State superintendent candidates tout differences

State superintendent candidates tout differences
Don Pridemore and Tony Evers

Mere hours from the spring election, the state superintendent candidates are making their final pleas to voters.

The race is between current superintendent Tony Evers and state representative Don Pridemore.

While the two are not technically affiliated with a political party, Pridemore has been generally supported by Republicans, while Evers has the backing of a number of Democrats.

Their platforms reflect that political backing, at least considering Gov. Walker’s latest proposals for public school funding and the state’s voucher program.

Evers said he’s pushing a “fair funding” plan, one that will shift more money to high-poverty districts. Evers said he is open to raising taxes if that’s what it takes to make the plan a reality, though he doesn’t think that will be necessary.

“We’re really changing the way our funding is distributed in Wisconsin to make it more fair, more transparent, making sure that every school district and every kid gets some kind of general state aid behind them,” Evers said.


Pridemore disagrees with that investment. He said the state shouldn’t pour more public money into education until more job-ready graduates are growing tax revenue. Pridemore said he would prefer looking at alternatives for funding public education, such as grants or business contributions.

“My opponent seems to think that more money is going to solve these problems, and we’ve tried that in the past,” Pridemore said. “It doesn’t work.”

“And that’s why especially right now in these economic times, I don’t feel justified going to the taxpayers and asking for more money because more money should be really tied to performance.”

Pridemore said he is all for letting parents in failing school districts send their kids to private schools with state-funded vouchers. He said Gov. Walker’s plan to expand the program to more districts is pivotal, and believes choice schools have been successful at giving students equal opportunities in Milwaukee.

“The private schools that take these kids are actually able to put out a better product, in my opinion, for less money. And the taxpayers are always interested in ideas like that,” Pridemore said.

Evers argues private school vouchers aren’t improving education, and said Walker’s pitch to expand the program is flawed. He said the concept is based on report card evaluations that are only in a pilot stage.

“No matter how you look at the data, the data clearly show that the schools in the voucher program don’t achieve at any higher levels, or the kids in those schools don’t achieve at any higher level,” Evers said. 

“So to suggest that somehow choice in and of itself is best practice, I don’t buy that. That just doesn’t compute for me.”

Campaign finance reports show Evers raised nearly six times as much money as Pridemore.

Election day for the state superintendent race is April 2.