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Attorney General Should Investigate School Superintendent Bribery

Issue of the Week

Feb. 21, 2017
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As we go to press, we don’t know which two candidates will make it through Tuesday’s primary election and appear on the April 4 general election as the candidates for state superintendent of public instruction. The Shepherd has endorsed the incumbent, Tony Evers, for his expertise and dedication to helping struggling students throughout the state and his great success over the years as state superintendent.

Although we don’t know who will be on the ballot, we know that Evers’ two Betsy DeVos-supporting challengers—Lowell Holtz and John Humphries—do not deserve to be elected to this position. In fact, they should be investigated by state Attorney General Brad Schimel for their apparent willingness to go along with a payoff scheme funded with taxpayer money. Already, the public interest group One Wisconsin Now has filed a complaint with the state Elections Commission, alleging that the proposal is possibly illegal. 

The scandal unfolded last week, when Humphries produced a draft agreement from December 2016 between himself and Holtz that would encourage one of the right-wing candidates to drop out of the race in return for a $150,000 state job for three years, a taxpayer-funded driver and the power to take over up to five school districts, including the Milwaukee Public Schools. The scheme apparently was the brainchild of unnamed business leaders, which makes the proposal even sleazier. If this dubious scheme was hatched by Wisconsin business leaders we, the public, have a right to know who they are.

Take a step back and think about this: Candidates for public office admit that they were in talks to strike a backroom deal that seems to use taxpayer money to buy one of them out of the primary election or secure the other’s support after the primary. Furthermore, the corrupt candidate that gets bought out of the election with taxpayer dollars gets a position where he can break up the state’s largest public school districts and place them under his control. Should a person who gets bought out of being a candidate get $150,000 per year of our tax dollars plus fringe benefits, or should this person face prison time instead? How do we teach our children to be honest when the state’s highest education officials are totally corrupt?

And just which business leaders are trying to strike a deal to bribe a candidate with taxpayer money and to undermine an election and the state’s democratically elected school boards? And to what end? Are these business leaders looking to profit from getting a stooge they can control in the position of state superintendent? Will taxpayers unwittingly fund a covert plan to enable these corrupt individuals to be in a position to privatize several public schools and turn them over to unaccountable, experimental education profiteers? Milwaukee’s public school advocates successfully fought off an undemocratic takeover last year. Unfortunately these individuals who are always trying to privatize our public schools seem to be interested in how much money they can make off our children rather than what is good for the students.

We are calling on AG Schimel and the Wisconsin Elections Commission to get to the bottom of this corrupt scheme to buy off a candidate for state superintendent with taxpayer money. And we’re calling foul on Holtz, Humphries and their supporters who are looking the other way and ignoring this blatant act of corruption in our midst. Neither Holtz nor Humphries deserves to be rewarded with an election victory on April 4.

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