WEAC Election Update – Who’s not running again?

Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, is the latest Wisconsin legislator indicating he won’t seek re-election this fall. Kleefisch has served in the Legislature since 2004. Here’s an overview:


  1. Joel Kleefisch (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-32
  2. Tom Weatherston (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-62
  3. Andre Jacque (R) – Not seeking re-election to the AD-2, running for SD-1.
  4. Dale Kooyenga (R) – Not seeking re-election to the AD-14, running for SD-5
  5. Adam Jarchow (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-28
  6. Jesse Kremer (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-59
  7. Tom Weatherston (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-62.
  8. Kathy Bernier (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-68, running for SD-23.
  9. Terese Berceau (D) – Not seeking re-election to AD-77
  10. Eric Genrich (D) – Not seeking re-election to AD-90, running for Mayor of Green Bay
  11. Dana Wachs (D) – Not seeking re-election to AD-91, running for Governor
  12. Lee Nerison (R) – Not seeking re-election to AD-96


  1. Leah Vukmir (R) – Not seeing re-election to SD-5, running for U.S. Senate
  2. Terry Moulton (R) – Not seeking re-election to SD-23
  3. Kathleen Vinehout (D) – Not seeking re-election to SD-31, running for Governor

U.S Congress

  1. Paul Ryan (R) – Not seeing re-election to CD-1.

Supreme Court to consider DPI’s independent authority again

The Wisconsin Supreme Court will again take up a case about the independent authority of the elected state superintendent.

The Court is responding to a lawsuit from the conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) over the DPI’s independent rule-making authority. State Superintendent Tony Evers won a case affirming his independent authority in a 5-2 ruling back in 2016, with conservatives in the majority on the bench.

“Educators are scratching their heads at this latest move by the far-right to play by different rules than our Constitution calls for,” said WEAC President Ron Martin, a middle school social studies teacher.

In fact, the court’s conservative majority gave no explanation for why it is taking the case. The decision puts the case on a fast track, bypassing the court of appeals. Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson disagreed with taking up the case again, saying the issue had been addressed in Coyne v. Walker. Madison Teachers Inc. and WEAC were successful in asserting the state constitution gives the state superintendent authority to set education policy for the state. Back in 2016, Justices Bradley, Abrahamson, David Prosser and Michael Gableman agreed.

Gableman, who is retiring, will be replaced this summer by Rebecca Dallet. Meanwhile Prosser has been replaced by Governor Walker appointee Dan Kelly.

Oral arguments are set for May 15, and the Court said it would initially take up only the narrow issue of who will represent Evers in the case – whether it has to be the governor’s pick, Attorney General Brad Schimel, or if Evers can use a DPI attorney who is not tied to the governor.

Schimel is closely aligned with the governor, and Evers is one of several Democrats running for the seat this fall.

WEAC Election Update: State, local results – and what’s next

Election results
Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet – recommended by the WEAC Board – won a 10-year seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court Tuesday. WEAC had cited Dallet’s 21 years of experience, support for the role of unions in the workplace and support for public education. Dallet will be seated in August. Voters also decided to keep the State Treasurer’s Office, a position supported by public education advocates. And they approved the five largest school referendums in the state.

WEAC members in their communities worked within their districts on several of the referendums, including the Beloit Turner referendum that is reported to have lost by just two votes.

WEAC President Ron Martin, an eighth grade social studies teacher, credited the work educators are doing to raise awareness about how the politics of recent years has hurt students and schools. “The pendulum is swinging back to restore Democracy; it’s time and we’re not slowing down,” he said. “Wisconsin educators voted with their students in mind, and we’ll always vote for our students.”

Voters supported 55 of 66 local school referendums — 83 percent — in Tuesday’s election, indicating communities are supportive of their public schools and willing to step up to fund them to make up for what the state has cut over the past few years. The passage rate is up from the fall elections, where 70 percent of referendum questions were approved, and the spring 2017 elections where 62 percent of referendum questions passed. Tuesday, the five largest referendums in the state all passed:

  • Chippewa Falls, $65 million
  • C. Everest, $60 million
  • River Falls, $48 million
  • Sparta , $32.5 million (two referendums)
  • Plymouth, $32 million

Of the nine largest referendums, seven passed and one of the others – in the Beloit Turner School District – is headed for recount after losing by only two votes.

A new law will benefit 13 of the districts with successful operating referendums, which are now eligible to receive a low revenue bump via an increased revenue ceiling for the next three years. That’s funding that can be used to improve student opportunities, hire educators and increase pay. The districts are:

  • Adams-Friendship
  • Almond-Bancroft
  • Benton
  • Ellsworth
  • Howard-Suamico
  • Kiel
  • Manitowoc
  • Markesan
  • Merrill
  • Mondovi
  • Randall J1
  • Shullsburg
  • Westby

See the complete list of school referendums here.

School Board Elections
Members of our local associations also recommended candidates in several school board elections, supporting candidates who support public school students.

Up Next: Special Elections
This is a big year in Wisconsin elections, and we’re already watching the next races shape up. After the governor was forced by the rulings of two judges to hold special elections in open Legislative seats, a field of candidates is coming forward. In Senate District 1 (Northeastern Wisconsin), Republicans Alex Renard and Andre Jacque have stepped forward. In Assembly District 42 (Southcentral Wisconsin), Democrats Ann Lloyd and Nicolas Schneider have announced their candidacies, along with Republicans Spencer Zimmerman and Jon Plumer. A special election primary election is set May 15, with the special election slated June 12.


Budget fallout: DPI to remove expiration date from teachers’ licenses

DPI outlines what teacher licensure changes mean for us

As a result of sweeping changes to teacher licensure included in the now-complete state budget, the DPI is reporting that anyone who holds a current professional or master license will automatically have their license converted to a lifetime license. This will be done by DPI removing the expiration date from these licenses. There will be no fee charged to the license holder for the conversion to a lifetime license and there is no action teachers need to take with the DPI at this time for the lifetime license.

In short, the PDP component of PI 34 will no longer be required. For initial educators currently in the middle of the PDP process moving toward professional status, DPI will soon issue guidance about how the transition from initial to professional status will be handled. WEAC will continue to advocate for common-sense rules that uphold the integrity of the profession.

For new teachers coming into the profession, a school district needs to certify to DPI that an individual completed 6 semesters of work as an initial teacher, after which they will fulfill requirements for a lifetime license.

Read more from the DPI.

Public hearing for bill that mandates schools to use competitive bidding

Senate Bill 236, requiring school districts to use the competitive bidding process on certain school construction projects, will be up for a public hearing October 3, and pushed to a committee vote on October 5.

Special needs voucher expansion passes through committee, contact your elected officials now!

The state’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee today voted along party lines to expand the Special Needs Voucher Program as part of the state budget bill.  With state resources so tight for public schools, and the funding for special needs vouchers coming directly from local school districts, why would the Legislature move to reduce funding for public schools by about $3 million over what it already spends on private school tuition next year, when the governor didn’t even include this move in his original budget proposal?

Voucher lobbyists have been active at the Capitol and it seems their campaign contributions are paying off, as the Republican move would add about 250 pupils to the entitlement next year.

Here are the nuts-and-bolts of today’s voucher developments:

Eliminate Prior Year Open Enrollment Requirement. Pupils would no longer have been denied under the open enrollment program in order to receive a special needs voucher. That change alone is estimated to increase the number of pupils in the program by 50 next year, and increase voucher payments by $621,400. The school districts the pupils live in would pay for the voucher tuition, but would be allowed to raise local property taxes to cover the private school price tag.

Eliminate Prior Year Public School Enrollment Requirement. Beginning next year, current private school students could receive tax-funded tuition under the special needs voucher program. Law now says they had to be enrolled in a public school the prior year. It is estimated that the change could increase the number of pupils participating in the program by 200 pupils next year and increase voucher payments by $2.5 million. Again, would be allowed to raise local property taxes to cover the private school price tag.

Voucher Payments. In the first year a pupil receives a special needs voucher, the private school would receive $12,000 from the public school district. The following year, the private school would receive the greater amount of these two scenarios:

  • Either the actual costs incurred by the private school the year before based on what they file with the DPI to document what it cost to implement the child’s most recent IEP or services plan (as modified by agreement between the private school and the child’s parent) plus related services agreed to by the private school and the child’s parent that are not included in the IEP or services plan; or
  • A flat rate of $12,000.

This is a no-win for taxpayers, with private schools in the voucher program required to provide little to no accountability for meeting student needs or being fiscally responsible. State aid would be siphoned from local public school aid and shifted to private schools up to 150 percent of the per-pupil payment (again allowing school boards to raise local property taxes to make it up). Special needs voucher costs above the 150 percent would result in the state shifting tax dollars to cover the private school tuition bill, up to 90 percent above the remaining amount.

Summer School, Too. In addition to covering more students at a higher rate, and promising additional state tax dollars to fill in any gap, the proposal opens the doors for private schools in the special needs voucher program to receive summer school funding, too.

Transportation Package Approved

The Joint Finance Committee met Tuesday and continued into Wednesday to finish its budget work after approving a GOP transportation package by a 12-4 vote that calls for cutting 200 DOT jobs and pre-empting some local regulations of quarries used for road and construction projects. The plan includes earmarks and fell well short of the long-term transpo fix Republicans have been promising, Dems said.

Joint Finance Committee takes up Foxconn

Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the Senate will debate the Foxconn incentive package Sept. 12. If the Senate approves the amended bill, it goes to the Assembly before on to the governor.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee had this to say: “We are taking a foreign company, and we are giving them rights that Wisconsin companies don’t have,” Taylor said. “We’re allowing them to be excluded from our environmental rules that Wisconsin companies and Wisconsin individuals have to adhere to, and we’re allowing them to be excluded from our normal justice system. That’s what we’re doing.”

The Wisconsin court appeals process would be changed for Foxconn, under an amendment approved Tuesday by the Joint Finance Committee. Under the plan, the state Supreme Court would take jurisdiction over any appeal of a circuit court decision relating to the Foxconn project under an amendment Joint Finance Republicans proposed Tuesday. Under the proposal, any circuit court order related to a decision by a state or local official, board, commission or other entity would be stated automatically upon the filing of an appeal. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau said it was unaware of any similar provision applying to a particular company or enterprise zone such as the one created for Foxconn. Dems said changes in the bill would mean those same changes could apply to new manufacturers across Wisconsin. That would mean undercutting economic zone regulations and environmental protections for the entire state, not just the area about the planned Foxconn plant.

Prevailing Wage

Two years after the Legislature pushed through the repeal of the local prevailing wage in the dark of night, Republican politicians are at it again. The transportation budget introduced late Tuesday with limited debate, and approved among a party-line vote, calls for a complete repeal of Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage statutes: continuing the repeal of the local prevailing wage statute and repealing prevailing wage statutes for both state building projects and state highway projects. The repeal would first apply to a request for bids issued on or after September 1, 2018 or for contracts with no bid requirements entered into on September 1, 2018.

As harmful as the measure would be to working families, it’s no surprise. The governor’s original budget included the full repeal of Prevailing Wage statutes. Two The Joint Finance Committee had pulled his proposal, prompting legislators to introduce their own bills to kill the fair wage laws. And now, the same committee has snuck the plan back into the budget it’s moving forward.

WEAC continues to monitor legislative activity and the impact on educators and working families. Look for our updates and encourage your colleagues to sign up for them as well. Direct your questions to communications@weac.org.


Trump abandons DACA promise and shatters dreams of aspiring young Americans

President Trump has made the unwise and cruel decision to end the DACA program; putting 800,000 lives at the mercy of a Congress that has passed no major legislation.


For the past five years, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program proved to be an unqualified success, providing new opportunities and futures for nearly 800,000 Dreamers who live, study, and work in America. The termination of this program impacts students, educators, small business owners, healthcare workers, and so many others contributing to their families, communities, and to the country they call home.

Instead of offering an immigration process that will allow a path to citizenship so that DREAMers can continue to contribute to our communities and economy, this Administration has continued its crusade against immigrant families by stripping away their legal status.

Click here to read the NEA statement.


The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is an unqualified success, providing new opportunities and futures for nearly 800,000 Dreamers who live, study, and work in America. They are students, educators, small business owners, healthcare workers, and so many others contributing to their families, communities, and to the country they call home.

Yet the future of DACA is under serious threat. A coordinated assault on DACA, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, hardline state AGs in nine other states, and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is trying to force President Trump into ending the program.

Instead of offering an immigration process that will allow a path to citizenship so that DREAMers can continue to contribute to our communities and economy, hardliners on a crusade against immigrant families are threatening to strip their legal status away. Click here to help now!

Teach for America is not a ‘noble’ choice

Teacher turnover is an increasing problem across Wisconsin, creating instability for students in their neighborhood public schools. WEAC advocates for professional respect, support and resources for educators to attract and keep them in our schools.

Read what La Crosse teacher John Havlicek, president of his local education association, had to say at the suggestion that Teach for America is a valid option for our students.

Recently the Tribune published a column by syndicated columnist Leanna Landsmann, in response to a reader’s question about whether her college senior daughter should do a two-year stint for TFA before starting her “real career”. Ms. Landsmann’s response could not have been worse.

In her first paragraph, she asserts that teaching is a “great foundation” for other careers. No, it isn’t. Teaching is a highly complex, demanding profession that stands on its own as one of the most challenging, most rewarding, and most important fields one could name. It is not a stepping-stone toward something else, although it becomes clear later in the column that Ms. Landsmann clearly has that opinion of teachers and teaching. Becoming a master teacher takes years of honing one’s craft, not two years and then leaving for greener pastures.

Later, she states that many TFA alumni now have leadership positions in the education field. She is correct on that point, but she ignores how unfortunate that is. She brings up the example of Mr. Perez. After his two years as a TFA, he then became the education advisor to Julian Castro, the mayor of San Antonio, TX. Rather than lament how unqualified someone with no education degree and only two years experience is to be the education advisor to the mayor of a major US city (all due respect to Mr. Perez), she states that this is an admirable career path. Why? Can you imagine someone with no qualifications being named the mayor’s economic development advisor? Would a summer course in marketing and then two years as an entry level office worker be sufficient qualification?

Further, she encourages a young accountant who wants to teach for a couple years, because she likes tutoring, and wants to use “data to help narrow the opportunity gap.” Tutoring is like teaching in the same way that Guitar Hero is like what Eddie Van Halen does. Also, we don’t need “data” to “narrow the opportunity gap”. We need proper funding for all public schools, instead of the regressive funding formula employed by pretty much every state in our country: schools in wealthy districts get more, while state aid decreases across the country, so that schools in poor communities get less.

Teach for America is the educational version of “voluntourism”, and TFA is making lots of people rich selling it. In “voluntourism”, people take a vacation of sorts and combine it with some kind of service. On the surface, it sounds good, but it frequently causes more problems than it solves, and it makes many situations worse. Often, an idealist with great intentions goes on vacation, spends a few days playing with kids in an orphanage, is shown around by a guide, and buys a few trinkets to take home. Although the sentiment is good, the voluntourist often has no idea of local customs, insults the locals by assuming they need his/her charity, in fact deprives the organization of needed funding because more money is spent on the “tourism” part, and departs without having made any significant improvements. Then, this person returns home and updates his/her Facebook status with pictures of the kids. Has this person really helped those kids?

For comparison, this would be like traveling to a developing nation, visiting some kind of rural development project, helping out for a week, and then coming back and applying for a job in the State Department. For some reason, I just can’t imagine that application getting a lot of attention: “I want to be Assistant Secretary of State to Mr. Kerry and I think I am qualified because I bought a hand-made bracelet in Bolivia and I think clean water is important.”

In the world of education, TFA does exactly this. College graduates, not teachers, get five weeks of training (as if that is somehow equivalent to my Bachelor’s Degree, my Master’s Degree, and my 30 credits beyond a Master’s Degree, and my 20 years of experience) and then are sent into very tough districts to work with challenging students who have needs that, in all likelihood, this college graduate has never experienced, or even considered, and will probably never understand.

As if this were not bad enough, this unqualified non-teacher is then often connected through the TFA organization to people who are at the policy-making level. So, the unqualified non-teacher is then put in a position to make decisions about teachers and education. Let’s be frank: TFA is not in the business of preparing people to teach. It is in the business of getting people into positions of making decisions. And, frequently, those decisions involve privatizing public education. Those decisions involve test, test, and more test, thus enriching standardized test writers. Those decisions often involve helping other people make profits off our children.

Finally, Ms. Landsmann equates teaching to “service to the country” as if it were a volunteer opportunity like Peace Corp or perhaps volunteering for the Red Cross. It is not. It is an estimable profession that should never, never be reduced to a five week training course and a drive through career. Ms. Landsmann even goes so far as to include the link to apply for TFA. This makes me wonder: Has Ms. Landsmann ever taught in a public school?

John Havlicek

President of the La Crosse Education Association