WISCONSIN STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION: UPDATES ON PRIMARY CANDIDATES

As of this writing, there are still seven (7) candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Remember that since this is technically a non-partisan office, you will need to vote based upon policy proposals and values.

We have compiled updated information on each candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Please use this and our earlier pages to help you decide who to vote for. Consider voting in our straw poll by clicking here. The results will be posted here and emailed in our newsletter.

CANDIDATES LISTED IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER

Sheila Briggs

Current Assistant State Superintendent of Public Instruction (since 2011 under Tony Evers). Former kindergarten teacher and principal in Madison.

Policies: Briggs opposes public funding for vouchers for students to attend private schools. She said it’s yet unclear whether it will be safe for all schools to reopen this school year, but will leave decisions to local school boards.

Supporters: Former Democratic state lawmakers Tim Cullen and Stephen Smith, former Deputy Secretary of Indian Affairs Ada Deer, Pride in Running (an LGBTQ+ youth organization), and $250 donated by campaign of former Democratic state Assembly candidate Jacob Malinowski.

Campaign Funds: $72,460

Joe Fenrick

Science teacher at Fond du Lac High School, lecturer on geology at UW-Oshkosh at Fond du Lac. Serves on the Fond du Lac County Board of Supervisors.

Policies: Fenrick supports school boards making local decisions about reopening. He said he would push for safety measures, like a nurse in every building, better air filtration systems, free weekly COVID-19 testing and smaller class sizes. Fenrick wants to reduce standardized testing.

Supporters: $100 each from the campaigns of former Democratic state Legislature candidates Joni Anderson and Paul Czisny. He also loaned his campaign $6,000.

Campaign Funds: $11,713

Troy Gunderson

Gunderson is an adjunct professor of school finance at Viterbo University in La Crosse. He has worked as a superintendent, principal, and high school teacher for school districts in Galesville and West Salem in western Wisconsin.

Policies: Gunderson said he believes school buildings exhibit low levels of virus transmission and should reopen as soon as possible. He proposes additional aid for students who are homeless, in poverty, learning English, or receiving mental health services. He opposes public funding for private vouchers for students to attend private schools. 

Supporters: Gunderson is endorsed by Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Kind. $1,000 was donated by the campaign of Democratic state Rep. Steve Doyle.

Campaign Funds: $32,255

Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams

Hendricks-Williams worked for the state Department of Public Instruction under Evers before becoming director of his Milwaukee office when he became governor. She has worked as an administrator and teacher in public, private, charter and higher education environments.

Policies: Hendricks-Williams said students should be able to choose whether to learn virtually or in person. She would work to provide a $350 tax rebate to families for helping students learn from home during the pandemic. Hendricks-Williams said she would not oppose public funding for students to attend private schools. See her student bill of rights.

Supporters: She is endorsed by Howard Fuller, former superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools–known as a national advocate for school choice. She is also endorsed by Democratic state Rep. Supreme Moore Omokunde. She loaned her campaign $10,000.

Campaign Funds: $30,723

Deb Kerr

Kerr was superintendent of Brown Deer Schools for 13 years, through 2019. She has been president of the national School Superintendents Association and co-chair of the UW System Task Force for Advancing Teachers & School Leaders.

Policies: Kerr said schools should reopen this school year. She proposes opening elementary schools back first, followed by older students. Kerr would maintain a virtual option for families who choose it. She said she wants to “work with all sectors in education” and would not oppose school choice.

Supporters: Kerr received a $15,000 donation from Arthur Dantchik, a Pennsylvania based donor who backs school choice. She also received $1,000 from state Sen. Alberta Darling’s campaign.

Campaign Funds: $97,334

Steve Krull

Krull is a principal in Milwaukee Public Schools and previously served in the Air Force for six years including as an instructor. 

Policies: Krull said he believes schools should already be open, but with options for students and staff who prefer virtual. He said he doesn’t support police officers being stationed in schools, though there should be officers trained for interactions with children. He previously supported school choice but changed his mind after seeing it play out in Milwaukee.

Supporters: None available

Campaign Funds: $4,549

Jill Underly

Underly has been superintendent of the Pecatonica School District in southwest Wisconsin for six years. Previously, she was assistant director of teacher education for the state Department of Public Instruction, and she worked as a teacher and principal.

Policies: Underly said she would issue statewide guidelines for phased reopening of schools, while allowing districts to chart their own paths based on local conditions. Her own district has already reopened.

She opposes any expansion of school choice programs and believes private schools accepting public vouchers should have to meet requirements of public schools, such as having the same teacher licensure standards, being more transparent with school performance metrics, and using the Forward Exam standardized test.

Supporters: Underly received $18,000 along with an endorsement from the Wisconsin Education Association Council. She is also endorsed by the Milwaukee teachers union and over a dozen current and former Democratic state lawmakers. She personally loaned her campaign $9,500.

Campaign Funds: $74,292

Sources: information provided by campaigns, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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