Superintendent of Public Instruction

4-Year Term: Vote for one candidate. The two who receive the most votes in the Primary Election on February 21 will appear on the April 4 ballot. Candidates' answers are verbatim.

The Candidates. Listed in alphabetic order.   
Tony Evers (incumbent) // Lowell E. Holtz // John Humphries


TONY EVERS

Madison, WI 53703
tonyforwisconsin@gmail.com; www.tonyforwisconsin.com

1. What are the most important challenges facing the state in its responsibility for the education of Wisconsin's children and youth? Describe your priorities and initiatives in meeting those challenges.
To start, our school funding system is broken, and I have a plan to fix it (see below). Second, we in Wisconsin continue to face one of the country’s largest achievement gaps. I am dogged in my pursuit of strategies to tackle this gap. From increased professional learning, to working cross sector to improve summer learning opportunities, it will take a multi-pronged approach to move the needle. Third, we are facing a possible teacher shortage. We must improve negative rhetoric surrounding educators, and strengthen and streamline our licensing system to keep those who want to teach in the classroom.

2. How would you address the state's responsibility for adequate funding of high-quality public education in Wisconsin?
Under my Fair Funding For Our Future proposal, all students will receive a minimum amount of aid. To provide an extra lift for some students, the per-pupil categorical aid will be weighted to account for foster kids, English learners and students that come from impoverished families. The people of Wisconsin are on record that they want to keep their schools strong. An astounding 88% of the districts (600,000 voters) approved revenue limit exemptions just this last year. We must do right by our students to keep our education system strong.

3. What are your views on Wisconsin's voucher programs and their future? How do you understand the effect of vouchers on state support for public education?
My friend former State Senator Dale Schultz often said, “We can't afford the school system we have, how can we afford two—a public and private one?” It is a good question.

That said, we all know the current majorities and proposed U.S Education Secretary support voucher expansion, so here are some of my key beliefs for moving forward:
1. The state should adequately fund our public school system before expanding vouchers;
2. The state, rather than local school districts, should pay the full cost of the voucher program;
3. Accountability should apply equally to all publicly-funded schools, including voucher schools.

4. How do you see the role of the State Superintendent in working with school districts, the state legislature and the public?
As your State Superintendent, I work across sectors, communities, and the political spectrum to put kids first, always. I collaborate with state agencies like DCF and DHS to increase access to mental health services and high quality early childhood education. I work across the university, tech college, and business sectors to keep Wisconsin working, and I stand in partnership with parents and communities to find solutions to local funding challenges and keep our local districts vibrant. Our founders were right to create an independent, non-partisan role. It takes all of us to ensure each and every child is a graduate.

LOWELL E. HOLTZ
Beloit, WI 53511
NO REPLY

JOHN HUMPHRIES

Mount Horeb, WI 53572
johnhumphriesncsp@gmail.com; www.humphriesforschools.org

1. What are the most important challenges facing the state in its responsibility for the education of Wisconsin's children and youth? Describe your priorities and initiatives in meeting those challenges.
Our biggest challenge is the widespread belief that we can’t do better for our students without more spending or before solving poverty. Even when spending was higher, our elementary reading scores dropped from top ten in the nation to 30th. For decades, we have had the worst achievement gaps in the nation. Other states, with more poverty, spend less and get better results! Their state leaders give schools better ways to be efficient and effective. We can learn from these states and the countless examples of great teaching and school leadership across Wisconsin, opening opportunities for all students to succeed.

2. How would you address the state's responsibility for adequate funding of high-quality public education in Wisconsin?
As a district-level administrator, I would love more funding for schools. Who wouldn’t? I believe support for rural schools and those educating many students from low-income families are significantly underfunded. And yet, I know with the right leadership at DPI, schools can also do better with the $11 billion we already spend. Too much is wasted on ineffective programs and red tape. DPI should eliminate burdensome regulations and help schools use new, effective teaching strategies. I reject those who blindly call for “more” funding and say little else, when we know the “how” is what matters most.

3. What are your views on Wisconsin's voucher programs and their future? How do you understand the effect of vouchers on state support for public education?
Thousands of low-income children have found a bright future because their parents have been able to choose the right educational environment for them. Just like in public schools, voucher funding follows the child wherever the parent chooses to send them. The State Superintendent doesn’t control the number of vouchers or the funding. I will focus less on politics and voucher battles, and more on creating strong learning environments for all children, in all schools, all across the state. Together, we can make improvements in teacher training, student discipline, universal literacy, and more, that will help every student succeed.

4. How do you see the role of the State Superintendent in working with school districts, the state legislature and the public?
As State Superintendent, I will have the passion to urgently lead improvements in all schools, and a vision well-informed by successes in Wisconsin districts, other states and countries. For too long, the current administration has avoided accountability, blaming poverty, parents, and funding. Instead, I’ve proposed bold reforms to get our schools back on track, with accountability for DPI and honest information for parents and legislators. The status quo is failing. I will help educators bring our schools back to international competitiveness with new practices, by eliminating innovation-killing red tape, and by always focusing on school improvement that works for Wisconsin.


Copyright League of Women Voters of Wisconsin