State Superintendent Candidates Talk Issues

By: Rachelle Baillon Email
By: Rachelle Baillon Email

Monday, March 25, 2013--6:20p.m.
For challenger Don Pridemore, some of today's schools just aren't making the grade: "More and more parents are finding out on a daily basis that the public education system is just not making kids employment ready and that's the main reason why we put kids in school in the first place," he said.

Pridemore said he's in favor of charter schools, private school vouchers, home schooling and virtual programs--saying the competition will help the public ones improve. "Once kids can go right from a school situation into employment or higher education, that to me is the proof that we are doing a good job," he said. "Unfortunately we haven't been in the public school system, the alternative schools are doing a much better job and my goal as DPI superintendent would be to make public schools as good or better than the alternative schools that exist today are."

Current State Superintendent Tony Evers takes the opposite viewpoint on school vouchers. "The fact of the matter is the voucher programs haven't increased student learning, they haven't shown to be better than the public schools in Milwaukee," he said. "So I'm opposed to expanding vouchers across the state of Wisconsin."

He conceded that some of those schools do operate more cheaply than their public counterparts, but highlighted that there are things they don't have to worry about that the public institutions do, like transportation and special education.

Referring to the governor's budget proposal, Evers said it doesn't make sense to increase funding for voucher programs when public schools aren't getting a bump. "You have to put into context what is in the budget for public schools," he said. "We're looking at a...possibly $1,400 per pupil increase for private voucher schools and a zero dollar increase for what we can spend in public schools. That just doesn't connect with me personally; I think that's a step in the wrong direction."

Monday, March 25, 2013--6:10p.m.
It's a recurring question educators face: are today's graduates properly prepared for what comes next?

"If you're an employer and you're finding a problem hiring certain skills for certain jobs and you're not getting it out of our public education systems, then you have to start asking why," said Don Pridemore, a candidate for state superintendent. Pridemore argues that some students are being passed on--only to need remedial training after they graduate. "Unfortunately too many students are again, are pushed out the door not being ready for that next level," he said."I've been told by tech school adminstrators that it takes up to 25 percent of their tech school class time just to bring these kids up with remedial training."

He said competition is key to improving public education--and that includes giving students and their families choices about where to go.
"I support alternative forms of education right now because I believe competition in education will solve many of the problems that we're currently seeing," he said.

His opponent--and the current State Superintendent, Tony Evers--said the state's students are actually towards the top of the heap: "Certainly there's issues around remediation, but you know people have to realize we have the highest graduation rate in the country," said Evers. "We always finish first or second or third in the ACT tests, the college entrance exam scores."

Evers also said that during his tenure, they've added new assessments to make sure kids are where they're supposed to be. "We're piloting several early warning systems across the state where we take student data and we're able to actually see earlier on if students are on a trajectory towards not graduating or not doing well so we can intervene earlier," he said. "I think that's critical."

To help students further their career and education goals, Evers said he's a big supporter of dual-credit programs for high school students.
"I've been working with the tech college system in particular, but also UW system to get as much dual-credit opportunities as possible," he said. "Where kids get high school credit and technical college credit simultaneously and UW credit and high school credit simultaneously."

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