Only one statewide race will be on everyone’s ballot: State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Jill Underly and Deborah Kerr will duke it out for this “nonpartisan” position, which was held by Tony Evers before he was elected governor two years ago.
A handful of district-specific races may also appear on your ballot: Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge (Branch 3), Milwaukee Board of School Directors (Districts 4 and 5), and County Supervisor (District 10). Oh, and there will likely be a bunch of non-contested, one-candidate races, too. Those races are not included in this voting guide.
In-person absentee voting begins March 23 and runs through April 4. (Already have a ballot? Return it ASAP.) Find out what will be on your ballot, how and where to vote (including absentee), and much more HERE. Find the Wisconsin Elections Commission’s “Important things voters should know for Election Day” HERE. Vote!
• Current superintendent for Pecatonica Area School District
• Backed by groups that typically back Democrats
• Opposes private school vouchers
• CONTROVERSY! Despite opposing private school vouchers, Underly sent her two children to a private school from 2013-2015.
BACKGROUND: With over two decades of public education experience, including her current 6 years as the Superintendent of the Pecatonica School District and 5 years at the Department of Public Instruction in both Educator Licensing and Title I, Dr. Underly has been committed to ensuring that every child, every day, has the opportunity for a first-class public education in the State of Wisconsin.
ISSUES: Every Child, Every Day Deserves: High Quality Early Childhood Education no matter their zip code. Adequate and Fair Funding—regardless of where they live. All Wisconsin public schools must be able to fund schools to 21st century standards for personnel, facilities, technology, required programming and curriculum…and staunchly opposed to private school voucher expansion. Mental Health and Emotional Wellness Support. Top-notch, specially trained teachers in rural and urban school settings. Education equity for all students, especially students of color, LGBTQ+ students, students with disabilities, and all other students that face inequity in our public schools.
• Former superintendent for Brown Deer School District
• Backed by groups that typically back Republicans
• Supports private school vouchers
• CONTROVERSY! On the night of her primary victory, Kerr replied to a Twitter prompt about the N-word, saying she had been called it in high school because “my lips were bigger than most and that was the reference given to me.”
BACKGROUND: 40 Years in Education; 21 Years as Superintendent of Public Rural and Suburban Districts (Stepped down in June 2020 after 13 years as proud Superintendent of Brown Deer Schools, a majority-minority district with 80% students of color and 50% in poverty); Co-Chair of the UW System Task Force (To Advance Teachers and Leaders into the Pipeline); President of National and State Superintendent Associations (The School Superintendents Association (AASA) and Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators (WASDA)); Worked in All Sectors of Education (Parochial, charter, private and public schools); Adjunct Professor at Local Universities; Champion of Excellence and Equity for ALL Students; Mentor and Advocate for Women Leaders; Founding Member of Women Leading Wisconsin; Coach of Back-to-back Girls Varsity Basketball State Championships; Athletic Director, Physical Education Teacher; Middle School Principal, Assistant Principal; President of North Shore Rotary; Mom of Rizzo, Beloved 3-year-old Labrador Retriever (Rizzo is a friend of many Brown Deer Students and staff!)
ISSUES: As Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Deb Kerr will create a world-class education system that makes Wisconsin the highest performing state in the country: Ensure Success for All Students through Equity with Excellence; Innovate and Personalize Learning for All Students; Engage Families and Communities as Partners; Lead with Strength and Respect, and Honor all Stakeholders.
• Graduate of Marquette University Law School
• Former Brewcity Bruiser
• Lives in Riverwest
• Endorsed by Milwaukee Area Labor Council, AFT Local 212, IBEW Local Union 494, United Auto Workers, Black Leaders Organizing For Communities, Wisconsin Justice Initiative Action, AFSCME, Shepherd Express, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley, more
BACKGROUND: A graduate of Marquette University Law School, Katie continues her affiliation there as an adjunct professor of law, and now teaches a Street Law program she participated in as a law student. The program trains law students to teach law to local high school students for one year. Katie was also active in the restorative justice program at Marquette. During her career, Katie also worked in the drug and OWI treatment courts, and is a member of various collaborative committees dedicated to evidence based practices.
• Graduate of Marquette University Law School
• Named partner in Kohn Smith Roth (January 2013)
• Lives in Bay View
• Endorsed by Milwaukee Police Association, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, Milwaukee County Register of Deeds Israel Ramón, Milwaukee City Attorney Tearman Spencer, South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks, West Allis Mayor Dan Devine, Greenfield Mayor Michael Neitzke, St. Francis Mayor Ken Tutaj, more
BACKGROUND: Born and raised in Milwaukee County, Susan lived in Cudahy until she was 11 years old, then moved to Bay View Neighborhood where she’s lived ever since. Sacred Heart Grammar School; St. Thomas More High School (2000); University of Wisconsin – Madison (2004); Marquette University Law School (2007); Intern with Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office 3rd year of law school; Hired by Kohn & Smith out of law school (June 2007); Named partner in Kohn Smith Roth (January 2013); Winner of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers “Advocates Prize.”
BACKGROUND: Aisha Carr is a single-mother, educator, mentor, and community organizer. Carr is a graduate of both the public and private education sectors, and the single-mother of a soon-to-be high school freshman. She is also the product of the foster-care system and a single-father household. Carr has devoted her entire professional career to the advancement of students of color, fighting for racial and educational equity. She is eager to bring her lifelong commitment to equity and her varied personal and professional experiences to the Milwaukee School Board.
ISSUES: Students are failing academically, socially, behaviorally, physically. We cannot afford to fail any more students. Taxpayers cannot afford to continue to pay for prisons and ineffective, for-profit “Educational” institutions that are not producing the results. This past OSPP legislation was not the first attempt to take-over the public education system and it definitely won’t be the last. We need to get up and fight power with power by organizing parents, students, leaders, educators and elect leaders who will advocate for the interests of our communities. As a member of the school board, I will prioritize students, parents, and educators to build a school system that delivers on this promise.
BACKGROUND: I am Rev. Dana Kelley, a servant leader! I am a servant leader in the community of faith, currently serving as Assistant Pastor of The Reviving Faith Movement Church. I am a servant leader in my family, where I serve as the mother of two amazing adult sons (Delvante’ and Tyler Tatum), grandmother to my outstanding GlamSon (Dell Khalid Tatum), and mother-in-love to my beautiful daughter (Khali Jackson). I am a servant leader in the North Side community of Milwaukee, where I serve as Lead Organizer of North Side Rising, a community organizing Co-op of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. I am a proud alumna of the Milwaukee Public School System and a graduate of North Division High School (Go Blue Devils!!!). I have also completed parts of my higher education through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Milwaukee Area Technical College.
ISSUES: I am someone who believes in radical change. Our world needs to be transformed- our current system of capitalism is not the right system. I am running for this office as a democratic socialist, which means that I hope to empower regular people to make the economic decisions that affect all of us. Socialism means community control. I have been endorsed by the Milwaukee Democratic Socialists of America. I proudly accept their endorsement and I am glad to call myself a member of DSA.
BACKGROUND: As an MPS teacher, past union president and active community leader, I have the vision, experience and drive to deliver this transformative change for our students and city. As president of the substitute teachers’ union for four years, I defied the skeptics and won healthcare benefits for many substitute teachers by engaging in a 21-day hunger strike. I also defeated efforts to privatize our jobs via a temp agency and organized volunteers to knock on hundreds of doors to help win a historic referendum to increase funding for our schools by millions of dollars.
As an active community leader, I am the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, which fights for retirees alongside labor unions. I am also the elected Treasurer of the Milwaukee Democratic Socialists of America and a leader in the movement for a Green New Deal. As an MPS educator and substitute teacher, I have educated students across our city for more than six years, building a strong reputation as a sought-after, high-quality educator and making lasting and impactful connections with students.
ISSUES: As a School Board Director, Alex Brower will: Democratize education by opening up school and district-wide decision making to our community; Fight for public schools by holding charter and voucher schools accountable; Create a Green New Deal for MPS by working to achieve MPS’ energy independence from fossil fuels and providing every student with an environment that supports their health, including providing high quality, healthy foods; mental health support instead of an unqualified police presence; and removing toxic infrastructure like lead; Stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter at School and work to end the school-to-prison pipeline; Champion the struggle of MPS workers by providing healthcare to all full time employees regardless of what school they work in, ending the use of temp agencies, providing living wages, and doing everything possible to support and retain educators and staff of color; Ensure every student has access to the high quality education they need and deserve.
BACKGROUND: Jilly Gokalgandhi was born in Mumbai, India and immigrated to the United States as a child. Her parents, Bharat and Sangeeta, despite having polio, worked tirelessly to navigate a vastly different system and culture in hopes of providing a brighter future with more opportunity for their children.
A proud product of K-12 public education, Jilly benefited from quality public school teachers, growing up with access to arts, music, and bilingual (English + Spanish) education, inspiring her to advocate for educational equity for all students. Through her career in the Milwaukee, she has worked to build community partnerships for greater support and investment in our public schools.
As a Community Schools Coordinator at Bradley Tech High School, Jilly brought teachers, students, administrators, neighbors and community partners together to ensure student success. This team used collaborative decision making to create school budgets, strategic plans and curricular changes.
Jilly created space for Rockwell Automation employees to connect with Milwaukee Public Schools students through Girls in STEM at Escuela Vieau and Rogers Street Academy and with middle and high school students during Engineers Week. These connections allowed for an authentic encounter over a shared passion.
At Employ Milwaukee, Jilly secured funding and advocated for policies advancing youth workforce development programs at the local, state, and federal level.
ISSUES: Protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of our community. Support our schools during COVID-19 by providing sanitization products and personal protective equipment for in-person learning and robust technology services for world-class virtual learning. Fight for equitable funding. Fight to adequately fund schools to attract and retain high-quality dedicated teachers, support students with special needs and English language learners, and provide needed classroom supplies and technology. Promote anti-racist and culturally relevant teaching. Commit to a robust anti-racism, anti-bullying professional development plan and school curriculum that supports, celebrates, and promotes our diverse student body and community. Create a culture of shared decision-making. Adopt “Community Schools” values which ensures all stakeholders—teachers, students, parents, and community members—collaborate in decision-making. Build inclusion for women and gender non-conforming students. In parallel with the Black & Latino Male Achievement Program, create an inclusive initiative for young women and gender non-conforming students to thrive inside and outside the classroom. Protect public education and oppose privatization. Be the best stewards of taxpayer dollars by providing excellent public instruction.
BACKGROUND: Founder of Urban Grassroots INC. an organization that has worked in various neighborhoods doing non-violence education, community cleanups, beautification projects, planting trees and working to rid hunger/food insecurities-10 years. King Advisory Inc. Board Member – 10 years. Director of the Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Back to school Festival Youth Stage Talent showcase – 10 years. City of Milwaukee Bronzeville Board Member – 5 years. Coordinator of City of Milwaukee Fourth of July City Programs at the Dr. Martin L. King, Jr Park – 5 years. Basketball Referee, Midwest Minority Association – 9 years. Member of Holy Redeemer Institutional Church of God In Christ – 18 years. Priscilla Coggs-Jones was born and raised in the 10th County Supervisory district and is the proud mother of one son.
ISSUES: Coggs-Jones’ commitment to the park’s system was nurtured as she was employed at the Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Park. Her more than 10 years of experience working in the Human Resources field has aided in Coggs-Jones recognizing the need for more employment opportunities for residents. She plans to spend time talking and meeting with residents to hear their concerns and ideas. “Through the years, I have continued our family’s tradition of service to the people. Although I stand on the shoulders of my mother, who had the privilege of serving this district for many years, and my family whose service has been felt in Milwaukee and across the State of Wisconsin, I intend to earn the support of residents based on my individual ideas and efforts for this district.”
BACKGROUND: I was born and raised in the 10th District. Attended Reagan High School (Milwaukee) and Howard University (Washington DC). Began working for the environment with Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center when I was 14. Started my leadership development training at Urban Underground at age 15. Served as a Public Ally for two years. I’ve held leadership positions on many campaigns for Black candidates to change the face of government in Milwaukee, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Alaska. I’m a homegrown alumni of Urban Underground Alum where I now serve as Youth Program Manager. I served as a Fellow for the National Youth Alliance for Boys and Men of Color where I was granted $600,000 to explore a participatory budgeting framework. I’m a long-standing member of “Youth Justice Milwaukee” where I fought abuse at youth prisons while advocating for community-based support for youth to prevent incarceration and increase public safety.
ISSUES: We need to fully funded senior centers, culturally responsive programs, and dementia advocacy that will give residents the support they need to age in place with dignity. We must invest in a realistic continuum of care that prevents and reduces incarceration. This will pay for itself with cost savings and allow us to reallocate funds to community-oriented safety. I believe paratransit has not been serving all of us equally in order to grow full participation within our community. I will help ensure all county services are integrated to prevent disruption in care and services for our neighbors of all ages and abilities. I’m a champion for “Right to Shelter and Counsel” resolutions that will prevent eviction and reduce homelessness. Our Housing Division needs support to respond to the current demands for equity. My passion is to create a local food production and distribution network based in our beautiful parks. This will fund needed maintenance while cultivating a green career pipeline for residents. I’m committed to innovating and expanding transit options to connect us to more jobs and more neighborhoods. By truly embracing green energy, we’ll reduce both costs and environmental pollution.
Exclusive articles, podcasts, and more. Support Milwaukee Record on Patreon.
• Underly, Kerr move on in state superintendent race; socialist group congratulates other winners
• Here’s your handy 2021 Spring Primary voting guide for Wisconsin school superintendent
• Here’s your handy 2021 Spring Primary voting guide for the contested Milwaukee School Board races