• WisPolitics

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

 12:33 PM 

Voters shoot down all school referendums on Tuesday ballot

Wisconsin voters rejected every local school referendum on the ballot Tuesday, defeating nearly $36 million in additional spending.

Six school districts held a total of nine referendums Tuesday. Appleton, the largest district to request additional funding, had asked for $15.9 million in two referendums for school improvements. Voters defeated the proposals by a five-to-four margin.

Other rejected referendums included the Clinton Community School District ($9.6 million), Waupun (three referendums totaling $4.9 million), Salem ($3.5 million), Siren ($1.3 million) and Highland ($405,000).

-- By Andy Szal

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

 11:02 PM 

Fernandez takes swipe at Evers

Virtual school advocate Rose Fernandez wasted no time tonight in getting her campaign going against Deputy Superintendent Tony Evers, accusing him of watching Milwaukee Public Schools fail for the past eight years and being afraid of innovation during his time in office.

With 97 percent of the vote in, Evers had 35 percent, of 88,297 votes, while Fernandez had 31 percent, or 78,308 votes.

Fernandez said voters will have a clear choice in the April 7 general election in who they select to be the next superintendent of Public Instruction, casting herself as an outsider and reformer.

"He has experience doing everything that WEAC tells him to do," Fernandez said.

Evers said he wouldn't be "dragged in the mud" and pledged to provide a positive message through the course of the campaign, including a focus on his 34 years of experience in education from the local level through DPI.

"That's the first step," Evers said of tonight's win. "We expect we'll gear up even more and carry our message across the state."

The two ran very different campaigns in the weeks leading up to the primary.

Evers raised $74,004 through Feb. 2 and then reported another $22,125 in late contributions in the week leading up to the primary.

He was the only candidate to run a TV ad leading up to the primary, and he had the backing of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, which also ran TV ads on his behalf.

The bulk of the money Evers raised came from political action committees, particularly education groups.

Meanwhile, Fernandez had reported raising less than $3,500 for her campaign through the pre-primary period. But she loaned her campaign $4,000 last week and received $3,500 in late contributions, according to a report filed with the Government Accountability Board.

George Mitchell, an adviser to School Choice Wisconsin, gave her $1,000, while Mike Cudahy of Milwaukee, co-founder of the former Marquette Electronics and a philanthropist, gave her $2,500.

That enabled her to do a small radio buy in the Milwaukee area. She relied mainly on the grassroots connections she made in past work lobbying for virtual schools as well as the praise from conservative Milwaukee talk show hosts.

Concordia professor Van Mobley was in third place in unofficial returns with 14 percent, or 34,312 votes, while National-Louis University associate professor Todd Price had 11 percent, or 28,349, and Beloit Superintendent Lowell Holtz had 9 percent, or 21,948 votes.

 9:45 PM 

Evers, Fernandez advance

It looks like Deputy Superintendent Tony Evers and virtual school advocate Rose Fernandez will square off in the April 7 general election for superintendent of Public Instruction.

With 74 percent of the vote in, Evers had 37 percent, or 68,814 votes, while Fernandez had 30 percent, or 55,491 votes.

Concordia professor Van Mobley was in third with 13 percent, or 23,970 votes, while National-Louis University associate professor Todd Price had 11 percent, or 21,875 votes, and Beloit Schools Superintendent Lowell Holtz had 9 percent, or 16,371 votes.

-- By JR Ross

 8:58 PM 

Evers, Fernandez lead in early returns

Deputy Superintendent Tony Evers and virtual schools advocate Rose Fernandez have the early lead in the superintendent of Public Instruction primary.

With 15 percent of the vote in, Evers had 37 percent of the vote, of 14,564 votes, while Rose Fernandez had 29 percent of the vote, or 11,356 votes.

Van Mobley was next at 14 percent, or 5,252 votes, while Todd Price had 11 percent, or 4,436 votes, and Lowell Holtz had 9 percent, or 3,334 votes.

The top two finishers in the primary advance to the April 7 general election.

-- By JR Ross

 5:56 PM 

Minor glitches, light turnout highlight primary day

Government Accountability Board Director Kevin Kennedy said there were only minor voting issues across the state today with light turnout.

Kennedy said the problems included things like voting machines not working properly and fears in Darien that an optical scan machine wasn't properly counting ballots.

"I'm still hoping we get to 10 percent, but it was only 6.5 percent last time" there wasn't an incumbent running for DPI superintendent, Kennedy said. "It just isn't a high-visibility race."


Monday, February 16, 2009

 12:02 PM 

GAB projects low primary turnout

The Government Accountability Board expects between 6 percent and 10 percent of state voters to turn out for Tuesday's primary election.

The only statewide race on the primary is a five-way contest for superintendent of Public Instruction. The current state schools superintendent, Elizabeth Burmaster, opted out of a re-election run.

Eight years ago, the last time there wasn't an incumbent running for the job, turnout was 6.5 percent.

Polls open at 7 a.m tomorrow. Find your polling place: https://vpa.wi.gov/

See the GAB projection: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/090216_GAB_primary.pdf

-- By Greg Bump


Friday, February 13, 2009

 1:59 PM 

Candidates lay out credentials in DPI debate

The five candidates for superintendent of Public Instruction touted their credentials Thursday in their final debate before Tuesday's primary without taking many shots at their opponents.

The debate, sponsored by the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools, featured no real fireworks. Rose Fernandez came the closest of the five to taking any kind of a shot at one of the other candidates.

Responding to a question about the current cap on Milwaukee's voucher program, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers pointed out his work over the past eight years with the program and his desire to see the results of a study on student performance before deciding whether to lift the enrollment limits.

Fernandez said Evers had failed to mention DPI fought to keep the enrollment cap in place under his direction in working with Superintendent Libby Burmaster.

"If I'm elected, there will be no fight over that cap," Fernandez said.

See WisPolitics coverage: http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=149070


Thursday, February 12, 2009

 4:55 PM 

Evers, Fernandez on the air

Tony Evers' new campaign ad says improving public schools has been his life's work.

It touts his work as deputy superintendent of Public Instruction, local superintendent, a principal and a teacher, as well as his endorsement by WEAC in the DPI race. The narrator also says he wants cutting edge classrooms, safer schools, fair funding and accountability.

Evers' campaign said the spot would run in multiple markets, and WisPolitics has confirmed that includes Madison and Milwaukee.

In addition to endorsing Evers, WEAC also has a TV ad now running that praises the DPI deputy.

The WEAC ad says Evers will improve schools, make class sizes smaller and raise graduation rates as superintendent of Public Instruction.

After ticking off a list of things the spot says Evers will do as superintendent, it closes, "For our schools. For our future."

Rose Fernandez has begun running a radio ad to bolster her campaign for superintendent of Public Instruction.

Her campaign didn't immediately respond to requests for comment about the spot.

See the spots in the WisPolitics.com Ad Watch:


Monday, February 9, 2009

 5:51 PM 

Evers leads in DPI fundraising

DPI Deputy Superintendent Tony Evers raised $30,119 last month for his campaign to lead the department.

That's tops among the five contenders for the post, according to the campaign finance reports filed today.

Concordia professor Van Mobley was close behind with $29,532 raised during the pre-primary period, which covered Jan. 1 through Feb. 2.

The bulk of Evers' money came from committees, while most of Mobley's came from a loan he gave his campaign.

Virtual schools advocate Rose Fernandez's fundraising showed $3,255 raised and $2,867 cash on hand.

Todd Price reported $2,035 raised, while Lowell Holtz reported raising $10 that he donated to his campaign.

Evers' donations included $8,625 from WEAC, the maximum PAC donation. The School Administrators Alliance PAC gave Evers $6,000, while the Wisconsin Education Association Council-Fox Valley PAC donated $3,400 to his campaign.

Evers had $69,855 cash on hand at the end of the period.

Mobley loaned his campaign $20,000 and had $57,329 cash on hand.

See their reports:


Saturday, February 7, 2009

 9:45 AM 

$33.9 million in school referendums on February ballot

The first test for prospective DPI superintendent candidates will be the Feb. 17 primary election, which will coincide with a handful of school referendums.

Four school districts will hold a total of seven referendums, with voters deciding on $33.9 million in additional school spending.

Appleton, the largest district to hold a referendum in the spring primary, will also be voting on the biggest chunk of money, asking for $15.9 million in two referendums for school improvements.

In addition, the Clinton Community School District is seeking $9.6 million, the Waupun School District will hold three referendums totaling $4.9 million, and the Salem School District is asking for $3.5 million.

-- By Andy Szal


Sunday, February 1, 2009

 3:32 PM 

Five vie for DPI superintendent

An education professor, the Beloit school superintendent and a virtual schools advocate have jumped into the race for the state's top education post, joining the current DPI deputy secretary and a history professor in a five-way primary Feb. 17.

The top two vote-getters will advance to the April 7 general election to replace Libby Burmaster, who decided not to seek re-election after two terms in the office.

Burmaster has endorsed DPI Deputy Superintendent Tony Evers, who ran for the post in 2001 and has served as Burmaster's deputy superintendent for her two terms. He is viewed by insiders as the establishment candidate, and told WisPolitics last year that his stint as Burmaster's No. 2 has made him even more qualified than he was in his initial run.

Concordia University professor Van Mobley and former Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families president Rose Fernandez are right-leaning challengers.

Mobley, a history professor at Concordia University in Mequon and a member of the Thiensville Village Board, said last year that Burmaster has been a passive superintendent.

Fernandez, of Mukwonago, is a nurse and small business owner who resigned her position as president of the Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual School Families to run for the post. She was a vocal proponent of virtual schools as lawmakers tried to hammer out an agreement last spring to keep them open after a judge ruled a district's virtual schools didn't comply with state law.

Price and Holtz are political unknowns.

Price, an associate professor in the educational foundations and inquiry department at National-Louis University in Kenosha, has been associated with the Green Party the last several years but has never held public office.

Holtz, the superintendent for Beloit's school system, touts his experience as a principal in small, rural communities, as a superintendent in northern Wisconsin, his work in medium-sized urban districts and even the five years he spent as a police officer in Whitewater.

See more on the race, including WisPolitics interviews with all five primary candidates:


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