Bills to Allow School Board Members to Serve as Volunteer Coaches and to Allow Board Presidents to Fill Certain Vacancies Heard This Week

Public hearings were held in the Education committees of each house this week on a pair of companion bills (2015 Senate Bill 217 and 2015 Assembly Bill 299) that would allow a school board member to serve as a volunteer coach or extracurricular activity supervisor.  (WASB supported and helped draft these bills after delegates to the 2015 WASB Delegate Assembly approved what is now WASB Resolution 6.22.)

These bills create a narrow statutory exception to the doctrine of incompatibility of offices that would directly address questions raised by an opinion issued by the former Wisconsin Ethics Board.  That opinion stated that a board member serving as a volunteer coach for the district appears to violate the doctrine of incompatibility.

Both bills were favorably received by both committees and nobody testified against them. Some questions were raised at the Senate hearing, however, suggesting that a minor amendment may be offered at some point.  The Senate version of the bill, Senate Bill 217, was voted out of committee on a favorable (6-1) vote late Thursday afternoon and is available for scheduling when the full Senate meets on Wed., Sept. 16.

Public hearings were also held in the Education committees of each house this week on a pair of companion bills (2015 Senate Bill 244 and 2015 Assembly Bill 325) that would allow the school board president of a common, union high or unified school district to appoint a person to fill a vacancy on the school board if the remaining school board members do not fill the vacancy within 60 days of the date on which the vacancy first occurs.

Although the WASB has concerns about this legislation, the WASB testified for information (I.e., neither for or against) regarding these bills, which were drafted in response to a situation in Racine where the school board has deadlocked (4-4) on a number of matters, including appointing a person to fill a vacancy that has existed since June. The Racine Unified School Board has taken 35 votes in an attempt to resolve the vacancy to no avail. It is hoped the mere introduction of the bills may spur a resolution of the conflict. The WASB GR staff spoke with several Racine board members and school officials in formulating its position on these bills.

At present, no executive action has been scheduled on either bill, although a vote in the Assembly committee may occur on Thurs., Sept. 17.

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