewide.

The GOP bill instead would create a two-year pilot program within one part of the state to allow school boards with high accountability report ratings to choose whether minimum instruction hours are required within their districts for each school year.

Kremer said his bill “has pretty good support” to get it passed. The Assembly version was referred to the education committee Monday, while the Senate version was introduced and referred to its education committee last month.

The JFC removed 24 other Department of Public Instruction proposals from Walker’s budget, including some tightening control of the school choice program, one on teacher licensure and another allowing faculty to teach in high schools, among others.

But Jeremy Thiesfeldt, chair of the Assembly education committee, said most of the DPI items removed from the budget were “minor provisions” that could “very easily” be taken up by lawmakers and potentially receive bipartisan backing.

On teacher licensing, Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, said DPI has already been working on possible changes to the system, so changes are likely to continue on that front. But overall, he said he hasn’t heard of other members taking up the eliminated budget provisions related to education.

And Olsen, who chairs the Senate education committee, said while there’s been some mutterings about taking up those K-12 provisions from members of his committee, he thinks it’s “a little too early” to look at them, and anticipates “a lot of the choice legislation” will get introduced in the fall.

Also making a comeback is Walker’s effort to add work requirements for those getting housing vouchers from the Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority.

The state agency manages a relatively small chunk of the housing vouchers funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with local housing authorities handling the bulk of the vouchers.

Walker’s budget proposed letting WHEDA ask for a waiver from the feds giving the state permission to add work or job training requirements for able-bodied adults.

Rep. Terry Katsma, R-Oostburg, is authoring a bill that would let WHEDA do so. Katsma said employers have nearly 100,000 open jobs posted on the Job Center of Wisconsin because “so many companies are looking for employees.”

The state, he said, has to do what it can to encourage people to find a job.

“We’re trying to help people and get them to a state where they either have a job or they improve their skills so they are more employable,” he said.

See Katsma’s bill draft here.

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