A Dane County Circuit Court judge struck down a law passed last year by Gov. Scott Walker that expanded his powers over the Department of Public Instruction.
The law gave Walker power to approve or deny rules the agency proposed, although this ruling only applies to the DPI. The plaintiffs, which included two teachers unions, said the law took away essential powers from the superintendent, and Judge Amy Smith agreed in her ruling, calling the law unconstitutional.
The arguments for the law being constitutional included the Legislature decides what the superintendent’s duties are and the law does not “impact or impede the superintendent’s ability to supervise public instruction.”
Department of Justice spokesperson Dana Brueck said the Department of Justice is currently reviewing Smith’s decision and is “discuss[ing]” its clients’ options.
Walker spokesperson Cullen Werwie said the governor’s administration was “confident” it would win if it were to appeal the decision, in an email to The Badger Herald.
State Superintendent Tony Evers said he was happy with the ruling, as he said Act 21 “limit[ed] the independence and authority” of the superintendent.
“I have been consistent in my opposition to this legislation on constitutional grounds and had proposed remedies during the legislative debate on this law,” Evers said in a statement. “My concerns are validated by this ruling.”
In a statement released after the ruling, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said this is another case in which the DOJ is defending Walker’s “extreme agenda” in courts instead of ensuring crimes are being solved.
He encouraged legislators to come together in the next session and compromise so next session’s laws do not face long appeals for which taxpayers need to pay.
“The people of Wisconsin are tired of the constant court battles and they want elected leaders who will do things the right way,” Barca said. “It’s long past time that we work together and seek common ground so we don’t have another legislative session permeated by chaos that hurts job creation and economic stability for our state.”
This is another instance of a Dane County judge striking down a law that would be beneficial, according to Mike Mikalsen, spokesperson for Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater.
In this case, Mikalsen said, two unions that are “no friends of education” are stopping the law.
“Rep. Nass is not surprised a Dane County judge – in response to a lawsuit brought by the two most destructive forces in education today, the state teachers union and the Madison teachers union – would have blocked a common sense law that says any agency that makes a rule has to consult with the governor and the Department of Administration,” Mikalsen said.