State Superintendent Election Dates and Information

By John Forester | February 16, 2017

The SAA is encouraging all members to vote in the primary and general elections for State Superintendent.  See the election dates below as well as important information about the candidates.

Primary Election Date:  February 21, 2017

General Election Date:  April 4, 2017

SAA Endorsement of State Superintendent Tony Evers

State Superintendent Candidate Responses to SAA Questions:

Tony Evers

John Humphries

Lowell Holtz

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Advocate For School Start Date Repeal

By John Forester | February 16, 2017

Check out the school board resolutions below in support of school start date repeal.

Please forward your letters and resolutions to the SAA.

Alma Resolution

Stratford Resolution

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Humphries/Holtz Spat: The Bigger Issue

By John Forester | February 16, 2017

Right now the media seems to be focused on Humphries and Holtz trying to knock each other out of the State Superintendent’s race as next Tuesday’s primary approaches.  But the bigger news may be what is being planned behind the scenes.

This sketchy contract proposal looks like the blueprint for a major power grab if either Humphries or Holtz wins control of DPI.

See the news coverage here.

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Humphries, Holtz Tangle Over Alleged Job Offer

By John Forester | February 16, 2017

From …

John Humphries charged today fellow state schools superintendent challenger Lowell Holtz promised him a six-figure job at DPI if he dropped out of the primary and Holtz beat incumbent Tony Evers in the April general election.

But Holtz said the offer was a “rough draft” of ideas and that the deal wasn’t aimed at getting one of them to drop out of the race. Rather, he said, the job offer was part of a possible deal to ensure the primary loser backed the other challenger in the general election against Evers.

The document, which Humphries’ campaign provided to, called for one of them to get a three-year contract with annual pay of $150,000, full benefits and a driver.

Holtz brought the document to a Dec. 22 breakfast meeting at a Milton family restaurant.

“He was saying, ‘This is what I would do to get out of the race and if you got out of the race, this is what I would do for you,'” Humphries told in an interview.

Holtz, though, said the document was a “rough draft and a conversation starter about what an agreement between us working together could look like.”

If Holtz worked for Humphries, under the deal, he would have had “complete authority” over the Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and Madison districts with Green Bay to be negotiated.

It called for giving Holtz the ability to “Change boards when I deem it necessary,” break apart districts and create new rules for them. Holtz also was to get his own deputy superintendents and a budget proportional to the number of kids in the districts under his control.

“We are going to shake up Milwaukee and it is going to make noise,” the document says under Holtz’s section.

The section laying out what Humphries’ responsibilities would be under Holtz was left blank, and Humphries said Holtz wanted him to fill in his proposed authorities.

But Holtz said the powers listed in the document wouldn’t be go-to options in working to help improve school districts.

“These are last resort items, not something I would start with,” he said. “I don’t start with the sledgehammer. I start by trying to work together.”

Humphries brought up the alleged offer during a WISN radio debate today, and the two gave conflicting accounts of their interactions and what the proposal entailed. Both candidates discussed the document in separate follow-up interviews with

The two said they had met together with Milwaukee-area business leaders over the best way to challenge Evers.

Holtz said he typed up the document at the request of those business leaders days before Humphries and Holtz met.

Both candidates declined to identify the business leaders.

Holtz said the business leaders had suggested the two pair up to topple Evers, citing Humphries’ background in school administration and Holtz’s strengths in reforming large urban school districts as potential collective strengths.

Humphries said he declined the alleged offer from Holtz and that he instead told Holtz he should leave the race and “come to work for my campaign.”

Meanwhile, Holtz said he soon realized because he and Humphries are on two “totally different ends of the political spectrum,” such a deal wouldn’t work out.

Evers’ campaign spokeswoman Amanda Brink declined to comment, saying, “We have decided to let this story stand for itself.”

Holtz described the document as a “conversation starter.”

But Humphries said it was “nonsensical” and would significantly erode local control over education.

“You start a conversation with ‘I’m going to break up districts and remove the school board?'” Humphries said. “That’s not even a conversation starter. That’s a conversation stopper.”

Humphries said he delayed releasing the document because it recently became clear that Holtz “shoots from the hip” and is a “loose cannon.” Holtz, he said, has claimed he wants local control but Wisconsinites need to know he’s “considering unilateral power from DPI and disposing of school boards.”

Listen to the debate (the alleged deal is discussed at 5:27, 11:30 and again at 18:50).

See the document here.

In his first radio ad, Holtz says he can turn around failing schools and that he’s the only candidate who didn’t sign the petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

Holtz, the former Whitnall School District superintendent, is running against incumbent Tony Evers and John Humphries, a former Dodgeville School District and DPI official. Both Evers and Humphries signed the recall petition, though Humphries says he’s since gotten the chance to see the benefits of Act 10.

Holtz kicks off his radio ad with a bell ringing and a female narrator saying that sound is supposed to mark a “new day of learning, friendship and fun for our children.” But she then says too many students and teachers are “trapped in failing schools and broken classrooms.”

She says the state’s schools need “a new direction and a new leader,” touting Holtz as a leader who “believes in empowering parents and putting students first.”

Holtz then says he’ll “work with local communities to rescue failing schools, cut the red-tape that holds our teachers back, and enhance local control by empowering parents.”

“And I’m proud to be the only candidate in this race who did NOT sign Governor Walker’s recall petition,” he says.

The primary is Tuesday, and the top two candidates will advance to the April 4 general election.

See Wisconsin State Journal Coverage here.

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Advocate For School Start Date Repeal

By John Forester | February 15, 2017

Check out the school board resolutions below in support of school start date repeal.

Please forward your letters and resolutions to the SAA.

Adams Friendship Resolution

Gresham Resolution

Palmyra Eagle Resolution

Wausau Resolution


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Fundraising in the State Superintendent’s Race

By John Forester | February 14, 2017

From …

— Topping the list of State Superintendent Tony Evers’ biggest donors during the pre-primary period were the Wisconsin Education Association Council and AFT-Wisconsin’s Committee on Political Education, which contributed $18,000 each.

Evers also received $10,000 from the American Federation of Teachers, #212, in Milwaukee, as he easily outpaced his two challengers’ fundraising efforts, as reported in the last campaign finance report before next Tuesday’s primary.

But the bulk of Evers’ donations came from individual contributors, particularly educators and retirees. That accounted for $94,045, nearly two-thirds of the total contributions he raised between Jan. 1 and Feb. 6.

Evers outraised his opponents, Lowell Holtz and John Humphries, by over $100,000 each in that period. Holtz, the former Whitnall superintendent who previously ran for the post, raised $30,259. Meanwhile, Humphries, a former DPI and Dodgeville School District official, lagged behind at $26,625 raised.

Over that period, Evers raised $142,444, and he spent $22,077, leaving him with $237,696 in cash on hand.

See Evers’ report

— Humphries’ biggest donation was $10,000 from MMAC’s PAC, which cut the check the same day the group received a $20,000 contribution from Agustin Ramirez, an executive with Husco International in Waukesha.

Prior to the donation, the MMAC PAC only had $1,531 cash on hand, and it reported no other contributions during the pre-primary period.

According to MMAC’s pre-primary filing, Ramirez made the $20,000 donation Jan. 31, the same day the PAC made the $10,000 donation to Humphries.

The Ramirez family is planning a summer opening of the private St. Augustine Preparatory Academy, a private Christian school in Milwaukee.

Steve Baas, MMAC’s senior vice president of governmental affairs and public policy, said the group doesn’t discuss its PAC deliberations publicly but closely follows workforce development and education issues.

He also said PAC contributions aren’t “made at the direction of nor require the approval of individual donors like Mr. Ramirez,” unlike conduit contributions, which donors have to sign off on. The group reaches out to members to contributions at the start of each year, he said.

He also said Ramirez has been a generous supporter of MMAC’s efforts in the past and “we are pleased that his support has continued this year.”

See the report

— Lowell Holtz outraised fellow challenger John Humphries ahead of next week’s primary for the state superintendent post.

Holtz, the former Whitnall superintendent who previously ran for the post, raised $30,259 in that time period, including the $6,000 he loaned himself.

Holtz’s fundraising totals surpassed the $26,625 raised by Humphries, a former DPI and Dodgeville School District official. Humphries’ total includes a $10,000 donation from the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

Holtz, meanwhile, got: $5,000 from Dan Hartung of Madison, president of Hartung Brothers; $5,000 from Dennis Kuester of Milwaukee, the retired exec of M&I Bank; $4,000 from Patrick English of Wauwatosa, president of Fiduciary Management Inc.; $2,000 from Eric Hovde, a Madison businessman who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate as a Republican in 2012; and $2,000 from the 1st District GOP.

The two challengers ended the period with similar amounts in the bank, with Holtz reporting $15,321 in cash on hand and Humphries reporting $15,456.

See Holtz’s report

— Holtz has also seen an influx of significant late contributions after the Feb. 6 deadline, according to a report he filed with the state Ethics Commission.

Holtz filed a report yesterday showing he’s gotten $19,000 in contributions of at least $1,000 since the pre-primary fundraising period ended Feb. 6. Humphries, meanwhile, reported only one contribution of $1,000 from La Vonne Zietlow, the Kwik Trip co-owner, when he filed his report Friday.

Holtz got $5,000 from Uline CEO Richard Uihlein, who lives in Illinois but is a frequent donor to conservative causes and candidates in Wisconsin elections.

Other donations Holtz got that were at least $1,000 included:

*$2,500 from Terrence Wall, a Madison area developer who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010, but dropped out before the GOP primary;
*$2,500 from Paul Schierl, the former CEO of Fort Howard Corp.;
*$1,000 from the Ozaukee County GOP;
*And $1,000 from Bernard Dahlin, the president of Nichols Paper Products Co.

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Borsuk: The Budget Game is Far From Over

By John Forester | February 14, 2017

In case you missed it, check out Alan Borsuk’s most recent column in which he discusses the impact of local public school advocacy on the Walker budget proposal as well as the education issues that the legislature is likely to address in this budget session.

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Budget Proposal Impact on Teacher Licensure

By John Forester | February 13, 2017

Check out this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on teacher licensure proposals in the Governor’s budget plan as well as the coalition that includes SAA, WASB, higher education, DPI, etc.

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Walker Boost in School Aid Tied to Act 10 Compliance

By John Forester | February 10, 2017

Check out this news story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on the “Act 10 compliance” strings to Governor Walker’s proposed per pupil aid increases.

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Walker, Fitzgerald: Changes Coming to Budget Plan

By John Forester | February 10, 2017

From …

— Gov. Scott Walker predicted today a “good chunk” of his budget will pass in some form, but conceded lawmakers are likely to make some changes.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, meanwhile, ticked off a list of areas where lawmakers may split with the guv. He told a luncheon in Madison that includes funding for K-12, tax cuts, the school choice program and self-insurance, among others.

Fitzgerald predicted lawmakers will agree to increasing funding for K-12 education in the upcoming biennium. But he wouldn’t commit to the $649 million that Walker proposed.

“There’s a lot of different places where the new revenue could go,” Fitzgerald said.

During a stop in Milwaukee, Walker continued to take issue with calls to increase transportation revenues, particularly through a possible gas tax hike. The guv said he’ll have to “respectfully disagree” with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ push to up transportation revenues, saying with state revenues increasing, now is not the time to raise taxes or fees.

Walker also said on issues like his proposed 5 percent tuition cut in the second year of the budget, he hopes constituents will reach out to lawmakers to show their support.

“If they want to rearrange priorities or they want to mix some things up, certainly we’ll be attentive to what their proposals are,” Walker told reporters following his speech before the Governor’s Council on Economic Development in Milwaukee, where he focused largely on his plans regarding workforce development.

— Fitzgerald told today’s luncheon lawmakers could “absolutely” seek to further expand the state’s school choice program in the coming budget.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he’s “not sure” why Walker’s budget proposal didn’t include, for example, increasing the current caps on the program’s growth in each district. He predicted GOP lawmakers will continue their “pretty substantial effort” in past sessions to expand school choice.

On self-insurance, Fitzgerald said lawmakers have always been curious about whether the change would save money. Walker’s proposal would have the state work with several third-party administrators to pay employees’ health claims directly, rather than paying monthly premiums to health insurance companies.

Walker’s office says the move would save $60 million in the next biennium, but Fitzgerald said that was “far less than what most people anticipated.”

The proposal, Fitzgerald noted, would cause some health insurers to lose a major chunk of their current enrollees, raising a possibility that those companies “could falter.”

“Now that you’re not seeing those types of numbers, people are worried about the job loss it could create across the state,” Fitzgerald said.

He said self-insurance was the “perfect type of item” for the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to evaluate. Yesterday, the state Group Insurance Board kicked off the process for negotiating the self-insurance contracts, but those contracts will need approval from JFC.

— Fitzgerald was also skeptical of Walker’s proposal to cut income tax rates for the lowest two brackets, which Fitzgerald said amounted to a “meager” cut that may not result in “enough bang for the buck.”

Instead, Fitzgerald said, lawmakers might look to eliminate other smaller but “more effective” taxes such as the utility tax.

A coalition of business groups has also pushed for a repeal of the personal property tax, saying it’s now riddled with several unfair exemptions that leaves some businesses paying taxes on items like time clocks. But Fitzgerald said that might be a harder lift since that would lead to local governments asking the state to backfill their decreased revenues.

“I’ll eliminate any tax as long as you figure out a smart way of doing it. … You’ve got to know what the fallout is,” the Juneau Republican said.

He also pushed back against comments from Vos, R-Rochester, that the budget debate could go into October. Lawmakers, he said, don’t want to head to their Fourth of July parades without getting a budget approved.

“I don’t see this thing going beyond 1 July,” Fitzgerald said.

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