Supreme Court to consider DPI’s independent authority again

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will again take up a case about the independent authority of the elected state superintendent.

The Court is responding to a lawsuit from the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) over the DPI’s independent rule-making authority. State Superintendent Tony Evers won a case affirming his independent authority in a 5-2 ruling back in 2016, with conservatives in the majority on the bench.

“Educators are scratching their heads at this latest move by the far-right to play by different rules than our Constitution calls for,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, a middle school social studies teacher.

In fact, the court’s conservative majority gave no explanation for why it is taking the case. The decision puts the case on a fast track, bypassing the court of appeals. Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson disagreed with taking up the case again, saying the issue had been addressed in Coyne v. Walker. Madison Teachers Inc. and WEAC were successful in asserting the state constitution gives the state superintendent authority to set education policy for the state. Back in 2016, Justices Bradley, Abrahamson, David Prosser and Michael Gableman agreed.

Gableman, who is retiring, will be replaced this summer by Rebecca Dallet. Meanwhile Prosser has been replaced by Governor Walker appointee Dan Kelly.

Oral arguments are set for May 15, and the Court said it would initially take up only the narrow issue of who will represent Evers in the case – whether it has to be the governor’s pick, Attorney General Brad Schimel, or if Evers can use a DPI attorney who is not tied to the governor.

Schimel is closely aligned with the governor, and Evers is one of several Democrats running for the seat this fall.