Spring election: Wisconsin superintendent race, school referendums on ballot
MADISON — The spring election on Tuesday features one statewide race, dozens of local contests and 65 referendums to raise local property taxes to help pay for schools.
Here are things to know about what's on the ballot:
POLL HOURS AND TURNOUT
Polls open statewide at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. An acceptable photo ID is needed to vote. Those include a Wisconsin driver license or Wisconsin state ID card, Veterans Health Administration ID card, military ID card, U.S. passport, tribal ID card and some student ID cards. Voters can register at the polls.
The state Elections Commission is predicting turnout of between 13 percent and 18 percent. Turnout in the February primary was just 5.9 percent.
The only statewide contest pits two-term incumbent Tony Evers, 65, against challenger Lowell Holtz, the 59-year-old former superintendent in Whitnall and Beloit who was also the state principal of the year in 1999. The winner will be in charge of the state Department of Public Instruction, which administers the law for all 424 public school districts.
Holtz and Evers differ on several key issues. Evers opposes expanding private school choice programs, while Holtz supports more growth. Holtz accuses Evers of not doing enough to close the achievement gap between white and non-white students, but Evers counters that progress has been made. Evers supports the Common Core academic standards and Holtz wants to repeal them.
They both support Gov. Scott Walker's proposed budget that would funnel $649 million more to schools, but they disagree on a provision that ties much of that additional money to districts that forced teachers to pay at least 12 percent of health care costs. Evers opposes the provision, while Holtz approves of it.
Holtz has been on the defensive much of the race, trying to downplay his meeting with a former candidate who alleged he offered him a state job, chauffeur and broad power to run the state's largest five school districts if he dropped out. Holtz has denied any offer was made or that there was anything illegal about his conversation with John Humphries. He's also defended discussing campaign issues on his Whitnall school email when he worked there, an issue that a liberal group is asking two district attorneys to investigate.
WHO SUPPORTS THEM?
Even though the race is officially nonpartisan, support for Evers and Holtz has broken down along partisan lines. Evers is backed by Democrats, the Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance, the American Federation of Teachers and the Wisconsin Education Association Council. Holtz has the support of Pro-Life Wisconsin, Wisconsin Family Action and two dozen Republican lawmakers.
There are uncontested races for three appeals court seats. There are other local judicial races in 28 of 72 counties, along with dozens of local school board and municipal contests.
Schools across the state are asking voters to approve 65 referendums to either raise debt or local property taxes to pay for a variety of construction projects and to meet other needs. That comes after 122 were approved in 2016, the continuation of a trend that began three or four years ago as schools struggled to make ends meet under state-imposed spending limits, budget tightening and changing student populations with a growing range of needs.