There is much talk about how the country’s universities are located mostly on the left of the political spectrum. There is no secret that regulations and the “social struggles” they support, the seminars and the general activities of the houses of study are sympathetic to leftist causes. But, there is a problem that is not being addressed, and that is that leftist organizations are also infiltrating the country’s schools. A clear example is the Wisconsin superintendent of public instruction’s race.
A telling election race is brewing in Wisconsin
On April 6, 2021, Wisconsin voters will elect the superintendent of public instruction or, more simply, the head of schools statewide.
There are two candidates for this election. The first is former Brown Deer superintendent Deborah Kerr, who described herself as a “pragmatic Democrat” who supports private school vouchers, i.e., the practice of school choice or, as Corey DeAngelis, one of the most important school choice advocates in America, calls it, “funding students instead of institutions.” The second candidate is Jill Underly, superintendent of the Pecatonica Area School District. She has the backing of teachers’ unions, including the Wisconsin Education Association Council.
The candidate supported by leftist activist and pro-democracy organizations, Underly, is the candidate that does not support school choice. According to The Federalist, between “A Better Wisconsin Together (ABWT), Wisconsin Education Association Council and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin (which typically support Democratic candidates in this type of election) have raised $766,425” for Underly’s campaign.
By contrast, The American Federation for Children, founded by former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who tends to support candidates with conservative pro-school choice positions, has spent only $56,500 for Kerr’s campaign.
The numbers are stark. In financial terms, Underly has a 13-to-1 advantage over Kerr.
The data is revealing since the candidate who is against school choice has a notorious advantage over her opponent, something that directly influences the race.
The left-wing Soros strategy
The conservative media outlet The Federalist calls this strategy “Soros-style fundraising”. That is, leftist organizations and parties focus on small electoral battles by investing heavily in campaigns to ensure victories. One of the electoral races that most benefit him is the superintendencies, as they give him decision-making power over the country’s education sector.
According to the media outlet, since 2015, Soros “has been investing in local elections to push district attorneys soft on crime […] Social instability resulting from rising crime rates and fear contribute to the left’s desires for bigger government. Soros has been quite successful, given that candidates in these elections typically spend around five figures.”
According to the information, Soros pumped “tens of millions of dollars into local races in Texas, Colorado, California, Oregon, Washington, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Arizona.”
Why does the detail about Soros’ fundraising matter? Because left-wing activists relied on this fundraising model and electoral approach to win seats in education. Something conservatives, it seems, wouldn’t put much stock in, as reflected in the Wisconsin superintendency race, which turns out to be a gem for left-wing organizations.
The Federalist spoke with Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin, who asserted that Wisconsin superintendents are good investments for the left because “they’re not really accountable to anyone.” That is, “unlike other states, Wisconsin superintendents are elected, not appointed, and do not report to a state board of education. While education policy is set by the state legislature, the superintendent has great power to interpret laws passed by legislatures and great influence over classroom instruction.”
For this reason, Planned Parenthood is very interested in this type of superintendencies that seem insignificant and with little participation, but that can be functional to their interests if small spaces are conquered in a more or less massive way.
Bender denounced that “Public schools are a mechanism that leftists use to establish a government-controlled system that focuses on political power, campaign dollars and an ideology that is not questioned.” He further added that he believes that the goal of left-leaning organizations is for “K-12 education to be like university education,” i.e., places “where there is no diversity of thought.”
To get an idea of each candidate’s chances, both Kerr and Underly went into the general election with 26.5% and 27.3% of the vote, garnering 86,046 and 88,703 respectively. They defeated Sheila Briggs, Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams, and Joe Fenrick, Troy Gunderson and Steve Krull, who each garnered less than 10%, still, between them, shared 150,014 votes out of 324,762 total votes. In effect, whoever capitalizes on the most votes from defeated opponents will win this election.
Behind Kerr was a controversy that may well have hurt her campaign. The candidate, while superintendent of Brown Deer schools, allegedly used her district email address during academic hours to correspond about her consulting firm’s business. Perhaps this problem and her self-described “Democrat” status took its toll on her when it came time to secure funding.
Despite this, it is quite troubling that the Republicans do not have a strong contender to contest the Wisconsin superintendency. And, dramatically, they are not even supporting the closest candidate ideologically.