State superintendent candidates face off in Friday forum

Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 8:01 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Spring Election is just three weeks away. One of the biggest races on the ballots is to decide the next state superintendent.

Candidates Jill Underly, superintendent in the Pecatonica Area School District, and Deborah Kerr, former superintendent of Brown Deer Schools for 13 years, faced off in a state policy forum event Friday afternoon.

The forum topics ranged from re-opening schools to school choice, and teachers’ unions.

“I want to work with our teachers union. I want to put a member of the teachers union on my leadership cabinet at DPI, so I can make sure that their voices are represented, because we need to come together as a village to educate all kids,” Kerr said.

Underly said she has the support of teachers.

“I certainly support the teachers, and that’s why they support me. Moving forward, to keep sure that we keep reinvesting in our schools and reinvesting in our teaching force,” Underly said.

While each offered their plans for the state, an event that affected teachers across the state 10 years ago was a point of contention. Act 10, or the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, was proposed by Republican Governor Scott Walker and passed by the Wisconsin Legislature in 2011.

“Dr. Kerr will say that there wasn’t a superintendent that didn’t use those tools, but yes they had to balance their budgets on the backs of their teachers by cutting pay and benefits which has led to the fact that we have a teacher shortage, and teacher pay is very low and its not attractive anymore as a profession,” Underly said.

Kerr said it’s time to move on from the past.

“First of all, this is a 10-year-old situation, it’s time to move past. You know my mom passed away 7 years ago, and while I would love for her to be here today, she’s gone. So let’s respect the past, we need to move forward. Let’s put this in the rear-view mirror and the interesting part is that we can work together. I want to move forward,” Kerr said.

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