Seven candidates are running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in the February 16 primary election
The seven candidates running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction reduced to two after the February 16 primary election
Feb 16 primary election and early voting
Through February 12, in-person absentee voting will be taking place in Eau Claire, Altoona, and the Town of Washington. Eau Claire voters can go to the parking lot behind City Hall (203 S. Farwell St.) anytime from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to cast an early ballot. In Altoona, voters may also vote early from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Altoona City Hall (1303 Lynn Ave.). From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., voters in the Town of Washington may cast an early ballot at Town Hall (5750 Old Town Hall Road).
Polls will also be open for in-person voting from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on February 16. Visit myvoteWisconsin to make sure you are registered to vote and know your polling location.
The State Superintendent of Public Instruction race
With the February 16 primary election just around the corner, voters will soon determine the top two candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in a non-partisan, statewide election. There are seven candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction: Jill Underly from Blanchardville, Deborah Kerr from Caledonia, Steve Krull from Milwaukee, Dr. Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams from Milwaukee, Troy Gunderson from West Salem, Joe Fenrick from Fond du Lac, and Shelia Briggs from Deforest. The two candidates who receive the most votes on February 16 will move on to the April 6 general election.
The Superintendent of Public Instruction is elected to oversee and provide leadership for public school districts across the state. State Superintendents are elected to serve a 4-year term. Carolyn Stanford Taylor, the current Wisconsin Superintendent who was appointed by Governor Tony Evers to fill his spot after being elected governor, will not be seeking election.
While each candidate’s issue platform varies, their campaigns include issues such as higher pay for teachers, quality education and equitable funding for all school districts, fully funded-special education services, and adequate mental health resources in all schools. All candidates support increased technology literacy in schools but disagree as to whether or not pre-4-year-old child education should be added to public schools.
Increased technology literacy in schools
Although each of the seven candidates running for State Superintendent have their own list of priorities if elected, in a webcast series with WisBusiness.com-WisPolitics.com, all candidates agreed that schools must increase the technology literacy of their students. However, each candidate differs in the most effective way to do so.
Deborah Kerr believes schools need to be more connected with the workforce needs of their communities so that when students graduate, they can find a career they are excited about while also helping their local communities. Troy Gunderson also has the workplace in mind and believes that in addition to broadband expansion, familiarity with technology should be a graduation requirement so that students are “workplace-ready” when they graduate.
Sheila Briggs believes the computer sciences needs to become a greater priority in all Wisconsin schools. Jill Underly agreed, saying that if school districts do not make computer science classes a priority, these classes will be overlooked. Underly also believes computer science programs should be introduced to elementary-age students so that they may begin learning about technology at an early age. Steve Krull would like to see computer science classes not only teach students about technology but also help them develop life skills.
While Dr. Hendricks also recognizes the importance of computer science education programs, she believes it is important to specifically target students of color and female students. By using “creative advertising” Dr. Hendricks believes schools could increase the number of these students in computer science classes.
Finally, Joe Fenrick said that a computer science teacher should be found in every school but broadband infrastructure must come before computer science education so that all Wisconsin residents have affordable internet access.
Pre-4-year-old child education
Although all seven candidates agreed that increased technology literacy in schools is important, in a Wisconsin PTA virtual forum, the candidates disagreed on whether to add pre-4-year-old child education to public schools.
Sheila Briggs believes that communities should be the leaders on childcare, but the DPI should help fund the resources needed by communities, especially those in rural communities with fewer childcare facilities. Troy Gunderson said DPI should use already existing facilities to begin teaching the younger kids while also working with businesses and nonprofits to offer local community services. Jill Underly also desires to add birth-to-3 childcare services to public schools and does not believe this would take away from existing childcare businesses because in rural parts of the state, “these centers are in short supply”.
Dr. Hendricks has a different perspective on childcare, believing that the Department of Children and Families should continue to certify childcare teachers while DPI continues to certify kindergarten teachers. While Deborah Kerr did not say whether or not she supported introducing pre-4-year-old child education to state schools, she did agree that the state needs to further develop the current childcare.
Steve Krull believes there are many factors to be considered before changing the childcare and education system. One of which includes making sure the basic needs of students and parents are met before the children are even born.
Joe Fenrick was unable to attend the forum.
More about the candidates
Jill Underly has over 20 years of public education, including 6 years as the current Superintendent of Pecatonica School District and 5 years at the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Underly is campaigning to fight for quality early childhood education across the state, mental health resources in schools, highly trained teachers in both rural and urban school settings, and adequate funding for all public schools while also opposing private school voucher expansion.
Underly has received endorsements from the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and former State Superintendent of Public Instruction, John Benson. Additional endorsements have come from State Senators Kelda Roys and Jeff Smith and State Representatives Jodi Emerson, Sondy Pope, Dianne Hesselbein, Don Vruwink, Mark Spreitzer, Lisa Subeck, Kristina Shelton, Tod Ohnstad, and Jimmy Anderson. Eau Claire Alderpersons Kate Beaton and Emily Berge have also endorsed Underly.
Deborah Kerr has 40 years of experience in education. Kerr is the former Superintendent of Brown Deer Schools and Co-Chair of the UW System Task Force. Kerr’s campaign promises to ensure success for all students by providing an education that focuses on literacy and numeracy skills while also providing learning opportunities that prepare students for career and college opportunities. Her campaign will also seek to engage families and communities as partners in their children’s’ education.
Kerr has been endorsed by State Senator Alberta Darling as well as many educators, school board and education foundation members, business and community leaders, Brown Deer Alumni, and parents and community members across the state.
Steve Krull is currently the principal of Milwaukee’s Garland Elementary School and is a former U.S. Air Force instructor. His campaign seeks to reform school financing and will work to solve the teacher shortage by increasing teacher salaries and improving classroom conditions. Krull has also proposed a program to help eliminate student debt called the Student-Loan-to-Home program. This program would make sure every college graduate is eligible for a home mortgage. Increasing support for special education, reducing the number of standardized tests given to students, and reducing class sizes for more individualized student attention are also important to Krull’s campaign.
Dr. Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams has over 25 years of experience in public, private, charter, and higher education. Dr. Hendricks has served as Governor Tony Evers’ Director of Milwaukee Office of the Governor and also has been the DPI Education Administrative Director of Teaching Education, Professional Development, and Licensing.
Dr. Hendricks’ campaign supports developing and recruiting a diverse teacher workforce, increasing pay for teachers, revamping access to broadband so that all rural and urban districts are served, eliminating achievement gaps, fully funding special education services, and greater home-based parental involvement in education.
Dr. Hendricks has been endorsed by Dr. Howard Fuller, former MPS superintendent and national education leader, as well as over 100 community leaders and educators.
Troy Gunderson has 35 years of experience in public education including time as a classroom teacher, a high school principal, and a school superintendent. Gunderson is currently an adjunct professor of finance at Viterbo University in La Crosse. He plans to fight for affordable daycare to help children be ready to learn, support programs that prepare and attract the next generation of teachers, and apply the framework offered by Redefining Ready to help all students be ready for their career, college, and life after graduation.
Gunderson has received endorsements from Congressman Ron Kind and State Representative Steve Doyle.
Joe Fenrick is a science teacher at Fond du Lac High School, a geology lecturer at UW-Oshkosh Fond du Lac Campus, and an elected official on the Fond du Lac County Board of Supervisors. Fenrick desires to see quality teaching over testing, modern facilities and resources in every school for every child, and a highly trained educational workforce with a fully developed PK-12 curriculum that allows every child to enhance their unique talents.
Shelia Briggs was a kindergarten teacher and principal before Tony Evers asked her to be Assistant State Superintendent in the Department of Public Instruction in 2011. In 2019, Briggs was re-appointed to this position by Dr. Stanford Taylor. Her campaign supports the state government fully funding public schools so that every school district receives equitable funding throughout the state as well as highly-trained teachers. Briggs also supports anti-racist school cultures to eliminate biases so that students and staff of color feel supported and safe in schools while Wisconsin also seeks to diversify its educator workforce.
Briggs has received endorsements from the State Workforce Development Administrator Scott Jansen, Assistant State Superintendent Kurt Kiefer, former State Senator Timothy Cullen, and the youth-led LGBTQ organization, Pride in Running.
Eau Claire County's polling places (Eau Claire County)
7 face off in primary for Wisconsin’s school superintendent (Leader-Telegram$)
Candidates for state superintendent participate in virtual forum (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
WEAC educators recommend Jill Underly for State Superintendent (WEAC)
Meet the candidates (WEAC)
Breaking down the candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction (WEAU 13 News)
Seven candidates vying for State Superintendent of Public Instruction (WEAU 13 News)
Wisconsin PTA State Superintendent Forum (Wisconsineye)
State schools superintendent candidates hope to increase tech literacy (Wispolitics)
Posted by Grace Hanson, Governmental Affairs Intern
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