January 11, 2024

Ed Advocacy Update: Book Bans, Bullying & Censorship Edition

Ed Advocacy Update: Book Bans, Bullying & Censorship Edition Featured Image

Bills Advancing Would Pave Way for Book Bans, Censorship and Lawsuits against Educators

WEAC is watching several bills in the Legislature that would pave the way for book bans, censorship or make it easier to sue teachers. Read about the bills, take action and email us to express interest in joining a back-home contact team with other educators to speak with elected officials about the issues that impact our students and schools.

Take Action: Committee Advances Censorship Bill

The Assembly Family Law Committee voted to advance a bill (AB 510 / SB 489) that would drag political games into classrooms, making it easier for a few extremists to ban books and deny students an honest education. The bill creates a process for parents who feel a school has infringed on their beliefs in areas such as health, religion or education to file a lawsuit.

Email Your Representative

WEAC opposes the bill because parents, school boards and educators work very well together to do what is best for students, and this bill would undermine our ability to do that. This bill would infringe on the rights of most parents to favor a few extremists. Polls show that more than 70 percent of parents oppose book bans and other extreme policies this bill would encourage.

 The bill is very similar to one introduced last session, which was vetoed by Governor Evers. Republicans attempted to override the governor’s veto and failed. The companion bill is in the Senate Education Committee and has not had a public hearing. Send an Email Now.

Parent Notification for Library Materials

The Senate Committee on Mental Health, Substance Abuse Prevention, Children and Families held a public hearing on a bill (SB 597 / AB 642) to require schools to notify parents/guardians of each material checked out by students under 16 from their school libraries within 24 hours of checkout. It would also require boards to issue an annual notification if it allows students in the district to access materials through BadgerLink electronic collections. The companion bill (SB 598 / AB 641) enacts similar requirements for public libraries.

Other Bills Promote Privacy, Freedom to Read

As bills restricting the freedom to read circulate, several promoting privacy and access to information have also been introduced, including a proposal to ban book banning (SB 615). It would prohibit government or government-funded institutions from banning books, ensuring that citizens have unrestricted access to diverse literary materials. A similar law has been successfully enacted in Illinois, setting a noteworthy precedent that reinforces a commitment to uphold constitutional rights.

Plans Proceed after UW Regents, Assembly Speaker Vos make DEI Deal

Legislators are releasing funding for UW staff wage increases and a new UW-Madison engineering building after the UW Regents bowed to political and financial pressure by reversing course on diversity, equity and inclusion practices.

In exchange for funding for UW employee pay raises and building projects, including a new UW-Madison engineering building, Republican legislators delivered a long-sought blow to the UW system’s DEI programs. Campuses will be forced to restructure 43 diversity positions across Wisconsin campuses and freeze the total number of jobs through 2026.

“This is another overreach by Legislative Republicans pushing an extreme agenda into public schools, from Kindergarten through college,” said WEAC President and teacher Peggy Wirtz-Olsen. “These legislators regularly resort to bullying and holding public education hostage until they get their way. It’s short-sighted and irresponsible and it’s our students who end up paying the price for their politics.”

The deal will further marginalize a wide swath of students and educators, Wirtz-Olsen said. She pointed to a growing number of bills in the Legislature from banning books, to ending the minority teacher loan program, to prescribing what educators can teach.

Governor Evers also spoke out against the Republican tactics. “This vote represents a vast overreach by a group of Republicans who’ve grown exceedingly comfortable overextending, manipulating, and abusing their power to control, subvert, and obstruct basic functions of government,” he said, adding: “This exercise has been about one thing—the relentless political tantrums, ultimatums, and threats of retribution by legislative Republicans, most especially Speaker Robin Vos, his negotiation-by-bullying tactics, and general disdain for public education at every level,” he said.

Transgender Athlete Ban Bills Receive Senate Hearing

A senate committee held hearings on bills targeting transgender students, the companion bills of which were passed by the Assembly this fall. Governor Evers has said he will veto the bills if they reach his desk. WEAC has registered in opposition.

Senate, Assembly Expected to Meet Next Week

The state Senate and Assembly are expected to convene on January 16 and 18, respectively. It’s prime time to join a back home legislative contact team to connect with other public education advocates in small-group meetings with your representatives. Email us if you’re interested and we’ll get in touch.