Kerr, Underly make final push ahead of State Superintendent election – what to know about each

MADISON, Wis. – The two candidates to become Wisconsin’s next State Superintendent are making a final campaign push ahead of the April 6 election.

While the election itself is non-partisan, the two candidates, Deb Kerr and Jill Underly, don’t see eye to eye on every issue.

While both say it’s important to reopen public schools in Wisconsin, Kerr takes a more aggressive approach, saying it’s something she’d mandate.

Our kids and families aren’t winning right now,” said Kerr, who most recently worked as a superintendent in the Brown Deer School District.  “We need to get back into school right away. Five days a week.”

In addition, Kerr says she doesn’t believe teachers have to be vaccinated to begin teaching in person.

Our kids are suffering,” she said. “Our parents are frustrated. They’re angry and really somewhat mystified because the science is clear.”

Underly says she supports returning to in-person learning, but would give districts the choice on when and how to return. She says her biggest goal would be to offer resources necessary to make the transition run smoothly.

A lot of inequity existed prior to the pandemic, but right now, we need to make sure all our schools are open,” said Underly, who currently serves as Superintendent of the Pecatonica School District. “I think that’s critical. We know that kids learn best in person, the vast majority of kids anyhow.”

Underly says a major pin of her campaign relies around creating equity for the youngest of students – pushing for full day 4k and 3k programs with wraparound care.

“We’re setting all kids up for success,” she said. “We’re setting them up for great academics, but also better help.”

Kerr says a major pin of her campaign involves opening up options for charter schools and school of choice.

I’m going to respect the liberty for parents to choose the schools that are best for their students,” she said. “I’m a proven leader. I have unique preparation experiences. I’m parochial educated. I’ve taught at a private school. I’ve also started a charter school.”

Underly, however, says she prefers to invest in existing public school structures.

Our school districts are having to do a lot more with a lot less and having to go to referendum quite frequently,” she said. “We know from that, that there’s something wrong with our school funding program.”

The two, despite not representing opposing political parties, have clashed in recent weeks. Just days ago, Underly called out Kerr’s opposition to transgender students participation in sports. In March, Kerr publicly critiqued Underly for things said about her in a campaign ad.

Underly is also spending significantly more money on the campaign. Reports show Underly spent $818,063 between Feb. 2 and March 22. Kerr spent $47,443 during that span. Underly also holds the fund-raising edge, generating $1.1 million during the period compared with Kerr’s $71,465.