by Félix Pérez
For years now, the Racine, WI, school board has been heavy-handed in its dealings with the city’s educators. The tenor of that relationship took a sharp turn for the better yesterday, when candidates recommended by educators won seven out of eight races.
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Among the newly elected members of the Racine Unified School Board is Matthew Hanser, who beat school board president Melvin Hargrove. Hanser, who won by 13 votes out of 4,367 cast, is a staff member of the Illinois Education Association. Yesterday’s winners, recommended by the Racine Education Association–Racine Educational Assistants Association, also included Dennis Wiser, former school board president, and retired principal Mike Frontier, who defeated the current vice president of the school board. Don Nielsen, a retired school counselor and an incumbent, retained his seat.
Racine students took an active role in the election. Some 150 high school students deployed in multiple shifts yesterday to campaign for school board candidates. Organized by the Racine Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, the students volunteered after submitting signed permission slips from their parents or guardians.
“I have the power to really make a change in the community, so I figured I better take it,” said Talitha Gudal, 16, a Horlick High School junior.
Overall, educator-recommended candidates now hold a 7-2 majority on the board. Racine, with more than 20,000 students, is home to the state’s fifth largest school district.
Elsewhere throughout the state, schools and students fared well in dozens of referendums to fund education and improve facilities. According to the state’s Department of Public Instruction, 55 of 71 referendums, or 77 percent, passed.
“Wisconsin educators have shifted the focus to our communities, classrooms and schools to make a difference for our students,” said Betsy Kippers, a Racine teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “It is clear that educators are respected in their communities and our voices are trusted.
“Voters are opting to raising taxes on themselves to provide opportunities for children because our state leaders have turned their backs on public schools. It’s time to stop the madness and elect lawmakers who value public schools like the rest of Wisconsin does.”