State Superintendent Tony Evers said today that with Joint Finance Committee members considering ditching Gov. Scott Walker’s budget plan and building one from the ground up, he would fight for Walker’s proposed $649 million increase to public education.
“It’s a step in the right direction and I’m very fearful that if we kind of back off that piece and go to a zero-base budget that we won’t be able to be headed in the right trajectory,” Evers said following a debate at Marquette University Law School.
WisPolitics.com reported Friday that JFC members were wrangling with the question of whether to work off of Walker’s budget or the base, essentially current law. Republicans arguing to work off the base say they could put money into programs, rather than cut from the guv’s plan.
But Evers said starting from a zero base would be a “huge step backwards.”
His opponent, Lowell Holtz, told reporters he supports the governor’s budget, but he trusts JFC members to make the right decision regarding funding.
He said he hasn’t been in office to know where money is being spent wisely and where it isn’t.
“I trust the people that are involved in the process to come up with the right answers,” Holtz said. “So I’m not going to second-guess the governor or the Joint Finance Committee.”
Evers also told reporters he was opposed to a GOP proposal to end the state’s ban on bringing guns into schools.
“Guns in schools carried by officers or other people I just don’t think helps the situation,” Evers said. “I think it makes it more difficult.”
He acknowledged though, that police officers “have an obligation to be armed,” but outside of that, he said he didn’t believe it is helpful.
“Giving concealed carry authority to anybody … that walks on the school ground, I think is a mistake,” Evers said.
Holtz said he has not seen the proposal and declined to say whether he supported the plan until he reviewed it.
During the debate, the two had a testy exchange regarding a memo that sprang from talks Holtz and fellow primary challenger John Humphries had that one could get a six-figure salary and a driver in exchange for the other dropping out of the race.
The memo also included providing Holtz with the authority to take over the state’s five largest school districts, break them apart and write new rules for them.
As Evers began to discuss the memo, Holtz intejected.
“There’s nothing nefarious here, Tony. It was a discussion,” Holtz said. “Express that integrity that you’ve said you have.”
Evers continued, saying his opponents were discussing the deal and writing the plans “on the back of a napkin” when Holtz interrupted again.
“False, false false. I never wrote anything down, not a thing,” Holtz said. “Tell the story the right way or don’t tell it at all.”
Evers said that while the Elections Commission found no legal issues regarding the memo, Evers said the school takeover plan spoke to Holtz’s integrity.
“If that’s your position, you take that position and advocate for that publicly,” Evers said, “You don’t do that on the back of a napkin in a restaurant. That’s where integrity is an issue.”
Holtz said he does not support taking over school districts, and pledged to work with districts to help them develop their own plans to address failing schools.
He suggested creating neighborhood school boards to help oversee neighborhood schools in order to give parents more control.
“We have a lot of good neighborhoods in Milwaukee, but one huge school district,” Holtz said.
Evers said the collaborative approach to working with schools “sounds like what we’re doing.”
“That’s exactly what we’re doing,” Evers said. “I’m glad you’ve come around to my point of view.”
Humphries yesterday filed a campaign finance report with the state Elections Commission listing $1,238 in cash on hand, though his campaign says it has a zero balance.
A comment submitted with the report covering Feb. 6 to March 20 acknowledged the “minor discrepancy,” but said the account has no money and “will be closed this week.”
It also said the campaign “will be meeting to resolve this discrepancy within the next week or two and will submit.”
A spokesman for Humphries’ campaign didn’t respond to requests for more information.
The report shows Humphries accounted for $6,858 of the $14,383 he raised during the reporting period.