On April 28, Wisconsin will head to the polls to elect the next state superintendent.
After a contentious and bizarre primary, two candidates emerged as the favorites for the official nonpartisan post. For Democrats, the favored contender is longtime Superintendent Tony Evers. For Republicans, it’s a former superintendent of several Wisconsin school districts, Lowell Holtz.
I attended the Whitnall School District from kindergarten through high school graduation. Holtz assumed the job later in my time in the school district, but he was the man who shook my hand after I walked across the stage at graduation.
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Additionally, I met Holtz several times during my senior year when I served as our “student Senate president.”
Holtz seems to have a knack for making news for all the wrong reasons these past few weeks. But even disregarding the bizarre behaviors Holtz seems to have engaged in the last month or two, he still shouldn’t be in charge of our public schools.
To be fair, my experience in the Whitnall School District wasn’t awful. There were many positives. But I credit others with that, not Holtz. The credit goes to the outstanding teachers I had and the great lifelong friends I met. The teachers I was lucky enough to learn from were there before Holtz, and many have remained there after him.
I’m not really sure what Holtz was doing while I was a student at Whitnall. I know many of my teachers were treated like they weren’t valuable assets at the school, and the school district as a whole often felt stagnant at best and moving backward at worst.
It was a time of little positive change. 2011 saw the passage of Act 10 in Wisconsin, gutting teachers unions and morale, which has left scars for public education across the state.
I didn’t know until recently that Holtz was the hardcore conservative he professes to be. Maybe his views are politically expedient, fashioned to curry favors with moneyed donors (still brushing up on those emails, Holtz?) or the mighty right in Wisconsin. Now that I hear his plans, it makes a lot more sense why things weren’t getting better during his time at Whitnall.
Public education in this state and across this country is under attack right now. On a national level, we have a president who seems like he couldn’t care less about it and a new secretary of education who has absolutely no experience in public schooling. In Wisconsin, we have a governor who uses education as a means of boosting his own political career (slashing funding and attacking teachers) and the Republicans in the state Legislature continue to be more than happy to let it happen.
We need someone who will continue to stand up to Gov. Scott Walker and attempt to make public schools better, not push damaging voucher programs and go along with what the governor tells him to do.
If Holtz were to be the next state superintendent, he would almost certainly end up as just another cog in the Walker political posturing machine. Wisconsin can do better than that.
Connor Touhey ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science, history and journalism.