Democrat Caleb Frostman wins Senate District 1 seat

Caleb Frostman

WEAC-recommended candidate Caleb Frostman won election to Senate District 1 in a special election Tuesday. His victory attracted national attention because Frostman, a Democrat, won in a district that went for Donald Trump by more than 17 points two years ago and for Scott Walker by 23 points in 2014. The district has been held by Republicans for over 40 years. Frostman will replace Republican Frank Lasee who resigned to take a job in the Walker administration. Frostman’s victory reduces the Republican majority in the Senate to 18-15. In recommending Frostman, of Sturgeon Bay, WEAC noted that he:

  • Supports investments in our public schools and technical colleges.
  • Advocates for affordable healthcare and childcare for Wisconsin workers.
  • Is a product of Wisconsin’s public schools and universities.
  • Is former Executive Director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation, with experience in commercial real estate finance.

WEAC-recommended candidate Ann Groves Lloyd of Lodi lost in her bid for the Assembly District 42 seat in the June 12 special election. Because both these were special elections, the seats will be up for election again in November.

Public school supporters call for results at final School Funding Commission hearing

From the Wisconsin Public Education Network

Wisconsin public education supporters united at the Capitol Monday to send a final message to members of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, which is holding the last of its statewide tour of public hearings in Madison.

“We have attended every single one of these hearings,” said Heather DuBois Bourenane, Executive Director of Wisconsin Public Education Network. “And we have heard superintendents, board members, parents, and teachers say the same thing from one end of the state to the other: Our system of school funding is not working and is not fair.

“We believe every student in every public school in Wisconsin deserves equal access and equal opportunity to receive an equally excellent public education.  The state is not currently meeting this obligation. To do so, our public school districts and community members have made clear their needs for a funding formula that is predictable, sustainable, transparent, and adequate to meet student needs.”

These advocates called on members of the Blue Ribbon Commission to take what they have heard and use it to develop a comprehensive plan — including policy and budget recommendations, and future legislation — to address the funding inequities in the current system.

“We heard so many unique stories around the state,” DuBois Bourenane said, “but clear patterns emerged. We took careful notes and compiled a summary of the main categories of concerns. The bottom line is that the state is not meeting its moral, legal, or constitutional obligation to our children.”

The bulk of public testimony at Blue Ribbon hearings has revealed five main issues of concern for school leaders and community members:

  1. Revenue limits, which vary widely and do not correspond to financial need, are unfair and widen the gaps between “have” and “have not” districts.
  2. The funding formula is broken, overly complicated, and doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. It should be overhauled to adequately meet  the most pressing needs of our students (particularly to address poverty, needs of English language learners and students with special needs, mental health issues, and challenges facing rural schools).
  3. Special education funding is inadequate and must be sufficiently restored. Public schools have a mandate to meet the needs of every child, and local communities should not be responsible for paying the lion’s share of these increasing costs.
  4. Wisconsin’s teacher crisis creates tensions within and between districts, and has resulted in winners and losers as many (and especially rural) districts cannot afford to “compete” with others.
  5. The growing costs of privatization and the lack of taxpayer transparency for publicly funded private schools is problematic and costly for urban and rural schools alike.

Commission member Dr. Julie Underwood, the Susan Engeleiter Prof. of Education Law, Policy & Practice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hopes the Commission’s findings will lead to a system where children are treated equitably: “We have heard from the public. We have heard from fiscal experts. We have heard from Wisconsin school administrators. The message is clear; we are falling short on our responsibilities to our children. They deserve better.”

“In the 2011 Budget Repair Bill, schools were cut $1.6 billion.  That cut continues to harm Wisconsin’s children today. The few increases to funding that we have had, have come nowhere near making up for the damage done,” Underwood said.

“In spite of Wisconsin’s history of open and transparent public policy making, school finance is not open and transparent,” Underwood added. “Transparency is threatened by a complexity that makes it difficult — if not impossible — to understand certain programs. For example, the school levy credit looks like a funding path for public education, when in fact it is a program for property tax relief. Another example is when local school districts have to levy additional taxes if they want to make up for the funds which are sent to the private schools under the state’s various voucher programs. We need truth in budgeting.”

“Wisconsin schools are facing dire levels of unmet needs for students with mental health and behavioral health challenges,” said Joanne Juhnke, policy director for Wisconsin Family Ties. “Ten years of frozen special education funding is ten years too many, and our staffing ratios for school social workers and counselors and psychologists are sadly inadequate. Wisconsin will continue to struggle to build the kinds of school-based relationships that lift our children up when the funding is stretched this thin.”

Pecatonica School District Superintendent Jill Underly shared these concerns, and said she worries that rural schools are impacted disproportionately by the current system. “I hope that the Blue Ribbon Commission looks at the innate funding inequities that smaller, rural schools in particular face compared to larger more populated school districts with much higher property values that are able to raise revenue without much taxpayer impact,” Underly said.

“Our students deserve the same quality of instruction, facilities, and programming — the same opportunities — that their peers receive in higher populated areas. On the other end of that, I sympathize a bit with the faster growing districts that cannot fully plan for growth and are cash-strapped. I also empathize with Green Bay and Milwaukee that have a lower value per student member but have higher needs like poverty and English language learners.”

Like many others who have testified at public hearings, Madison teacher Andrew Waity said he worries the combined impact of under-resourcing our public schools while expanding private school tuition subsidies stretches resources to the limit.

“The dysfunctional funding system we have creates inequities across our state and puts unnecessary financial strains on local school budgets and taxpayers,” said Waity, President of Madison Teachers, Inc. “This is compounded by policies and budgets on the state level that have cut funding for schools and diverted substantial amounts of money to non-instrumentality charter schools and private school vouchers.”

“People who understand best the challenges facing our schools have spent the past six months sharing their concerns, and have called on the members of this Commission to produce results. We’re here today to let them know we expect them to deliver,” said DuBois Bourenane. “There is no mystery surrounding what our schools need to succeed; the mystery is why we haven’t provided the resources for them to do so.

Watch the Wisconsin Public Education Network news conference:

See more on the Wisconsin Public Education Network Facebook page.

 

Election Watch: WEAC PAC recommends Josh Kaul for Attorney General

The WEAC Political Action Committee is recommending Josh Kaul for Wisconsin Attorney General, and now it’s members’ turn to weigh in on whether they support that. Members can weigh in using WEAC’s online feedback form. The deadline is 5 p.m. Wednesday, June 13.

More Election News:

Friday filing deadline for gubernatorial candidates. Friday is the filing deadline for gubernatorial candidates, and this weekend is the Democratic Convention in Oshkosh. At the same time, Governor Walker dropped the fourth TV ad of his re-election campaign. He’s getting an extra push from the state GOP, which started a digital ad campaign and website called www.dangerousraceleft.com. The candidates who have met requirements to speak at the Democratic Convention are:

  • State schools Superintendent Tony Evers
  • Attorney Matt Flynn
  • Businessman Andy Gronik
  • State firefighters union President Mahlon Mitchell
  • Activist Mike McCabe
  • Former State Representative Kelda Roys
  • Madison Mayor Paul Soglin
  • State Senator Kathleen Vinehout
  • State Representative Dan Wachs
  • Kenosha attorney and activist Josh Pade

While the big 10 are gearing up, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced he will not run for governor, putting to rest six weeks of public speculation on whether he would make another bid for the governor’s office.

Special elections June 12 in SD 1 and AD 42. WEAC is recommending Caleb Frostman in the former, and Ann Groves Lloyd in the latter.

Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson won’t run again. The longtime justice announced Wednesday she’ll pass on another election bid (but fill out her term). A respected Justice and human being who was appointed in 1976 and then rose to chief justice, Abrahamson reflected the promise of separate and equal branches of government in her decisions – never wavering to corporate influence even as those around her crumbled. Appeals Court Judge Brian Hagedorn, who was appointed to the bench by Governor Scott Walker, has indicated interest, along with Court of Appeals Chief Judge Lisa Neubauer.

Banks looks to replace Young. Milwaukee’s Assembly District 16 is up-for-grabs now that Representative Leon Young announced he’s not seeking re-election, and community organizer Rick Banks has filed to run as a Democrat. Supreme Moore Omokunde, son of U.S. Representative Gwen Moore, is also considering a run. Candidates have until next Monday to turn in signatures.

Brooks backs Kurtz. After Ed Brooks announced he’s not running again in AD 50, he decided to be treasurer for Republican Tony Kurtz’s campaign to replace him.

Related Reading:
Democratic candidates jockeying for position ahead of state convention
Campaign Cash: WMC Brags About Legislative Victories
Kind’s GOP challenger Toft accuses Facebook of censorship
Mike McCabe Turns in 4,000 Nomination Signatures on Birthday
The State of Politics: Six Questions for Democratic Convention
Dems determined to be ready for WI governor nominee
In WI, do too many Democrats want to be governor?
Senator Baldwin’s new ad
Democratic AG candidate Josh Kaul: Department of Justice needs “new leadership”
Western WI voters have Walker’s attention, but does he have their votes?
WI lawmakers got $164K in travel and perks last year from outside groups
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’s payday loan London junket travel buddy’s home raided by FBI
John Nichols: Wisconsin Democrats must go bold
Editorial: A fix-the-roads Republican should mount an anti-Scottholes challenge to Walker

This is an 11.0101(10)(b)(1) communication with WEAC members.

Legislative Update – May 29 – What’s next for the School Funding Commission?

WEAC members for the past half-year spoke up at a series of legislative public hearings about the resources we need to adequately teach our students, and now leaders of the panel holding the forums are talking about what may come next. The final hearing is set Monday, June 4, in Madison.

The co-chairs of the commission say they may address critical issues such as declining enrollment and special education reimbursements. Particularly telling was that Republicans Senator Luther Olsen and Representative Joel Kitchens don’t anticipate they’ll touch school vouchers or open enrollment – both topics they said were in the scope of their work when the commission formed in December.

WEAC President Ron Martin said it was disappointing that the commission may back away from voucher transparency and fixing the damage vouchers cause to neighborhood public schools. Much of the testimony the panel received from public school advocates centered on how private school vouchers take vital funding from neighborhood public schools, without accountability to taxpayers. To make up for lost state aid tied to the voucher system, school districts throughout Wisconsin had to levy an additional $37 million in property taxes in 2017-18, and will have to levy an anticipated $47 million in 2018-19.

The commission also looks like it might not get to the root of adequate school funding so districts can hire and retain qualified educators for the long haul. Instead, one co-chair said we might see bills encouraging retired educators to substitute as a solution to the state’s teacher shortage.

The co-chairs, speaking to Capitol insiders at WisPolitics, said they were looking at changes to the school funding formula but weren’t in agreement what that could look like. Kitchens left the door open to “completely overhauling it,” saying it’s “pretty clear there will be some fundamental changes we will recommend, but the extent of that is up in the air,” while Olsen said he doesn’t see an overhaul on the horizon and instead emphasized the need to provide more funding to declining enrollment districts.

Other items that may be recommended include combined services like grade sharing, more K-8 districts, and consolidation. The governor in 2017 vetoed a provision promoting grade sharing between districts.

Olsen mentioned tweaking components of the equalization aid formula, which most education advocates say doesn’t go far enough. Neither lawmaker embraced going beyond the new plan to boost the revenue ceiling for low-spending districts, saying that was solved with the recent legislation.

While the co-chairs signaled the possibility of recommending an increase in the state’s special education reimbursements, WEAC President Martin noted that a similar proposal did not make it into the last few state budgets and instead only a high-cost special education reimbursement rate received a boost.

It’s uncertain whether recommendations will come forward in the next state budget, as stand-alone bills, or a mixture of both.

Listen to a recording of the interview with Senator Luther Olsen

Listen to a recording of the interview with Representative Joel Kitchens

Next Steps: After the final public hearing June 4, the co-chairs will sit down individually with each of the 16 commission members and representatives from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to see what legislation they’d like to come out of the body.

Democrats propose $100 billion for schools and to boost educator salaries while safeguarding bargaining rights

In the wake of teacher unrest throughout the nation, Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday proposed a plan to direct $100 billion toward public schools and educators’ salaries while safeguarding their right to bargain collectively through their unions on salaries, benefits and working conditions.

Democrats said their plan would be paid for by revisiting the Trump tax cuts for the top 1%. “Instead of allowing millionaires, billionaires and massive corporations to keep their tax breaks and special-interest loopholes, Democrats would invest in teachers and students,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

“That teacher pay has fallen so far behind matters a great deal, and not just to teachers themselves but to all of us,” they said. NEA President Lily Eskelsen García participated in a news conference to announce the plan.

 

 

Read more:

Dems want to scrap tax cut for rich to fund teachers’ raises

WASHINGTON – Congressional Democrats want to give a big salary bump to teachers and pay for it by canceling the tax cut for the nation’s top 1 percent of earners. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday are expected to propose giving states and school districts $50 billion over a decade for teacher raises and recruitment.

Democrats Just Rolled Out A School Funding Plan To Address Teacher Walkouts

As more and more teachers protest their states’ funding cuts, Democrats in Congress say they have a plan to restore school spending and boost teacher pay. On Capitol Hill on Tuesday, party leaders joined teachers’ union officials to promote a slate of policies aimed at addressing the growing number of teacher walkouts that have shaken up statehouses across the country.

Democrats have a better deal for teachers and our kids, too: Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi

CLOSE Democrats would invest in teacher pay, modern classrooms, special ed and low-income schools, and pay for it all. We’d also protect collective bargaining. For the better part of the 20th century, being a teacher in America meant being a part of the middle class.

Legislative Update – April 19

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. Read more.

School Funding Commission Public Hearing is Monday in Oshkosh
Details for the next public hearing for a school funding commission created by the Legislature have been announced:

  • Monday, April 23, 2-6 p.m., CESA 6, 2300 Highway 44, Oshkosh. Invited testimony will be heard, and then the public may make comment. The time limit for comments is five minutes each.

Other hearings are set:

  • Monday, May 7 – Tomahawk
  • Monday, May 21 – Turtle Lake
  • Monday, June 4 – Madison

Bills signed into law
The governor has signed a slew of bills, including the child tax rebate and sales tax holiday. Check out the status of the bills we are watching at www.weac.org/bills.

Here’s a list of recently-signed bills:

School board elections. Changes the signature requirement for nomination of candidates to school board in school districts that contain territory lying within a second class city, allowing a reduction in the number of signatures required on nomination papers submitted by school board candidates. Act 321

Supplemental aid. Provides for supplemental aid for school districts with a large area. Act 300

Availability of state practice tests. Requires the Department of Public Instruction to make available, upon request, practice examinations or sample items related to knowledge and concept examinations required to be administered under state law. The bill also would repeal the chapter of the administrative code that DPI promulgated to implement current law. Act 335

Usurp local control on workplace standards. Preempts a local municipality from enacting a local living wage, fair scheduling standard, and a host of other measures that would improve the lives of working people. Act 327

Merit Scholarships. Provides merit scholarships for UW-Stevens Point students. Act 314

College Credit in High School. Excludes certain college credit in high school programs from the Early College Credit Program. Act 307

Career and Tech Ed Grants. Provides career and technical education incentive grants for school districts and completion awards for pupils and makes an appropriation. Act 336

Robotics League Grants. Extends robotics league participation grants to middle schools. Act 315

Funding-Related Bills That Passed This Session
It’s hard to keep track of everything that passed in the long Legislative session that has just concluded. That’s why WEAC is providing a wrap-up of various bills that passed, and didn’t, in various areas impacting public education. Here’s a round-up on funding-related bills:

PASSED

Sparsity Aid. An increase in sparsity aid per student will begin in 2019, raising sparsity aid per pupil amount from $300 to $400 — an increase in sparsity aid appropriation of $6.5 million in 2019. Sparsity aid was vetoed by the governor in the 2017-19 state budget, but he changed course at the end of the Legislative session.

Supplemental aid. Provides for supplemental aid for school districts with a large area. Act 300

DID NOT PASS

Common School Funds. This bill would have eliminated the authority of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands to make state trust fund loans, broaden the authority of the BCPL to delegate its authority to invest state trust fund moneys, and remove certain restrictions on the use of common school fund income moneys. As educators working in schools with shoestring budgets, we know the Common School Funds are often the only monies available to keep our school libraries running. Voters soundly rejected eliminating the role of state treasurer in the April election, which oversees the Common School Funds for libraries.

Excluding capital improvements from shared cost. This bill would have excluded expenditures from either a school district’s general fund or debt service fund that are authorized by a capital referendum from the school district’s shared cost if the school district is a negative tertiary school district. In other words, a negative tertiary school district would not lose equalization aid for capital expenditures that exceed the tertiary guarantee and are funded by referenda. The bill included protections for some school districts in areas with high property wealth and per-pupil spending from seeing general aid deductions in the school funding formula in cases where voters approved capital projects.

Revenue limit adjustment for workforce development improvements. This would have created a school district revenue limit adjustment for workforce development improvements to support vocational or technical education. Any school board that received a petition and adopts a resolution to initiate workforce development improvements would be allowed to increase its revenue limit by the amount the school district spends on the improvements in a school year, including amounts spent for a 20-year-max debt service on a bond, note, or state trust fund loan used to finance the improvements. The petition would be filed jointly by the president of a local chamber of commerce or a chamber of commerce and a regional workforce development board.

Special Education Funding. This called for state funding of special education at 33 percent.

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:

Assembly

  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

Senate

  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.

Judge Rebecca Dallet wins Supreme Court race

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 10 years of judicial experience, support for the role of unions in the workplace, and support for public education as a core value. Dallet, who won with 56% of the vote, will be seated in August.

Voters also overwhelmingly decided to keep the State Treasurer’s Office, a position supported by public education advocates. The vote to eliminate the State Treasurer’s Office was 61% to 39%.

“The pendulum is swinging back to Democracy; it’s time and we’re not slowing down,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “Wisconsin educators voted with their students in mind, and we’ll always vote for our students. Next up are June’s long-awaited special elections in Senate District 1 (eastern Wisconsin) and Assembly District 42 (south-central Wisconsin) and then the important November General Election, which includes the governor’s race.”

Wisconsin educators recommended Rebecca Dallet for the Supreme Court based on her qualifications including 21 years of experience on the bench, another sign that voters are soundly rejecting the Scott Walker agenda, Martin said. “Social studies teachers like me join voters across the state in taking the first steps to returning to three separate branches of government and Democracy,” Martin said.

Also on Tuesday, voters decided 66 local school referendums, and results indicated voters were overwhelmingly supportive of spending for public school improvements. The five largest referendums in the state passed – $65 million Chippewa Falls, $60 million in D.C. Everest, $48 million in River Falls, $32.5 million (two referendums) in Sparta, and $32 million in Plymouth. 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. With results of 50 of the 66 referendums in, voters approved 45, or 90%, of them.

Read more:

Bice: Gov. Scott Walker a big loser among 5 takeaways from Wisconsin’s spring election

Here are a few quick thoughts on Tuesday’s spring general election results: 1. Gov. Scott Walker got the message – loud and clear: The biggest losers in the state on Tuesday were the St. Louis Cardinals ( walk-off homer by Ryan Braun), the Boston Celtics ( swatted away by Giannis) and Walker.

Rebecca Dallet beats Michael Screnock in race for Wisconsin Supreme Court

MADISON – Rebecca Dallet bested Michael Screnock Tuesday for a seat on the state Supreme Court, shrinking the court’s conservative majority and giving Democrats a jolt of energy heading into the fall election. It marked the first time in 23 years that a liberal candidate who wasn’t an incumbent won a seat on the high court.

Wisconsin voters choose to keep state treasurer’s office

Wisconsin will continue to employ a state treasurer after voters rejected a call to eliminate the position Tuesday. Republicans said the position is unnecessary, but backers argued it is an important check on other elected officials. Elimination of the office of state treasurer.

Under court order, Walker schedules special elections to fill vacant legislative seats

After losing three court rulings, including one by the State Appeals Court, Governor Walker on Thursday reluctantly called special elections to fill two vacant legislative seats, and Republican legislative leaders dropped their efforts to circumvent current law in an attempt to delay the elections to November.

As a result of the Wednesday and Thursday developments, general elections will be June 12 to fill seats that were vacated in late December when Walker appointed Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, and Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, to administrative positions. Walker and Republican leaders wanted to leave those seats vacant until November, but state law requires the governor to call special elections “as promptly as possible.” The lower court ruling gave Walker until noon Thursday to call the special elections. Walker – through the Department of Justice – appealed, but after the Court of Appeals ruled against them Wednesday, they opted not to take the case to the State Supreme Court.

In making its ruling Wednesday, the Appeals Court said: “Representative government and the election of our representatives are never ‘unnecessary,’ never a ‘waste of taxpayer resources,’ and the calling of the special elections are as the Governor acknowledges, his ‘obligation’ to follow.”

Republicans – who reportedly feel their party is more likely to win the elections in the fall – have been working on a bill that would change state law and allow them to leave the seats vacant for now and delay the elections until November. Their hope was to get the courts to delay their rulings long enough for the Legislature to hold an extraordinary session to pass a new law that would allow them to leave the seats empty until November.

On Wednesday, the Senate Elections Committee held a hearing on the bill that would change the law, and Democrats voiced strong opposition. “It’s ludicrous but it’s not funny,” said Kathleen Finnerty of Sturgeon Bay, who chairs the Door County Democratic Party and lives in one of the vacant districts. “It couldn’t be more transparent as to what is happening here. You’re afraid of having a Democrat elected into this position.”

The bill planned for the extraordinary session would have removed the provision in state statute requiring special elections to be called “as promptly as possible.” The bill would also would have created a new requirement that would mean legislative vacancies occurring after early December of odd-numbered years would not be filled until the regular November election the following year.

“Democracy depends on fair elections,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. “That’s third-grade social studies. If our high school seniors need to take a civics test to graduate, is it too much to ask our elected leaders get it right?”