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Drivers licenses

RACINE — Area legislators are split on a resolution approved by the Racine Unified School Board that urges state officials to take action to provide driver’s cards to undocumented immigrants, who are here illegally.

The School Board narrowly passed the resolution, voting 4-3 on Monday, advocating a change in state law.

School Board President Robert Wittke voted against the resolution.

However, this might not be the last time Wittke will have to vote on this issue. In January, Wittke, a Republican, will be sworn in as the 62nd District representative to the state Assembly and it is possible legislation might be drafted on this issue for this coming session.

“The one thing that I continue to reiterate is issues like this don’t belong at a nonpartisan body like the School Board level,” Wittke said. “The board should be focused on issues that relate to or advocate for legislation that directly relates to elevating student achievement.”

Wittke said he has not decided if he is going to remain on the School Board after he is sworn in to the Assembly.

‘Scoring political points’

State Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, is extremely disappointed with the action taken by the School Board and said it wasted “time and resources supporting driver’s licenses for illegal aliens rather than improving the academic performance of their schools.”

“Racine Unified is struggling with behavioral, safety issues and a poor academic record despite having record funding,” Wanggaard said. “The board is more interested in scoring political points by trying to tackle national and international issues rather than focusing on the serious issues at home.”

With the district having recently received the grade of “Meeting Few Expectations” from the state Department of Public Instruction, Wanggaard said the School Board should be focused on improving student achievement.

“It’s no wonder RUSD consistently underperforms when the board addresses issues like driver’s licenses rather than the real challenges facing the district.” Wanggaard said. “Giving illegal aliens driver’s licenses will not improve one test score, or make one student pay attention in class. Unbelievably, the School Board wastes time and resources on that rather than address the problems in the classroom that teachers face every day.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, agrees with Wanggaard saying it is not appropriate for the School Board to act on resolutions that aren’t part of its core function of educating students.

However, area Democrats feel differently on the issue.

State Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, applauded the School Board for “taking this important step in their work to provide every child in our community with access to a quality education.”

“No child should miss school out of the fear that a parent or family member could be taken away during the drive,” Neubauer said. “Driver’s card legislation provides a common-sense solution to ensure that our children can get to school and every driver on our roads is licensed and insured.”

State Sen. Bob Wirch, D-Somers, whose district includes a large portion of the City of Racine and the southeast corner of Mount Pleasant, said the Legislature should listen to voices of boards at the local level.

“I think it is important and valuable to hear the opinion of the duly-elected members of the School Board, who are closer to the problem and see the consequences first hand,” Wirch said.

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Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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