“Let me be clear — more of the same is not enough.”
As a challenger for superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), I could not agree more. But the quote isn’t mine, it comes from Tony Evers’ first inaugural address, on July 6, 2009, having already served as deputy superintendent since 2001.
For 15 years, citizens across our state, from farm communities and small towns like Bayfield to large cities like Madison and Milwaukee, have entrusted the educational leadership of their children to this man who has fought change and improved little.
“I will work with state and community leaders to aggressively transform Milwaukee Public Schools,” Evers also proclaimed. But when legislators passed a law, the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program, to transform three to five failing schools in MPS, he provided zero public leadership — not even a tweet or a single mention in two State of Education addresses — to encourage or support educators he ultimately oversees with its implementation. Rather than give children in a few schools a new start with fresh leadership, he remained silent as the ineffective and bloated bureaucratic system he guides protected its own self-interests, delayed and punted. The law was broken and the needs of our kids ignored.
Meanwhile, our African-American and Hispanic parents in Milwaukee and Madison continue to suffer as their children drop out of school at unacceptable rates and, for two consecutive years, contribute to Wisconsin maintaining the worst racial achievement gap in the country. Change is needed.
Union leaders and others “in the system” still love this guy. Fortunately, many teachers and parents are wising up, ignoring the self-serving establishments, and supporting my candidacy. Why should you join them?
My Experience. I have over 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher, a Wisconsin Principal of the Year, and a superintendent of urban, suburban and rural school districts (Beloit, Whitnall, and Palmyra-Eagle). I know how to improve performance for children, schools and communities — because I’ve done it. I know how to return safety and discipline to our schools while empowering our teachers to do what they do best, teach — I have done it.
Our Shared Goals and Objectives. Together we will improve performance, discipline and safety. Key elements of this effort will include partnering with families and community members to improve our schools’ culture; accelerating early literacy; reducing truancy; and setting high expectations.
Second, we will empower our teachers. The state is losing educators because of the negative culture and overwhelming administrative burdens set by DPI, combined with insufficient disciplinary support. While educating children is always our focus, we must provide teachers with the policies they need to effectively respond when the occasional student misbehaves. Strong, positive leadership, which my teams have used elsewhere, will fix these issues.
Finally, we need to advance and embrace local control. The wisdom and efficacy of expert central planners will never exceed the ingenuity and market knowledge of “we the people” collectively making educational choices in our homes and communities. Innovation and educational reform is best implemented from the bottom up, not top down. The last thing the children of Milwaukee and Madison need is another plan from a bureaucrat who has never lived in their neighborhood. We need a collaborative leader who will work with parents and community leaders to identify the problems and provide guidance and resources to solve the problems. As a leader of public education, competition has never scared me — competition makes us better.
No child in our great state is too disadvantaged to learn. Continuing to force children into failing schools is robbing them of their hopes and dreams. Wisconsin is full of talented and caring people who can join together to fix this problem. Moving Wisconsin forward, I ask for your vote — and also your help in equitably educating our children and encouraging them to excel.
Lowell Holtz is challenging incumbent Tony Evers for the position of state superintendent of public instruction.