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Spotlight | Emails: Evers’ close ties with WEAC

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — It’s well known Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Education Association Council are as thick as thieves. But new documents obtained by Wisconsin Spotlight through an open records request show the outsized influence the state’s largest teachers union has on a Democrat politician it has showered with campaign cash and votes.

WEAC in particular applied a lot of pressure on Evers and his administration in its quest to shut down in-person learning over the past two-plus years of the pandemic. The governor — or his handlers — had enough sense to know that doing so would be a political suicide mission. But Evers never seemed to miss a chance to kiss up to one of his more faithful liberal donors and critical allies, or provide WEAC with privileged information.

Emails and other communications found:

— In August 2020, WEAC was alerted that the governor’s office was working on a strategy relating to opening schools following the first summer of the pandemic. WEAC demanded being part of the conversation.

— On several occasions, Evers’ team alerted the teachers union to forthcoming vetoes. He also sought WEAC’s priorities for the state budget.

— Evers took time out of his “busy schedule” to call WEAC and thank the union for its “ongoing support throughout these unprecedented times.”

Saying thank you

Just as the Biden administration allowed a national teachers union to write COVID-19 guidelines that led to extended school closures during the pandemic, Evers and his team took counsel from WEAC as the governor dealt with the reopening of schools for the 2020 fall semester.

“We at WEAC are getting pressure from the Senate Democrats to take a position on these bills from the School Administrators Alliance. We have been told the Senate Dems are working with the Governor’s office on a strategy relating to opening of schools,” wrote WEAC lobbyist Jack O’Meara in an Aug. 21, 2020 email to Evers’ office.

“We would like to be part of that discussion,” O’Meara added.

The records Evers’ office released to Wisconsin Spotlight do not include a response to O’Meara, but a Sept. 30 email from Evers’ scheduling director to WEAC officials shows how important the teachers union is to the Democrat.

“Governor Tony Evers is inviting you to a 30 minute call tomorrow, Thursday, Oct. 1, from 5:15pm — 5:45 pm to give an update on the state’s COVID-19 status and to thank you for your ongoing support throughout these unprecedented times,”  the email invitation to WEAC and other labor leaders states.

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