Deb Kerr, Betsy DeVos’s pick for Wisconsin superintendent race, loses

Jill Underly, the Democratic Party-backed superintendent of Pecatonica School District, defeated Deb Kerr, the Betsy DeVos-backed former Brown Deer Schools superintendent, Tuesday to become the state’s top education official. 

Underly’s campaign spent seven times what Kerr’s campaign spent. Outside groups spent almost four times as much on ads in Underly’s favor than in Kerr’s favor. The American Federation for Children, a lobbying group founded by the family of former President Donald Trump’s Education Secretary DeVos, poured money in on Kerr’s side.

The level of spending — over $1 million in ads alone — was unprecedented for a Wisconsin superintendent race. 

Former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Oct. 15, 2020, in Phoenix.

Though the position is technically nonpartisan, the candidates clashed over whether taxpayer dollars should go to independent charter schools and to vouchers for students to attend private schools in “school choice” programs. Underly opposed expansions of these programs; Kerr supported. 

Underly was endorsed by teachers unions, which traditionally oppose vouchers, because they reduce funding for public schools. Her campaign focused on plans to expand early childhood education programs and diversify the education workforce, in part by easing the pathway for teacher licensure and student loan forgiveness. 

Jill Underly

“Wisconsin’s kids and public schools face significant challenges as we work to return to normal, get every student caught up, and support their mental health and well being in the aftermath of this pandemic and the enormous trauma and disruption it’s caused for all of us,” Underly said. 

“Overcoming these hurdles won’t be easy, but I know that if we work together we can get it done and do what’s right for our kids,” she said.

Source: USA Today – Breaking News

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