Teacher-parent group challenges Wisconsin law giving governor veto power over proposed school regulations

A group of teachers and parents in Wisconsin has mounted a constitutional challenge to Act 21, which effectively repeals the balance of power between the state’s legislative and executive branches, says Courthouse News Service. The Act gives Gov. Scott Walker veto power over regulations, including school rules, and allows him to write and promulgate his own regulations.

The suit charges that the law “unconstitutionally delegates to the governor and the Secretary of Administration authority over the supervision of public instruction … that is equal or superior to the authority vested in the Superintendent of Public Instruction by the Wisconsin Constitution.” Prior to enactment of Act 21, the governor’s power to make rules was overseen by the Legislature, which could suggest changes and send the rules back to the governor for revision. In addition, the Superintendent of Public Instruction was the “‘individual or body with policy-making powers over public instruction to whom the [Department of Public Instruction] was required to submit scope statements on proposed administrative rules'” under the Wisconsin Constitution.

Since Act 21 went into effect in June 2011, however, the Department of Public Instruction must submit scoping statements for proposed administrative rules to both the governor and the superintendent of public instruction, and both must approve the statements. The department must provide a “detailed analysis and quantification of the economic impact” and submit it to the Secretary of the Department of Administration, who serves at the pleasure of the governor. Once the governor receives the proposed rule “in final form,” he may approve or reject it. He must approve it in writing before it can be sent to the Legislature for review or be filed with the Legislative Reference Bureau for publication.

The plaintiffs claim that they will be harmed by Act 21’s effect on teacher licensing and terms of employment, and on public education and other services public schools must provide under administrative rules. They want the Act enjoined as unconstitutional.

Source: Courthouse News Service, 10/18/11, By Lisa Buchmeier

[Editor’s Note: The legal complaint is available here. Gov. Walker has already drawn the ire of public employees in the state, including teachers, over the enactment of the “Budget Repair Bill” that deprives public employees of virtually all of their collective bargaining rights.

 In September 2011, Legal Clips summarized an article from Courthouse News Service reporting that as New Berlin School District’s (NBSD) new Employee Handbook takes effect, teachers are seeing how NBSD officials are implementing Gov. Scott Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill.” They called the handbook the most “punitive” in the state.]


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