The Wisconsin Supreme Court Wednesday rejected an attempt by Governor Walker and the Republican Legislature to usurp power from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. In a 4-3 ruling, the court upheld and preserved the Superintendent’s constitutional role in supervising public instruction in Wisconsin, consistent with longstanding precedent.
The ruling struck down key parts of Act 21, passed in 2011, which gave the governor’s office more input on the administrative rules written by state agencies.
Justice Michael Gableman, writing for a 4-3 majority, wrote that the State Constitution requires the “Legislature to keep the supervision of public instruction in the hands of the officers of supervision of public instruction.”
“Thus, Act 21 unconstitutionally vests the supervision of public instruction in officers who are not officers of supervision of public instruction,” Gableman wrote.
Justices Shirley Abrahamson, Ann Walsh Bradley and David Prosser concurred with Gableman. Chief Justice Pat Roggensack was joined by Justices Rebecca Bradley and Annette Ziegler in a dissent.
The Supreme Court ruling upheld earlier rulings by a Dane County court and a State Court of Appeals.
State Superintendent Tony Evers welcomed the ruling, calling it “a victory for public education and the future of our state.”
“It is a reflection of the value our public schools provide to communities across Wisconsin and the importance of having an independent state superintendent oversee that system,” Evers said. “Despite the rhetoric suggesting otherwise, this case was about maintaining the administrative rule-making authority that is shared between the Legislature and the nonpartisan, elected state superintendent. That relationship has existed since the foundation of our state and has contributed to the success of our public school system.
“More than anything else, this ruling provides much needed stability for our schools and the students they serve. I hope we can now get back to focusing on what works best for our kids.”
The state’s highest court on Wednesday preserved the state Superintendent Tony Evers’ authority over public schools, ruling against Gov. Scott Walker and a 2011 law he signed that requires state agencies to seek approval from the governor before creating new administrative rules to carry out policies, regulations and laws.