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An air of victory for advocate
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MONROE - For Darlington native Jeanne Black and her family, it's been a three-plus-year battle to improve the air quality in Wisconsin's schools, but today their fight helped produce a victory.

But that success is only the start of her campaign to help change indoor air quality in schools nationwide, she said.

In 2006, Black wanted to do something about the indoor air quality of the Darlington school district, so she contacted then state Rep. Steve Freese about enacting legislation.

That effort produced a Senate bill that was not signed into law because of a lack of support from interested parties around the state, Black said.

Her hope to clear the air in the state's schools was revived by a Milwaukee-area senator over the summer. Sen. Jim Sullivan, D-Wauwatosa, and his staff, created Senate Bill 41 to address needs in his Milwaukee-area district, which contains some school buildings over 90 years old. Then, a State Assembly version, bill 385, was introduced in July.

The bills were passed by the Assembly and Senate and will be signed into law today by Gov. Jim Doyle. Black and her husband Richard, and their daughter Jade, will attend the signing, she said.

"As far as my daughter and I, we feel this is an achievement, but it's also a start," Black said.

Black advocated for increased regulation of school indoor air quality since her daughter developed asthma due, she said, to poor air quality in Darlington's middle school building.

Through groups like School Mold Health, located in California, and New York-based Healthy Schools Network, Black plans to keep fighting to enact laws in the 21 states that don't have any, she said.

Black testified in state Senate and Assembly hearings on the bills, and her contributions were part of the "Sick Schools 2009" study presented to the U.S. House of Representatives, which was released publicly Dec. 3.

The next step in the new Wisconsin indoor air quality law will be for the state Department of Public Instruction to form a 17-member task force to develop guidelines and a course of action for the state's public and private school districts to enact. It is up to the districts to develop a system of meeting the standards.

The task force includes the state superintendent, secretary of commerce, secretary of health services, a representative of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, as well as various state school administrative and union groups.

Black didn't know how long it would take to form the task force, but she said it would take a fair amount of time.