The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a case that — in State Superintendent Tony Evers’ words — revolves around “continuing the ... authority of the Legislature and elected state superintendent” and “preserving the constitutional roles that have existed since 1848.”
The case revolves around how Wisconsin implements laws through the more specific “administrative rules” that spell out what the new laws will really look like on the ground. These rules carry the force of the laws behind them. After a new law is enacted by the Legislature and governor, these rules are written by the applicable state agency and officials.
The law known as 2011 Wisconsin Act 21 inserted a gubernatorial sign-off into the process of creating the administrative rules.
However, the Wisconsin Constitution stipulates that an elected state superintendent, not the governor, is the state’s supervisor of public education. For that reason, two lower courts found that in the case of public education, Act 21’s insertion of the governor into the administrative rule process was unconstitutional.
“Direct election of our leaders is at the center of our democracy,” noted Evers in a November 17 statement, and “the people of Wisconsin have twice elected me to be their state superintendent of public instruction.”
He clarified, in the statement which was issued the day the high court heard oral arguments in the case, that “the framers of the Wisconsin Constitution intended that the state’s public education system be overseen by the state superintendent of public instruction, an independent, nonpartisan constitutional officer directly elected by the people.”
The earliest the court is likely to issue a decision in the case, known as Coyne vs. Walker, is June of 2016.
“I look to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to affirm the conservative, strict interpretations of two lower court rulings in this case. Now is not the time for activist court rulings that overturn long-standing constitutional precedence,” Evers said.