K-12 Governance Question Before The Wisconsin Supreme Court

Patrick Marley:

In 1996, the high court unanimously ruled the elected superintendent is in charge of education, finding the governor and lawmakers could not strip the office of those powers. Now, the court is being asked to overturn that decision.

Justice David Prosser was the speaker of the state Assembly during the legal battle two decades ago, and in that capacity he filed a friend-of-the-court brief arguing the Legislature had greater powers over schools.

He lost that argument, but as a member of the court he will get to revisit it.

The case now before the Supreme Court is meant to determine whether the governor can have a say in the administrative rules written by the superintendent’s Department of Public Instruction. Lower courts ruled the governor could not.

Overturning the 1996 decision wasn’t at issue when the case was before the lower courts but was raised when it got to the state Supreme Court. Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel is arguing for reversing the decision, as is Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, a business lobbying group that filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

Evers argues the decision should not be reversed because courts are supposed to follow precedent and there are no new facts or conflicting rulings that should prompt the court to reverse course.