McCoshen and Ross on the Superintendent Election

McCoshen and Ross on the Superintendent Election
Political panelists Bill McCoshen and Scot Ross break down the “Here & Now” interviews of schools superintendent candidates Deborah Kerr and Jill Underly, and discuss the political dynamics of their campaigns.

Transcript

Frederica Freyberg:

Joining us now to look ahead to Election Day and for analysis of the candidate conversation that just took place, “Here & Now” political panelists Republican Bill McCoshen and Democrat Scot Ross. Thanks for being here.

 

Bill McCoshen, Scot Ross:

Thanks for having us.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

So first to you, Scot. What’s your reaction to that interview that we just aired?

 

Scot Ross:

Well, I think it shows the real difference between the two candidates. Jill Underly believes that every student deserves a high-quality public education every day no matter where their zip code is and Deb Kerr is floundering about trying to cobble together some sort of Republican coalition to win on Election Day. I thought the contrast was very stark. It was between an educator and a politician.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

Bill, what do you think?

 

Bill McCoshen:

Well, I think where I disagree with Scot is I think it was two qualified individuals running for this position. Deb Kerr has been in public education for 40 years now. Jill Underly for a little over 20 years. So they both have been superintendents of successful school districts. Deb Kerr, a majority/minority school district Brown Dear. 80% of the students are Black or brown. She’s eliminated the achievement gap there. Jill Underly in Pecatonica, it’s only 1% Black or brown. So I mean I think where Scot and I will disagree the most is on the issues people care about. I think people want their kids back in school. Deb Kerr is for that. I think they want these achievement gaps eliminated. Deb Kerr has done that at Brown Deer.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

I want to ask at this point why is this race for school superintendent so angry? Scot?

 

Scot Ross:

Well, I think it’s the tenor of the times. Right now we have a Republican Party that has gone full QAnon. They continue to push the big lie. They continue to stop, try to prevent people from voting. They’re attacking transgender students, something that Deb Kerr supports. I think that’s why there’s a certain nastiness to this. I think Dr. Underly has shown herself to be no drama, to be very competent, to be reliable, to be steady. I think that’s what the voters are looking for. I think it’s what they’ve had in the last several DPI candidates including current Governor Tony Evers.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

So, Bill, he’s blaming the Republicans. I trust you blame the Democrats.

 

Bill McCoshen:

Well, the Democrats threw the mud first here. Don’t forget, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin has put almost a million dollars in this race. The Republican Party of Wisconsin hasn’t put any money in Deb Kerr’s race. Clearly Jill Underly is the democratic favorite and more importantly, she’s the teachers’ union candidates. Deb Kerr is for the kids. Jill Underly is for the teachers. I think where Scot’s wrong about this. It got a little messy early on tertiary issues. Things that are really not relevant to this race. I wish they would have been able to speak about issues throughout the race including school choice. Deb Kerr’s a supporter of school choice. Jill Underly is not. In fact, Jill Underly was a hypocrite about this. She says she’s for public schools, but she sent her own kids to private schools when she lived in Madison.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

She said that was about finding a place for 4-K and after-school care. But, right, that was something that came up in this campaign. But, Scot, why did the Dems put so much money into this race? Like what, 16 times more than Kerr’s contributions?

 

Scot Ross:

Well, I think it’s because it shows they want to see a good, competent DPI secretary. The fact is is that every — when we do these spring elections, Republicans when it comes to things like the Supreme Court, the Republican Party is always the largest funder of the conservative candidate. So I’m glad to see Democrats jumping into these races because I think people deserve to have a full understanding of the issues. Democrats have been able to do that by talking about things like Deb Kerr’s financial mismanagement that cost Wisconsin taxpayers $136,000. The fact that she had to take down her Twitter feed. That’s pretty bad. She lost her campaign team. These are all signs of somebody who is not up to the task of managing the statewide education of our kids.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

It begs the question, Bill, why didn’t the Betsy DeVoses of the world pour money into Kerr when they saw the Dem expenditures?

 

Bill McCoshen:

I don’t think they saw the sharp contrast they were looking for early in the general election. Scot’s right. There were some missteps by the Kerr campaign. Once she got over them, the sharp contrast began to appear, particularly on the school choice issue and the reopening of all schools. We know that urban school districts in Madison and Milwaukee, for example, still don’t have their high school students back in the classroom. That’s something that Deb Kerr is for. I think it was a mistake by the choice people and frankly the business community not getting more involved in this race earlier.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

Bill, how badly does Deb Kerr’s former employee and the subject of Underly’s ad hurt Kerr? This is the finance manager in the Brown Deer School District and all of that. Does that hurt Kerr?

 

Bill McCoshen:

No. Just so we’re all clear about this and your viewers, this is pre-Act 10 and it was much harder to fire a bad employee in those days. Had that all occurred after Act 10, Deb could have acted more swiftly to get rid of that person.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

So Scot, Jill Underly says that goes to judgment, that kind of thing.

 

Scot Ross:

Absolutely. I want to just — Bill’s point on the choice community not getting involved as much, the DeVos folks, I think if Deb Kerr had started her campaign attacking teachers over and over again like she’s done the last couple weeks in particularly in your good debate, I think they would have come in a lot earlier because that’s seems to be what she has to say, the teachers are the problem. That is absolutely not what the voters of Wisconsin believe.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

So Scot —

 

Bill McCoshen:

I think what she’s saying is the union is the problem, not the teachers. I think Deb Kerr believes the teachers want to be back in the classroom, but it’s the unions in certain large urban areas that are preventing that. In fact, Jill Underly is having an event with the teacher union in Madison today while Madison high school students can’t be in the classroom. The ultimate irony.

 

Scot Ross:

I don’t think the question is why Jill Underly is getting the support of the hard-working teachers all across the state of Wisconsin. The question is why isn’t Deb Kerr? It’s because she’s anti-public education. It’s because she waivers on a lot of these things. It’s because of her judgment. And honestly, it’s because Scott Walker supports her campaign.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

I want to —

 

Bill McCoshen:

Let’s face it. She’s a first-time candidate. So she’s made some mistakes along the way and yes, there was a change in campaign team. You know, Underly’s had the benefit of a professional campaign team and lots and lots of money all the way through. But at the end of the day on Tuesday, this is going to be a low turnout election and anything can happen. Typically in a spring election, the voting population tends to be older, they tend to be more white and they tend to be a little bit more conservative or Republican-leaning. So despite being out-spent by at least 16-1, Deb Kerr is very much still in this race.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

Because I would image the kinds of people that would be motivated to vote in this kind of low turnout race would be school choice advocates and teachers. Scot, who do you think has more oomph in that crowd?

 

Scot Ross:

Well, I think — I mean I agree with Bill, I think the turnout could be lower than we’ve had in the past. But I also know that, like you say, teachers are an active part of the voting population, especially in a DPI spring race. It is an older demographic. They’re going to get their information, a lot of them get their information from television news unlike the youngs and television news has been showing a lot of the ads for — that are against Deb Kerr’s performance and for Jill Underly’s support. So I think it’s going to be a — everybody has to do what they need to do in order to get across the finish line. I think maybe the turnout will be a little bit higher than what Bill’s predicting, but I think it’s within the realm that Jill Underly gets across the finish lights first on Election Day.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

We’ll see what happens. Bill and Scot, thanks for joining us on this.

 

Bill McCoshen, Scot Ross:

Thanks for having us.


Latest Election News