By Amanda Menas
Over the last 10 years since the passage of Act 10 in Wisconsin, educators have been organizing and advocating for pro-public education candidates at every level to ensure their students have safe and healthy learning environments.
Now, students and educators can celebrate the election of Dr. Jill Underly as the next State Superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction. Throughout her campaign, Underly showed voters her commitment to public schools and her passion for education equity. WEAC members canvassed virtually and in person, fundraised, and sent information to over 100,000 voters across the state. This victory shows that the political momentum is clearly on the side of those who believe in great public schools and public investment in helping students succeed.
“Dr. Underly has committed to working toward repairing or replacing the school funding formula so it is equitable to all students regardless of their ZIP code,” said WEAC President Ron Martin. Underly is currently the District Administrator Pecatonica Area School District and has decades of classroom experience.
Deb Kerr, Underly’s opponent in the race, spent her campaign attacking LGBTQ+ students, educators, and the labor movement. Her loss was a direct rejection of Senator Ron Johnson, Scott Walker and former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Instead, by uniting against anti-worker billionaires, educators across Wisconsin voted for Underly turning out at higher rates than projected, and won. This victory for educators, labor allies, students and parents proved also that rushing to reopen school campuses during the pandemic before it was safe could not be used as a wedge issue. Keeping students and families safe was a top priority for Underly during her campaign and will continue to be during her term.
“We have a long road ahead of us, but I’m ready to get to work on day one and build a stronger, more equitable public education system,” said Underly.
Underly’s priorities included increasing access to early childhood education, mental and physical supports for students and educators, revising the school funding formula, and improving educator recruitment and retention. She takes office on July 5, 2021
This election victory follows the activism of educators since April 2020 when they elected pro-public education Judge Jill Karofsky to the state Supreme Court. Underly’s decisive victory in a battleground state sets educators up in a strong position for tough races in the 2022 election year. Throughout the next year, educators and voters across the state will continue to push for investments in our schools and policies that put our kids before politics.