Assembly Passes WIAA Bill

Introduced by Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton) Assembly Bill 873 and Senate Bill 704 would prohibit a school district from being a member of an interscholastic athletic association unless the association elects to be governed by Wisconsin’s public records and open meetings laws. In other words, the bill attempts to subject the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) to public records and open meetings laws.

On the floor of the Assembly this week, the bill was amended to allow WIAA to withhold access to records concerning individual referees and exempt records pertaining to individual minors from being released.

The bill comes in the wake of a WIAA e-mail sent to member schools reminding administrators of the organization’s sportsmanship code. The controversy surrounding the incident sparked a national conversation, often of a negative tone, against the e-mail’s discouragement of certain cheers and the following sporting suspension of a high-school athlete. In testimony supporting the bill, Rep. Nygren stated that the WIAA should be subject to open records laws to avoid instances like this.

In their public testimony, the WIAA empathized it is a private, nonprofit organization that receives no public tax dollars from the state. Schools pay no dues or fees to be members of the WIAA, and the vast majority of its funding comes from ticket sales at high school sporting events.

Those opposing the bill also argue that there are numerous other entities in similar relationships with public schools, who are not subject to the open records law. For example, private voucher schools receive state aid and their associations are not subject to Wisconsin’s open records or open meetings laws.

Similar legislation was introduced in 2009 and failed to pass on Democratic majorities.

The Assembly passed their version of the legislation 61-34 late Tuesday night, while the Senate Committee on Education has yet to hold a public hearing on the bill.