These questions were put to Scott Walker and Tony Evers by John Forester and the Wisconsin SAA. Tony Evers answers are below. The WSAA had no response from Scott Walker1.
What is your motivation to be Wisconsin’s governor?
I’m running for governor because I believe what is best for our kids is best for our state.
I love Wisconsin, and I’ve had the privilege of living and working in communities all around the
state. Yet, I’ve had more than a few moments over the last eight years where I’ve struggled to
recognize the Wisconsin I love. We’ve watched citizens in over half our school districts vote to
raise their own taxes because the state has failed to meet its commitment to funding our public
schools. We’ve seen historic disinvestment in our public universities. We’ve seen our Governor
turn down resources that would provide health care to thousands of Wisconsin families who
don’t have it, and play games with coverage for pre-existing conditions. We’ve seen foreign
corporations get billions in taxpayer-funded handouts and special breaks from environmental
protections, while our roads deteriorate, our drinking water and air get polluted, and our once
nationally renowned education system falls behind .
Enough is enough. As Governor, I know there is so much more I can do to help build a stronger
and brighter future for Wisconsin. I’ll use all of my skills and experience to end the divisiveness
that has consumed our state and to reinvest in Wisconsin’s future - to improve education,
healthcare, infrastructure, our environment and our economy. I’ll focus on solving problems, not
picking political fights. Wisconsinites know that we are stronger when we look out for each
other, and when we look out for the next generation. Our kids deserve the best from us.
2. What is your vision for K-12 public education in Wisconsin?
My vision for public education is one where every child in Wisconsin - no matter what their zip
code - has access to a world class public education and the opportunity to succeed. Education
is the great equalizer and a key pathway to restoring economic prosperity. Public education
should inspire every child with a passion for lifelong learning and prepare them for success in
college, careers and life.
To make that vision a reality, as Governor I will work to finally achieve school finance reform and
restore the state’s commitment to two-thirds funding, without raising property taxes. I will make
historic investments in special education and dramatically expand state funding for student
mental health, sparsity aid and support for English learners, so that every child who needs an
extra lift gets one. I will fund full day 4K, provide Wisconsin’s first state funding for after school
programs and create new supports for students in the state’s largest urban districts. To pay for it
all, my proposed 2019-21 biennial budget would invest an additional $1.4 billion in school aids,
the largest investment in public schools in a generation.
Governing is about priorities. Wisconsin’s kids and families deserve a Governor who will
prioritize public education and support the transformational work happening in schools across
our state every year, not just election years.
3. As governor, what policies or strategies would you advance to improve
academic achievement for all students and close achievement gaps in
One of Wisconsin’s greatest strengths is the growing diversity of our communities, which makes
our workforce and our businesses more innovative and competitive. However, Wisconsin also
has one of the largest achievement gaps in the country. To meet this challenge, we need an
education system and economy that work for everyone.
My 2019-21 biennial budget proposal would give educators the resources they need to close
gaps and help every Wisconsin child reach their full potential. While we are making broad
investments to support children in every corner of the state, we’re also proposing to target
investments to our five largest school districts, which educate roughly 20 percent of all
Wisconsin students and represent disproportionate shares of student groups experiencing our
largest gaps. Under my budget, these districts would get additional resources and support,
including opportunities for additional learning time over the summer, incentives for National
Board Certified Teachers to work in high poverty schools and 3K start up/expansion grants to
provide more access to early childhood education. I’m also proposing to fund a two-year project
in each district to work with adjacent sectors (health care, child care, higher education, housing,
etc.) to address out-of-school factors that impact learning.
To close gaps, I also believe it’s critical to diversify our education workforce, so that our students
can see themselves represented in their educators. We’ll continue to work to aggressively
recruit teachers of color and invest in “grow your own” programs in districts around the state.
As State Superintendent, I’ve led my agency with the vision to make every child a graduate and
address the racial disparities and inequities in our schools, but Wisconsin needs all its leaders
committed to this work. Broadly, across all sectors, we need to make investments in local
neighborhoods and ensure government decision-makers, corporate leaders and educators
reflect the growing diversity of our state. We need to work together to address out-of-school
factors that contribute to our achievement gap, including housing, healthcare, childcare and and
trauma. Advancing racial equity and increasing opportunities for children, families and
communities of color across the state is imperative to Wisconsin’s healthy and sustainable
future, and together, we can move Wisconsin forward.
4. Numerous studies have shown that improving early learning opportunities can
help reduce achievement gaps for children. In Wisconsin, the good news is
families now have access to quality 4K programming in over 98 percent of our
school districts. We simply need greater access to high quality birth-to-three
programming for those children who have a high probability of not being ready
for school. As governor, what policies or strategies would you advance to
improve early learning opportunities in Wisconsin?
As governor, I will make early childhood education top priority.
For school-based early childhood opportunities, my 2019-21 budget would fund full day 4K for
all districts, and would provide funding to start or expand 3K programs in Wisconsin’s five
largest school districts.
Before a child ever enters school, however, it’s imperative that we improve access to high
quality, affordable childcare. It’s simply unacceptable that Wisconsin’s poorest and most
impoverished zip code does not have one high quality early childhood facility. We’ll work to
strengthen the state’s YoungStar quality rating and improvement system, so that more early
childhood programs continue to improve in quality, and we’ll retool Wisconsin Shares child care
subsidy program so that more families can afford the high quality care that every child deserves.
Finally, I will work with the Legislature to expand child care tax credits to make care more
5. In Wisconsin, too many children have unmet mental health needs which, in
turn, result in negative consequences for those children, their families, our
schools and our communities. While school leaders greatly appreciate the
school mental health investments made in the 2017-19 State Budget, most believe
a stronger, long-term commitment from the state is required to meet this
challenge. As governor, what next steps would you take to address this
With one in five students facing mental health issues, educators and schools are the frontline in
meeting this challenge. Our success in the 2017-19 biennial budget was a great start, but it also
underscored the depth of need in school districts around the state. State support remains far
short of the overwhelming demand for programs to assist students with mental health needs.
In response, my budget proposes nearly $64 million in school mental health funding, including:
● Fully funding mental health grants (funding covered only one-third of applicants this
● Increasing staff to address mental health, including school psychologists, nurses,
counselors, and social workers.
● Expanding statewide mental health training and youth suicide prevention to boost efforts
around trauma, AODA, and mental health first aid.
With over 80 percent of mental health incidents currently going untreated, an Evers
Administration will be committed to getting all Wisconsin kids the support and early intervention
6. The recruitment, preparation, development and retention of effective educators
is vitally important for our children’s future. As governor, what policies would
you advance to address this important issue?
Over this decade we’ve seen a 35 percent drop in the number of students pursuing an
education degree, a trend that will have devastating consequences for public education. This is
one of the most critical public policy issues facing our state.
As State Superintendent, I’ve worked alongside SAA to develop solutions and break down
barriers to school staffing issues, and we’ll continue to build on the work we’ve done together to
recruit and retain great teachers, particularly in hard-to-staff subjects and regions of the state.
However, we know that one of the biggest challenges we face is one of perception. Recent
polling suggests what we’ve heard anecdotally in Wisconsin for several years now: most
American parents don’t want their kids to pursue teaching as a career.
As a Governor who truly values education and as an educator, I’ll work to restore respect for our
profession. My budget will provide educators the resources they need to do their jobs, and the
resources school leaders need to provide competitive compensation to every teacher - year
after year. We’ll make college more affordable, and help graduates refinance student loans, so
that student debt doesn’t keep aspiring teachers away from the profession. We’ll continue to
partner together to expand “grow our own” programs to create new teachers and leaders in our
communities, and build on policies that work to recruit and retain top talent. Wisconsin’s schools
cannot be strong without strong educators, and together, we’ll tackle this head on.
7. Do you support the expansion of taxpayer-funded private school vouchers in
Wisconsin? Why or why not? What is your position on requiring greater
accountability for schools participating in the voucher programs?
Wisconsin’s public schools provide access and opportunity to over 860,000 kids. They have to
be our priority. When we aren’t adequately funding our public schools, how can we possibly
afford a parallel publicly-funded private school system? Moreover, study after study show the
same results: privatization does not magically solve problems.
I’ve spent the last 20 years fighting back against vouchers and privatizers. On my watch, we’ve
removed more than 30 schools from the voucher program and prevented dozens from joining.
We defeated dangerous “reform’ proposals that would convert struggling schools into voucher
or charter schools. We’ve successfully lobbied to ensure voucher schools receive report cards
just like public schools. Finally, we’ve fought back against unfair funding schemes that subsidize
wealthy families whose kids already attend private school.
I strongly support voucher transparency across the board, which includes publishing the impact
of vouchers on property tax bills and our recent work to publish report cards on voucher schools
(just like public schools). As Governor, I would work with the legislature to phase out vouchers; if
Republican control of the Legislature makes that impossible, then I would ensure the state
adequately funds public schools and require voucher schools to use licensed teachers, adopt
student safeguards like IDEA and non-discrimination protection, and implement needed
8. One of the greatest problems in Wisconsin’s school finance system is the
systemic gap between allowable revenue growth and school district cost
increases and the investments necessary to meet student needs. As governor,
would you support annual inflationary increases in school revenues?
Yes. As part of my Fair Funding school finance reform proposal, we’ll restore annual inflationary
increases in revenue limits and restore the state’s commitment to funding two-thirds of school
costs. School districts need more predictability in their budgeting in order to meet the needs of
all of our kids, and I’m committed to providing it.
9. In Vincent v. Voight (2000), the State Supreme Court found the Wisconsin school
finance system constitutional, so long as the legislature provided sufficient
resources to ensure that all students are offered an equal opportunity for a
sound, basic education. The court specifically enumerated three classes of
students to which the state has a special obligation for ensuring equitable
opportunities: economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities,
and English language learners. Since 2000, the rising costs to meet the growing
needs of students in these enumerated classes have far outstripped the limited
school funding directed to each of these student classes; thereby challenging the
abilities of local school districts to meet the Court’s standard. As governor, how
would you address this problem?
My 2019-21 biennial budget proposal would provide the largest increase in school funding in a
generation, focused in large part on serving these special populations of students. I’d shatter the
decade-long freeze on special education funding with a historic $600 million investment in our
state’s primary special education categorical aid, raising the reimbursement rate from 25 to 60
percent. I’d provide significant new funding for the state’s bilingual-bicultural categorical aid
program, and establish a new stream of funding to support all English learners.
Approximately 4 in 10 children in Wisconsin are economically disadvantaged and our large
investment in school aids will help children in poverty all over the state. Furthermore, my budget
proposes several new programs, including early childhood investments, afterschool funding and
support for students in our large urban districts all of which provide support to economically
disadvantaged students. In a systemic change that supports economically-disadvantaged
students, our Fair Funding school finance reform plan will account for family income as a factor
in our state’s school funding formula for the first time.
With these investments, and a continued commitment to a strong and vibrant K-12 system in the
future, we will be making good on our constitutional responsibility to provide an equal
opportunity for a sound, basic education to every child.
10. Geographically large, sparsely populated rural school districts are hit especially
hard by the state’s inadequate support for school transportation costs. Even
with the increases to the high cost transportation aid program in the 2017-19
State Budget, state reimbursement to local school districts is still only about
10.4% of actual school transportation costs. As governor, how would you
address this problem?
As Governor, I’d continue to invest in both pupil transportation aid and the high cost
transportation aid program, while providing substantial new revenues to our schools for general
use. My 2019-21 biennial budget proposal would increase the reimbursement rate for students
who are transported 12 or more miles, and would fully fund high cost transportation aid,
measures which are specifically targeted to providing additional aid to geographically large,
sparsely populated districts.
Moreover, as Governor, one of my first priorities will be to solve our state’s transportation crisis.
Wisconsin’s road quality is now among the worst in the country. Towns and villages are
returning to gravel, and municipalities are passing new vehicle fees and taxes to fund road
maintenance that should be covered by the state. A 2018 report from the American Society of
Civil Engineers found that 27 percent of Wisconsin’s public roads are in poor condition, resulting
in average costs per Wisconsin driver of $637 per year. Deteriorating roads impact school
buses, increasing the cost of maintenance and increasing the burden on our schools’ bottom
line. As Governor, I’ll work with Democrats and Republicans alike to find a long-term solution to
our state’s ongoing transportation standoff.
11. Small, rural schools continue to face many challenges that limit educational
opportunities for the children they serve. These include: declining enrollment, a
lack of economies of scale, difficulties in recruiting/retaining qualified staff
contributing to reduced programming options, and distance from
post-secondary education institutions. As governor, what policies/initiatives
would you advance to reduce the disparities in educational opportunities for
children in rural Wisconsin?
When I’m out talking to young people and ask why they choose to stay here, they almost always
point to our natural resources and our quality of life - things rural Wisconsin has in spades.
While we need to invest in new opportunities, we must also maintain the high quality of life
Wisconsin is known for, which keeps people here and draws businesses to the state. This
includes a strong public education system from early childhood through higher education that
produces an educated workforce, high quality roads and infrastructure, clean air and water as
well as abundant recreational opportunities.
As I noted earlier, I’m committed to fully funding our public schools, and I can do it on day one
with my Fair Funding plan. It’s been endorsed by educators and school boards across
Wisconsin and it ensures that every kid who needs an extra lift, gets an extra lift. It also changes
how we distribute our education dollars so that every district is guaranteed a minimum amount
of aid per student and income, not just property value, is taken into account. These changes will
greatly benefit rural school districts in Wisconsin. Even the current hostile Legislature has
adopted some of my recommendations, like expanding sparsity aid for rural districts and upping
the reimbursement for transportation - things that I’d continue to build on in my 2019-21 budget.
I previously mentioned my commitment to improving our roads, but strong infrastructure also
means strong internet. Reliable high speed internet is the interstate of the 21st century, and
should be available in every single home and business in Wisconsin. Yet, a recent study shows
Wisconsin ranks nearly dead last in average download speeds. As Governor, I’d add statewide
broadband to our infrastructure plans, an investment that would bring new industries to
Wisconsin, reduce costs for businesses already here and create new job opportunities for
people of all ages. Reliable and high speed internet would also give rural residents new
opportunities to access digital coursework to grow their knowledge and skills, including more
options for rural students to access challenging courses that local economies of scale might not
support on their own.
I’ve lived and worked in rural communities across central Wisconsin, and, as Governor, I’m
committed to helping our rural schools and our rural communities thrive.