Ongoing Wisconsin Literacy Legislation Litigation…. Mind the Governor’s Mulligans

Mitchell Schmidt:

The Legislature argues Act 20 is the mechanism that empowers the state’s GOP-controlled budget committee to directly fund the literacy programs with dollars already approved in the state’s biennial budget, which Evers signed last summer. The committee has not yet allocated the $50 million in state funds.

“Act 100, as passed by the Legislature, does not set aside, authorize, or require the expenditure of any funds,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, it allows (the budget committee) to move the $50 million appropriated and earmarked in the budget bill to DPI.”

Because the bill was improperly vetoed, the budget committee cannot allocate the funds set aside in the budget for DPI’s new literacy programs, attorneys continue.

A memo from legislative attorneys notes the legislation “creates appropriations” for DPI’s new literacy office created under Act 20.

In a partial veto message to SB 971 on Feb. 29, Evers wrote that he struck portions of the bill because he objected to “overly complicating the allocation of funding related to literacy programs in Wisconsin by creating multiple appropriations for what could be accomplished with one.”

The governor also noted that he removed from the bill a “proposed appropriation structure” that would have repealed spending in 2028. Evers said the change creates additional flexibility “to invest in literacy programs for as long as the state has funding available and as long as decisionmakers invest in improving reading instruction in Wisconsin.”

Evers also wrote that he objected to signing a bill “with an apparent error” that specifically benefits private choice and independent charter schools by allowing those entities to be eligible for both grant funding and an ongoing increase in per pupil aid.

“As drafted, either intentionally or inadvertently, these entities could also receive an increase in per pupil funding because the bill does not contain standard provisions to exclude the newly created categorical appropriation from the indexing formula used to increase per pupil payments for private choice, independent charter, Special Needs Scholarship, and open enrollment students,” Evers wrote.

“Consequently, a private choice or independent charter school could receive both a grant for curriculum and an ongoing increase in per pupil funding,” the governor continued. “Contrastingly, no such funding increase would be provided to public school districts under the bill.”

The lawsuit is the second this week challenging the governor’s partial veto power.

Lawsuit PDF.


Corrinne Hess:

Evers’ partial veto, known as Act 100,  struck language allocating  money for school boards and charter school compliance in the early literacy program.

The lawsuit argues the changes “will allow DPI to treat any money directed to it as money that can be used by the Office of Literacy for any literacy program that office deems fit.”

On March 7, DPI submitted a request to the legislature to release the funds set aside in the biennial budget in accordance with the partially vetoed version of Act 100.

Lawyers argue the Joint Finance Committee “can’t be assured the money will be specifically spent on literacy programs created in Act 20.” 

“Instead, any money directed for that purpose might (but should not) be treated by DPI as well as its Office of Literacy as a blank check to do as it pleases, believing that it is under no statutory obligation to fund either a literacy coaching program or the grant program to offset the cost of purchasing new literacy curriculum,” the lawsuit states. 

Commentary. More.


Then Wisconsin DPI Superintendent Evers use of teacher mulligans to evade the Foundations of Reading early literacy content knowledge requirements (see also MTEL).

Leglislation and Reading: The Wisconsin Experience 2004-