Tony Evers speaks in Milwaukee, June 1, 2010. (Flickr/WisPolitics.com)
Debates about education policy often get muddled, especially at election time. Though school board contests across the country regularly touch on local elements of the fight over the future of public education, and though legislative contests frequently raise policy details, it is rare that voters in a high-profile statewide contest face an absolutely clear choice on a broad range of education concerns.
But in Wisconsin, where Republican Governor Scott Walker has attacked teacher unions and hacked away at education budgets, and where Walker now proposes a sweeping expansion of a controversial vouchers scheme to shift public money to private schools, voters will have a chance to register their response Tuesday.
Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, a nonpartisan official elected four years ago, is up for reelection. And he is, for all intents and purposes, running against Walker’s education agenda. Evers’s campaign is blunt, ripping the governor’s approach as an assault on public schools, and highlighting the fact that “Tony has stood up for Wisconsin's kids and working families, fighting back against a devastating $1.6 billion cut in state funding for education.”
Evers was one of more than 900,000 Wisconsinites who signed petitions seeking to recall Walker, who survived the June, 2012, electoral challenge but remains a highly controversial figure in Wisconsin and nationally.
As Tuesday’s election approached, Evers appeared before the legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee to call for the rejection of those portions of Walker’s budget dealing with education. Noting that the governor’s budget would increase state funding for voucher school initiatives by 32 percent without increasing overall school funding, Evers declared: “This has to stop. The state cannot continue to play favorites. We can and must meet our constitutional obligation to invest in all of our kids.”
Evers has been steady in his criticism of vouchers schemes, which he says have not delivered for students or communities. "To spend hundreds of millions to expand a 20-year-old program that has not improved overall student achievement, while defunding public education, is morally wrong," the superintendent has argued.