Legislative Update for the 2023-2024 Session

On May 16, 2024, DPI released a summary of state legislation enacted for the 2023-24 legislative session.  The DPI summary includes a brief description of each bill, links to statutory texts and explanatory memos.  Vetoed bills are also included in the DPI summary.  Below is a brief recap of some of the highlights of the 2023-24 legislative session.  It is not exhaustive but intended to give you a “quick read” overview of new laws, and to encourage you to take a deeper dive into the excellent resources available on all of these laws.   

Legislation affecting early literacy instruction was front and center this session, with the passage of Act 20.  In addition to requiring science-based literacy instruction, Act 20 creates a layer of agency oversight specific to early literacy that includes an Office of Literacy and a Council on Early Literacy Curricula, which will annually review and recommend curricula.  Act 20 supports early literacy efforts statewide with grants designed to cover a portion of the costs for Council-recommended curriculum and instructional materials and a Literacy Coaching Program within the Office of Literacy. These grants and coaches will be available to public, private, charter, and choice program schools.  The Literacy Coaching Program has a sunset date of July 1, 2028. 

Act 20 has changed reading assessment requirements, with fundamental skills screening assessments for all 4K students and universal screening assessment for all 5K to third grade students.  These requirements prescribe the frequency and content of these assessments.  Reading interventions are required for students 5K to third grade who are identified as “at risk” on the assessments.  All districts and/or schools must adopt policies for promoting students third to fourth grade who have a personal reading plan in place, but who have not completed the plan. DPI will be adopting a model policy for this purpose that meets all of the Act 20 requirements.  The results of these efforts will become a data point on state report cards beginning in the 2024-25 school year.  

Act 100 and Act 192 are related to Act 20.  Act 100 provides a state appropriation for the Office of Literacy, and Act 192 grandfathers in some professional development offered by certain CESAs and alters the 2024-2025 Act 20 requirements for screening and diagnostic assessments.  

Additional new laws affecting instruction. In other legislative action affecting instruction, Act 60 requires one-half credit of personal financial literacy for high school graduation.  Act 160 requires driver education courses to include at least 30 minutes of instruction about hazards posed by highway work zones and safely navigating those stretches of roadway.  Act 266 adds Hmong and Asian Americans to the list of cultures/ethnicities included under Wis. Stat. sec. 118.01(2)(c)8, which requires public schools to provide an instructional program at all grade levels designed to give students an understanding of human relations. 

Two new pieces of legislature are aimed at staffing shortages throughout the state. Act 196 creates a new pathway for mental health professionals to obtain a Tier I license to work as a school social worker, school psychologist, or a school counselor.  Act 197 allows for-profit organizations to offer alternative teacher certification programs.  Previously, only non-profit organizations were allowed to offer alternative teacher certification programs  

A number of bills affect the administration and/or operation of schools.  Act 12 requires schools to collect, maintain, and report statistics related to some illegal activity occurring on school grounds, including on school transportation.  This requirement applies to incidents that occur during normal school hours and at school-sponsored events, and the illegal activity includes homicide, sexual assault, burglary, robbery, or theft, substantial or aggravated battery, arson, use of alcohol or a controlled substance, possession of a firearm, or disorderly conduct.  This law is complex, and DPI is working with the DOJ to provide guidance to help navigate its requirements. 

Act 198 redefines strip search to mean a search where a student’s private area is involved in specific ways.  The “private area” is defined as naked or underwear-clad genitalia, anus, buttocks, or female areola or nipple.  Any official, employee, or agent of a school district is prohibited from conducting a strip search. 

Act 200: sexual misconduct against students and additional grounds for license revocation. With Act 200, the legislature created a new crime for the specific act of sexual misconduct against a student.  Any school staff member or volunteer, including a school board member, bus driver, or contracted service provider who makes verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature with a student may be charged with Class I felony.  Law enforcement or child protective services staff receiving a report alleging a violation of the new crime is required to report it to DPI.  

Act 200 also expands the list of crimes for which a conviction results in automatic license revocation, including theft under Wis. Stat. Section 943.20 (if a felony and the property belonged to the district), and invasion of privacy under Wis. Stat. Section 942.08. The Act also creates exceptions to the six-year default revocation period to require permanent revocation for the convictions of certain crimes against children.  

Administering meds made easier. Finally, the legislature passed a number of bills that make administering some emergency medicines easier for school personnel. These bills do not require school personnel to administer these emergency medicines.  Act 27 authorizes epinephrine in delivery forms other than an auto-injector.  Act 193 allows schools to obtain a prescription for, and have on hand, glucagon, which is used in the treatment of severe hypoglycemic episodes. Act 194 provides civil immunity from liability to schools, school personnel, and medical professionals who provide or administer an opioid antagonist.  Act 195 authorizes schools to obtain, provide, and/or administer a short-acting bronchodilator to a student with a prescription or to a person in respiratory distress. 

This article was prepared by Attorney Malina Piontek, AWSA’s Level I Legal Services Provider, and Amy Van Deuren, Ed.D., J.D. You may direct your Level I call-in questions to Malina at 608-497-3037 or email her at [email protected]. This article was designed to provide you with general authoritative information and with commentary as a service to AWSA members. It should not be relied upon as legal advice.