Evers Seeks to Use DPI Attorney in Lawsuit

By John Forester | November 29, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

State Superintendent Tony Evers today sought to dump the Wisconsin Department of Justice as his attorney in a lawsuit seeking to force him to comply with a new law that gives the Legislature and guv overview of the administrative rules his agency writes.

Evers declared at a news conference AG Brad Schimel was “fired.”

But DOJ said it will continue to represent the Department of Public Instruction despite the disagreements between the two agencies over the core questions in a lawsuit filed by the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty seeking to require Evers to comply with the “REINS” Act.

Evers’ backers raised the prospect today the state Supreme Court may have to first decide who will represent DPI before moving forward with the petition to take up the lawsuit directly.

“Whether Superintendent Evers likes it or not, the State of Wisconsin is the actual defendant in this lawsuit, and his personal opinions as to the what the law is or should be will have no bearing on the Attorney General’s power or ethical duty to represent the State,” said state DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos.

It is the latest twist in an burgeoning battle over who should represent DPI in the lawsuit after the agency sought its own representation, but was rebuffed by DOJ and Gov. Scott Walker.

WILL has asked the state Supreme Court to rule whether the 2017 REINS Act covers DPI, which has declined to abide by the requirements. The agency has cited a 2016 state Supreme Court decision on a different law governing the administrative rules process that DPI could not be required to submit proposals to the guv because the superintendent is a separate, constitutionally elected office.

WILL has indicated it plans to ask the court to reconsider that earlier ruling, contending it was a fractured majority.

Evers today accused DOJ of having a conflict of interest in the case, citing rules that attorneys advocate for their clients and abide by their decisions regarding the objectives of representation. He said DOJ argued in last year’s case the superintendent should be covered by the earlier administrative rules process. The agency can’t now ethically represent DPI as it takes the opposing view.

Evers said he hopes to have his agency’s counsel Ryan Nilsestuen represent him in the case. Schimel and Walker last week denied that request, though Nilsestuen has filed a notice of appearance before the state Supreme Court.

“I will never stop fighting for our kids and the state superintendent’s position, and I refuse to be intimidated by Scott Walker’s efforts to silence me,” Evers said.

The 2016 Supreme Court decision stemmed from a 2011 lawsuit filed by Madison Teachers Inc., the Wisconsin Education Association Council and others against Walker, Evers and the DOA secretary. Evers was represented by Nilsestuen in that case and asked the court to block the law. DOJ represented the Walker administration and argued unsuccessfully the law should apply to DPI.

Susan Crawford, who was part of the legal team that sued over the 2011 law, argued it is unethical for DOJ to try representing DPI after it previously opposed Evers’ position.

“If he is not willing to advocate for the superintendent’s position in this case, he needs to step aside and allow a lawyer to represent the superintendent in that case who is willing to vigorously advocate for the superintendent’s position,” she said.

Koremonos said it is not unusual for a client agency to disagree with DOJ’s position and that is not a conflict of interest. Instead, the AG has the power to represent any state official or department upon the guv’s request.

Listen to Evers news conference here.

See the letter DPI sent DOJ today here.

See Wisconsin Public Radio coverage here.

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School Leaders Say K-12 Budget Doesn’t Do Enough for Rural Schools

By John Forester | November 16, 2017

Check out this article from Wisconsin Public Radio in response to Speaker Vos’ comments last week that the Assembly would not take up legislation to increase school sparsity aid.  The article includes great quotes from Superintendents Doug Olsen (Kickapoo) and Ryan Alderson (Cashton).

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LFB Publishes 2017-18 General School Aids

By John Forester | November 15, 2017

From The Wheeler Report . . .

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has released the 2017-18 General School Aids Amounts for All School Districts. According to the memo in 2017-18, $4.584 billion from the general fund is appropriated for general school aids. Of that total amount, $4.515 billion is in equalized aid, $54.0 million in integration aid, and $14.9 million in special adjustment aid.

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Vos: Sparsity Aid Proposal Won’t Clear Assembly

By John Forester | November 13, 2017

From WisPolitics.com . . .

While Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Vos tell WisPolitics some high-profile bills are a work in progress, Vos declared the guv’s sparsity aid package will not clear his house this session.

Assembly Republicans put a package in the budget to boost low-spending school districts by allowing them to collect more in property taxes. But Walker vetoed the plan due to his concerns over the impact on property tax bills.

Instead, Walker called on lawmakers to pump more state money into sparsity aid, which help small, rural schools. A plan authored by state Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, and Rep. Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz, mirroring the sparsity aid package Walker included in his budget carries a price tag of $9.7 million.

Vos said the budget makes a “historic” investment in public schools and pointed out Assembly Republicans had a different approach to helping rural districts than the guv.

“We’re not going to go back and re-argue all of the battles we had in 2017 in the spring of ’18,” Vos said. “For the most part, that issue is put to bed and we’ll have the opportunity to come back in the next budget and discuss sparsity aid and low-spending school districts.”

Fitzgerald said he hasn’t discussed the bill with his caucus.

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Walker Appoints Harsdorf DATCP Secretary

By John Forester | November 10, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

Gov. Scott Walker today appointed GOP state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf the first female DATCP secretary, calling the longtime lawmaker “an excellent fit to lead the agency.”

Harsdorf, who won her Senate seat in 2000 and served in the Assembly from 1989-1999, fills the vacancy left when Ben Brancel retired in August. She will start Monday in a job once held by her brother, Jim.

“I’m excited to work with and support our farmers, businesses, and consumers to promote a fair marketplace and economic growth in Wisconsin’s vibrant agriculture industry,” Harsdorf said in a statement released through the guv’s office.

Harsdorf, 61, served on the Joint Finance Committee this session and chaired the Universities and Technical Colleges Committee. She also has a degree in animal science from the University of Minnesota.

Harsdorf is expected to resign her Senate seat to take the job, and it’s believed the guv would try to schedule a special election to fill the vacancy for the same day as ones already planned for two open Assembly seats. Nomination papers in those races are due Nov. 21 with a primary Dec. 19 and the general election Jan. 16.

GOP state Reps. Shannon Zimmerman, of River Falls, and Adam Jarchow, of Balsam Lake, are expected to look at a run for the seat.

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School Referendum Results

By John Forester | November 9, 2017

From The Wheeler Report:

District District Name Total Amount Type Brief Description
0287 Barneveld

Passed

$12,900,000.00 Issue Debt Demolition of the oldest portion of the existing school building; construction of an addition for a new elementary school, music rooms and art rooms; construction of a new secure entrance, cafeteria, commons and kitchen; upgrades to restrooms, HVAC and plumbing and electrical systems.
0287 Barneveld

Passed

$3,400,000.00 Issue Debt Renovation and expansion of Multi-Purpose gymnasium, addition of a new industrial arts and STEM area, staff/event parking.
1155 Cochrane-Fountain City

Passed

$7,000,000.00 Issue Debt Initial Resolution Authorizing General Obligation Bonds or Promissory Notes In An Amount Not To Exceed $7,000,000.00
1855 Florence

Passed

$3,750,000.00 NR – 2018 For continuing operations and maintenance of the district.
1953 Freedom Area

Failed

$66,700,000.00 Issue Debt New High School and Renovations of current HS/MS and Elementary Schools.
1953 Freedom Area

Failed

$3,700,000.00 NR – 2020 Non-Recurring Debt Referendum for New High School
3612 Milton

Failed

$69,900,000.00 Issue Debt Issue general obligation bonds for a District-wide school building and improvement program.
4606 Princeton

Passed

$2,375,000.00 NR – 2018 Resolution to increase revenue limits for operational needs.
5733 Three Lakes

Passed

$15,463,935.00 NR – 2018 To Exceed Revenue Limit by 3,092,787 per year for five years for non-recurring purposes
5852 Union Grove UHS

Passed

$7,875,000.00 Issue Debt Construction of an agricultural building and greenhouse on land owned by the District; remodeling and renovations in the technology education department; improvements to the science classrooms and conversation of a general classroom to a science classroom; construction of an addition for a wellness center with 3 or 4 classrooms located above the wellness center for future expansion; related site improvements; capital and building infrastructure improvements and repairs, acquisition of furnishing, fixtures and equipment.

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Educators Getting Crunched

By John Forester | November 8, 2017

I found this article from the Sauk Prairie Eagle interesting.  Great quotes from SAA members.

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Walker Starts Statewide Campaign Tour

By John Forester | November 6, 2017

From WisPolitics.com …

Gov. Scott Walker is hitting La Crosse, Eau Claire, Wausau, Rhinelander and Green Bay today as he kicks off a three-day tour of the state following his formal announcement of his bid for a third term.

Yesterday in Waukesha, Walker touted his administration’s record on jobs, workforce development, education and health care, but said there’s “more to be done” in asking voters to elect him to another four-year term.

“We’re not just satisfied with where we’re at. We’re ready to keep moving forward, because there’s more to be done,” Walker said.

Walker made his announcement at Weldall Manufacturing before a campaign-announced crowd of 400. Outside the facility, a large crowd organized by Voces de la Frontera protested. Many carried signs in support of immigration and refugees, and those that read ‘low-wage Walker.”

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning in a statement accused Walker of trying to reinvent himself as he seeks another term.

“Kicking off another campaign today, Scott Walker said that after seven years, he now wants to begin to focus on the rest of us in Wisconsin, but people don’t buy his latest ‘reinvented’ style,” Laning said. “It’s appalling that Walker has not been focused on all the people of Wisconsin all along. He had his opportunity, yet his actions have benefited the wealthy elite at the top while he left everyone else behind.

Today’s stops include a tailgate party ahead of the Packers game at Lambeau Field.

Tomorrow, Walker will hit Appleton, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan and Janesville before Wednesday stops in Hudson, Superior, and rural southwestern Wisconsin.

See more from yesterday’s campaign announcement here.

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2016-17 Estimated State Support for School Districts

By John Forester | November 2, 2017

From The Wheeler Report . . .

The legislative fiscal bureau has released the 2016-17 Estimated State Support for School Districts.  According to the memo, the funding appropriated for 2016-17 and the 2016 gross property taxes levied for school districts, the state share of K-12 education was 63.58% of partial school revenues.

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Competitive Bidding Bill Clears State Senate

By John Forester | November 1, 2017

Yesterday, the State Senate passed Senate Bill 236 on a voice vote.  The SAA opposes SB 236.

You might recall that, Senate Bill 236 would require that a school board, before entering into a contract for the construction, repair, remodeling, or improvement of a public school building or public school facilities or for the furnishing of supplies or materials with an estimated cost greater than $50,000, must advertise or direct the school district clerk to advertise for proposals and must let the contract to the lowest responsible bidder.

The bill would also prohibit a school board from using a bidding method that gives preference based on the geographic location of the bidder or that uses criteria other than the lowest responsible bidder in awarding a contract.

The competitive bidding bill has had a public hearing in the Assembly (AB 307).  The SAA will keep you informed of any developments regarding this important legislation.

Several other education-related bills passed the Senate on voice votes including the following:

Assembly Bill 280. Relating to: incorporating financial literacy into the curriculum of public schools.  SAA was neutral on the bill.  SAA and WASB worked with the authors to ensure a “soft” requirement that we believe that most if not all districts already meet.  The bill has now passed both houses and moves to the Governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 253. Relating to: prohibiting aiding and abetting sexual abuse.  The SAA supports this bill.

Senate Bill 301. Relating to: summer school and interim session classes.  The SAA supports this bill.

Senate Bill 382.  Relating to:   screening school district employees for tuberculosis.  The SAA supports this bill.

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