RACINE — The Racine Unified School Board debated on Monday the pros and cons of hiring someone to lobby the state Legislature on behalf of the district. The board made no decision on the issue; it’s unclear if it will do so in the near future.
The board discussed this issue during its work session, after a referral to hire a lobbyist came before the School Board’s Governance Committee meeting, which also took place Monday.
Board President Robert Wittke said that the board should maximize what it gets out of its membership in the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, which lobbies for school districts across the state.
“There’s a lot more we can do with that association,” he said.
Wittke also said that the School Board should consider how it can maximize its own efforts instead of hiring a lobbyist. He encouraged the board members to be more active themselves and said there was nothing stopping them from speaking to legislators individually.
School Board member Michael Frontier argued that a lobbyist might be beneficial in the case that there’s an issue specific to Unified that doesn’t necessarily affect other school districts.
“There is tremendous pressure in the northern part of the state against urban districts,” Frontier said.
He suggested that the district consider its options for advocating for itself.
Board member John Heckenlively said he believes having at least a part-time lobbyist could be beneficial to the district, so the district would have a person in the state Capitol to call when issues that affect it directly come up. However, he agreed with comments from other board members that the board would need to determine what it wants to lobby for before considering making a hire.
“I think it’s worth at least looking at what kind of expense would there be to hire someone who’d be willing to lobby,” Heckenlively said. “Maybe we could work with other school districts in the area.”
Board Vice President Dennis Wiser said that the issue would not be settled Monday night.
“There’s a lot of people that would say we’re going to send the wrong message if we send a hired gun out to the Legislature instead of going up ourselves,” Wiser said.
He said that the city and county don’t have lobbyist.
“I think some of the public would be curious as to why we think we need a lobbyist,” Wiser said.
He said he believes the School Board needs to have a lot more discussion on the issue before moving forward.