Election: Holtz in superintendent race

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Todd Mishler | March 26, 2017

Dr. Lowell Holtz, former district superintendent for the School District of Beloit and the Whitnall School District southwest of Milwaukee, is challenging current Superintendent Tony Evers in the race for head of the state Department of Public Instruction.

The men advanced to the spring general election following the February primary.

Following is a bio of Holtz and his responses to five questions that were asked of both candidates.

Dr. Lowell Holtz

Dr. Lowell Holtz received his bachelor's degree at Concordia University and a master's from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The retired Holtz, 59, has more than 30 years of experience in education, including roles as a teacher, principal and district administrator, working in the Cambridge, Peshtigo, Palmyra-Eagle, Beloit and Whitnall school districts.

What is your political or philosophical view that guides your views on school vouchers?

I believe in limited government and local control, competition and free market forces and the central role that public education provides in developing an informed electorate.

I also believe the individual and collective wisdom of “We the people” is far greater than a cloistered committee of “experts” when making decisions regarding curriculum, assessments and what schools children should attend.


What makes you a more qualified candidate than your opponent?

Tony Evers has served as deputy or superintendent of public instruction for 16 years. Never before has Wisconsin been ranked as the worst in the nation for its racial graduation and achievement gap — and he's allowed that to happen for two consecutive years.

Conversely, as superintendent in Beloit, my team and I raised minority graduation rates that were worse than Milwaukee and Madison, which are both below 60 percent, to 85 percent, where it roughly remains today.

Evers is afraid of school choice and competition because it threatens the union bosses at WEAC (Wisconsin Education Association Council) who support and fund him. I embrace competition and support school choice because it makes all of us better — principals, teachers and students.

I am one of the few leaders of public education, with 30 years as an educator that includes recognition as a Wisconsin principal of the year, a National Distinguished Principal and service as a superintendent in urban, suburban and rural school districts — who is a proponent of school choice and competition.

Evers committed Wisconsin to Common Core in 2010. He supports its national curriculum and assessment program, which was marketed and sold as a Corvette but turned out to be closer to a manure spreader.

I am opposed to Common Core and believe the people of Wisconsin can decide what to teach and how to measure.

Evers only has worked and taught in public school systems. I've worked in public and parochial school systems and witnessed my father start one of Wisconsin's first voucher schools.

Finally, a negative educational culture has developed under Evers' watch. This negativity, which affects our ability to hire and retain staff, is the result of weak leadership and oppressive regulations, which hampers and frustrates our teachers. The lack of safety and discipline in our schools and classrooms is taking its toll on teachers and students alike. I have demonstrated the ability to create positive cultures in schools and districts, and I will do the same across our state.

What's the best way to hold schools accountable for the success of their students?

The best way, which occurs today to a great extent, is to permit natural market forces to attract or deter families to choose schools and their communities.

To function properly, efficient markets require objective, quality data to enable parents to make well-informed choices.

It is important for schools in our communities to provide appropriate information (test scores, graduation rates, etc.) to our parents so they can decide what is best for their child.

What do you like or dislike and what should be done with the current school funding formula?

As a proponent of local control, I am naturally in favor of communities using property taxes to fund their education. At the same time, as a state we have an obligation to help our neighbors who are in greater need, be they in city or rural communities. In a January 2017 report released by Rutgers Graduate School of Education, the state of Wisconsin ranks 17th out of 50 states when it comes to funding fairness. As such, changing the formula is not a high priority of mine. Tony Evers has proposed increases in funding, but more money isn't a guarantee of improved performance.

Should you win, what are your immediate goals following the election?

1. Partner with communities to review and complete the state plan, which is required by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

2. Meet with leaders in Milwaukee and Madison to discuss and evaluate plans to improve minority achievement and graduation rates.

3. Start changing our state's educational culture. As discussed above, Evers' negative culture hurts our ability to hire and retain the best staff.

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