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State Schools Superintendent Candidates Face Off 1 Week Before Election

Incumbent Tony Evers, Challenger Lowell Holtz Argue Over Teacher Shortage, Trump Budget

State School Superintendent Candidates Lowell Holtz and Tony Evers
Ross Terrell/ Wisconsin Public Radio

Wisconsin’s teacher shortage and the effect of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would have on the state’s professional development were among the topics state schools superintendent candidates sparred over Tuesday in Milwaukee.

Incumbent Superintendent Tony Evers and challenger Lowell Holtz, a former district superintendent for Whitnall and Beloit schools, appeared together at a debate at Marquette University, a week before voters head to the polls.

Evers, who is seen as the more progressive candidate in the officially nonpartisan race, blamed the state’s shrinking teacher supply on Act 10, the controversial law required public sector employees to contribute to their benefits and eliminated most collective bargaining. Evers said a key to refilling the teacher pipeline is making sure high school students understand the importance of the profession.

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“We have to change the rhetoric,” Evers said. “We have to honor the profession. We have to make sure that our teachers are elevated in the right place. We have lost a generation of young people going into the profession. We can change that and I think we have to pay our teachers more.”

Holtz, who has courted conservative support, argued the GOP-backed Act 10 is not the problem. Instead, Holtz said the problem is teachers’ frustrations with the state’s evaluation system.

Holtz said teachers have told him the system takes too much time away from class preparation and that he didn’t have many reservations about President Trump’s proposed budget.

“The money that was put into the public school choice was tremendous,” Holtz said. “There was some for vouchers for choice, but a lot was public school choice. The thing that caught my eye was the reduction in the teacher training, and I have to see how that’s going to play out.”

Evers called the proposed $35 million cut to professional development for Wisconsin breathtaking.

He said Trump’s budget would increase spending in areas such as national security but on the backs of kids.