Wednesday, May 18, 2016

State Supreme Court Affirms State Superintendent's Independence

In a 4-3 decision released Wednesday, the State Supreme Court affirmed the powers of the state superintendent and ruled that 2011 Wisconsin Act 21 does not apply to the state superintendent or the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

The case dealt with a law passed in 2011 (Act 21) which required all state agencies to submit any potential administrative rule changes to the Governor’s office for approval, including the state superintendent, who is a constitutional officer.  Lower courts had previously ruled that Act 21 was a violation of the state constitution as it applied to the state superintendent, and the Supreme Court’s ruling Wednesday affirmed the previous opinions.

“Because Act 21 does not provide a way for the superintendent of public instruction (SPI) and DPI to proceed with rulemaking if the Governor or Secretary of Administration withholds approval, Act 21 gives the Governor and the Secretary of Administration the power to ‘manage, direct, or oversee’ the primary means by which the SPI and DPI are required to carry out their supervisory duties. Thus, Act 21 unconstitutionally vests the supervision of public instruction in officers who are not officers of supervision of public instruction,” wrote Justice Gableman in the Court’s opinion.