MADISON (WITI) — Voters in the state’s Spring General Election had a chance to choose a state Superintendent on Tuesday, April 2nd. The campaign to lead Wisconsin’s public schools pitted two candidates with sharply different views against one another. Incumbent Tony Evers has worked in education for more than 30 years, faces state Representative Don Pridemore, whose background is in the business world.
Incumbent Evers came out with a victory following Tuesday’s election — defeating Pridemore.
Pridemore was a member of the Legislature last season, and he defends the education cuts in Act 10.
“Part of the reason why we’re in this predicament is we’ve had too many government programs, too many mandates and every time we identify a problem, we seem to want to create another government program to solve a program that another government program created in the first place,” Pridemore said.
Evers says the cuts hurt, but the division the controversial law caused was worse.
“So, kind of taking it to the next step and really demonizing teachers, I think that’s had a negative impact across the state that’s going to take time,” Evers said.
Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to expand the School Choice Program across the state is also a key issue in the campaign. Pridemore supports expansion, while Evers is against it.
“If you look at the overall achievement level within the choice program in Milwaukee, it’s been an experiment for over 20 years and it’s no different than it is at MPS, so to say it’s a best practice I think is a stretch,” Evers said.
“I don’t buy that argument either. If you remember again, we started out with the poorest or the poor in the choice program, there’s a correlation between poverty levels and success rate,” Pridemore said.
Both see low reading scores within MPS as a huge problem. Evers says now all schools in the system teach reading the same way.
“In the past Milwaukee was relatively fragmented as they approached reading and especially with the mobility of kids — a second grader could over three or four times a year to different buildings — and if they have a different reading program they’re going to fail eventually because they just can’t catch up,” Evers said.
“I think there’s been a lot of people who think know what they’re doing, with PhD’s and great sounding titles after their name, but really our country performed very well our first 180 years of existence, by just concentrating on the basics first, then applying those basics for higher learning,” Pridemore said.
The two men also differ on whether the position should be held by an educator or politician. Evers says he brings experience as a teacher, principal and administrator, while Pridemore says his strengths lie in his problem-solving experience as an engineer at Johnson Controls, Badger Meter and within the Legislature.