State school superintendent seeking third four-year term
BY KEVIN BONESKE
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers made a stop in Rhinelander on Friday to campaign for a third four-year term in office.
Evers, who is being challenged in the April 4 spring general election by retired Whitnall School District administrator Lowell Holtz, met with supporters at the Rhinelander Café and Pub before heading over to WXPR to be interviewed.
“Certainly I think I’m more prepared (to be the state school superintendent),” Evers said. “I’ve had the job for two terms, and we’ve made some good progress in those two terms.
“My opponent had some weird stuff happening at the end of the primary…. That in itself is really stupid, but the thing that concerns me most is that they’re talking seriously about breaking up the five largest schools districts in the state, getting rid of the school boards, all sorts of things that frankly shouldn’t be dealt with on a back of a bar napkin.
“I’m concerned about the integrity, frankly. I think integrity is really an important part of this job, and there’s many instances that I’ve seen that that hasn’t been shown well by my opponent.”
Though the state superintendent of public instruction is a non-partisan position, this year’s race has included partisan overtones with special interest groups and individuals who typically back Democrats supporting Evers and others who typically back Republicans supporting Holtz.
When asked about the Wisconsin Education Association Council backing his campaign, for example, Evers said, “Their policy positions and mine probably are pretty similar.”
“I’m not, frankly, concerned about the groups that are supporting me,” he said. “I more concerned that, right from the beginning, my opponent said that it is his goal to get money from national voucher groups in order to fund his campaign. If that happens, suddenly this race becomes something that it shouldn’t, and not about kids, but about, ‘Let’s choose one sector over the other.’ I think that’s inappropriate, frankly.”
Evers said he is able to work with elected officials on both sides of the political aisle.
“If you see the governor of Wisconsin, who is a Republican, and me, who is an independent, we actually agree on several things,” Evers said. “We agree that we need more resources for our public schools. I asked for $700 million extra in the budget. He asked for $650 million. He took all the mental health proposals that I had in my budget and put in into his budget.”
Evers said he sees the role of the state school superintendent as “advocating for 860,000 kids…and that includes advocating for more resources.”
“I’m relatively pleased that the governor has, in his budget proposal, he used a lot of what was in my proposal, so there’s money on the table for education,” he said. “I’m going to advocate for that with the legislature in my appearance in front of the Joint Finance Committee in a couple weeks.”
Evers said the state faces four key educational issues over the next four years.
“One is we need adequate resources,” he said. “Two is we have to admit that we have issues of mental health in this state with our children – one in five kids suffer from some sort of mental issues and we have to put the resources around that. Three is the teacher shortage…. I think that’s a huge issue, especially for northern Wisconsin…. Plus, continuing to work with our urban areas to close achievement gaps, I think, are the four areas that we need to continue to work on.”