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Senate GOP leader presses Wisconsin superintendent to move forward with literacy reforms

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(The Center Square) – The top Republican in the Wisconsin Senate is urging the state’s superintendent of schools to move ahead with literacy changes for school children.

Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu sent a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and Superintendent Jill Undelry.

He said Gov. Tony Evers’ partial veto of a plan to send $50 million to Wisconsin’s Office of Literacy, which would then pass the money on to local schools, including charter schools, across the state for specific literacy programs should not stand in the way of other reading reforms that were approved by lawmakers.

“Act 100, as passed by the Legislature, explicitly allows for directed funding for a Director of the Office of Literacy and early literacy coaches,” LeMahieu wrote in his letter to Early Literacy Council Chair Amy McGovern. “It has come to our attention that DPI has suggested to you, the lawsuit filed by the Legislature against DPI and the governor is stopping DPI from hiring a director of the Office of Literacy and early literacy coaches until the suit is resolved and that funding is similarly frozen until resolution of this litigation. This is misleading at best and false at worst.”

Evers changed the literacy plan with his partial veto in February, essentially allowing DPI to spend the $50 million as it sees fit.

Evers said he doesn’t like the overly complicated process in the legislation.

Republican lawmakers are suing the governor over that veto.

LeMahieu’s letter says that lawsuit is no reason to stall other changes aimed at helping kids in Wisconsin read better.

“In Act 20, a bipartisan majority of the legislature and the governor explicitly allowed DPI to hire a director for the Office of Literacy and early literacy coaches,” LeMahieu said in a statement. “Gov. Evers’ illegal veto of Act 100 and the legislature’s lawsuit to undo it have no effect on DPI’s ability to take the first steps in implementing these critical literacy initiatives.”

The Republican-led lawsuit claims Evers’ partial veto is out of bounds because the literacy reform plan doesn’t actually appropriate the money. Instead, Republicans say the legislation simply creates a framework for the money and the literacy changes.

“I am confident that the court will rule that Gov. Evers’ veto is illegal. In the meantime, DPI should take action to ensure that the literacy initiatives approved by bipartisan majorities of the legislature and signed into law by the governor are not unnecessarily delayed,” LeMahieu said in a statement.

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