Wisconsin Supreme Court deals Gov. Walker loss on education case
MADISON — A divided Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling has dealt Gov. Scott Walker a loss, upholding a ruling that keeps the state education secretary independent.
The 4-3 decision released Wednesday preserves the powers of the state superintendent of education.
The court’s conservative majority was split on whether to overturn its unanimous ruling from 19 years ago that had solidified the state superintendent’s independence as head of the Department of Education.
Ultimately, the court rejected arguments made by Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel to overturn the decision.
Current superintendent Tony Evers had opposed overturning the law, saying the case before the court was about preserving the office’s role as a nonpartisan constitutional officer in charge of implementing and overseeing education policy.
Evers issued the following statement with Wednesday’s ruling:
“Today’s ruling is 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.
“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.”
Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) President Rick Esenberg, who argued Coyne v. Walker in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, said the following in a statement:
“We are very disappointed in today’s decision finding Act 21 unconstitutional as applied to the Superintendent of Public Instruction. In our view, it misapprehends the nature of rule-making and the way in which the Department of Public Instruction actually wields its supervisory authority.” As WILL argued in an amicus brief and during oral argument, the Superintendent’s power to make regulations has ebbed and flowed over time, presumably in a constitutional manner. Therefore, the Superintendent does not need unchecked rule-making authority to fulfill his/her constitutional duties. In fact, most of what the Superintendent actually does has nothing to do with rule-making.”