Andy Mitchell, Candidate for Assembly District 63
Democrat Andy Mitchell is running against Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to represent the 63rd Assembly District. Here are Mitchell's answers to the Shepherd's candidate questionnaire.
Your current occupation, education and career and personal information you’d like our readers to know:
Current: Special education teacher at Horlick High School for Racine Unified School District. Past Employment: Special education teacher, Milwaukee, firefighter and EMT, fire instructor in Arkansas and Wisconsin.
Why are you running for office?
The voters of the 63rd Assembly are not being heard and their needs are not being met. I live with the impact of the priorities of the [Speaker Robin] Vos-led Assembly every day. We are not seeing wise decisions made in terms of how we generate revenue, how we spend that revenue, and how we prioritize the issues that are important to the average citizens. We need to get past the window dressing proposed by Vos and Walker and work towards actual solutions.
What are the top three issues you’d like to address, and how would you address them?
- Restore Wisconsin’s history of supporting education.
- Restore local control that represents the interests of citizens, not special interests.
- Protect our drinking water and natural resources.
All three items would be addressed using the same model. I would work to restore the autonomy of agencies, staffing them again with content specialists not linked to political issues. We also need to make sure these agencies are properly funded and staffed, and are led by experts instead of political appointments. Sometimes, the news we don’t want to hear is exactly the news we do need to hear. My “go to” first choice for advice will always be experts that do not benefit financially from their recommendations.
How would you improve the economic climate in your district?
Businesses, both large and small, want to hire the best and the brightest employees. That means our state should prioritize full and fair funding of our public education system, universities, colleges and technical schools.
We need to have a state-wide partnerships between businesses and technical high schools and colleges to train workers for jobs that businesses need to fill.
Wisconsin is dead last in the entire nation in entrepreneurial activity. That means there aren’t enough direct incentives or financial security for potential entrepreneurs to thrive in the current business climate. Our state should foster business development by granting greater access to start-up funds and recognizing the role research from the UW System plays in helping new businesses and industries. The state set up WEDC but it has not partnered with small businesses to help them. While we need to focus on supporting small businesses, we also need to determine what a “small business” is. The model of using numbers of employees to define a small business can be very deceiving, as mechanization has reduced the need for large staffs in many work environments. Raising the minimum wage is a small, reasonable, and long-overdue step we can take to help lift Wisconsin’s working families out of poverty. The rate has been frozen since 2009. Raising the minimum wage would help more than just the wage earner; it would help every taxpayer in the state while reducing the number of people receiving public assistance.
Do you support the way Wisconsin currently funds public schools? If so, why? If not, what would you like to see instead?
No, I do not. My biggest priority will be restoring the devastating cuts to public education that have happened these past six years. Since 2011, K-12 schools have been cut a billion dollars. These cuts have forced local communities to rely on local referenda just to keep the doors open. In 2016 alone, there were 74 referenda requests for $863 million. It’s clear that Wisconsinites agree that our education cuts were too many and too deep. How often do you see people willing to raise their own taxes?
I believe a strong public education is key to opening the doors of opportunity for millions of Americans. Public schools are the heart and soul of our communities, and where we see a strong commitment to public education we see strong communities.
Over $200 million was cut from our technical college system and the UW System budget was severely reduced by $750 million. Many technical college programs across the state now have long waiting lists for admittance. There is evidence that cutting state aid while freezing tuition for the UW System has decreased the quality of students’ experience and possibly cost them more by increasing class sizes and decreasing class choices, which can mean more time to graduate adding to the financial burden of students and their parents. All totaled, that’s over $2 billion cut from our public institutions. These are the largest cuts in Wisconsin’s history.
Do you think the state should support more voucher and charter schools? Should their per pupil funding increase?
I support our public schools. Instead of creating a separate school system, we should work on funding and supporting our public school system. That would help the quality of education for all students. Unfortunately, private voucher schools are unaccountable to taxpayers and communities. Since they are now being funded by taxpayers, they should be accountable to us. Too many of these schools have failed and have closed their doors sending the children back to public schools. The funding has not been returned to the schools with the closure. This needs to be corrected.
Should the state further intervene in the Milwaukee Public Schools?
Only if we are talking about correcting funding. They have also had their funding cut significantly. I believe in local controls and feel the school board in Milwaukee should be the ones to advocate for the schools. The state Legislature has voted to turn the schools over to the county executive if the schools are failing. But, Milwaukee has had vouchers and charter schools for 25 years and that has not solved the problem. Creating good jobs in poor neighborhoods will give students concrete reasons to complete their education.
How should the state pay for freeway projects and local roadways?
As a state representative, I will fight to ensure sustainable transportation funding that doesn’t just shift the burden to local taxpayers. We should look at all options available for sustainable funding.
Is the state adequately funding public transit?
No. We have had fewer drivers on Wisconsin roads for several years now. It is pretty apparent to me that more Americans are willing to look at options other than owning their own car. My opponent has voted against attempts to create regional transportation services. If we want people to work, we must provide them a means to get there.
Would you support allowing local communities increase their sales tax?
Yes. “Local control” means if my community wants to increase their taxes—any of their taxes—that is their decision. Communities need to decide their local priorities, not Madison.
Do you believe a woman has the right to choose an abortion?
I think we can reduce the number of abortions without making the process illegal. Making abortions illegal would simply return us to the history of “backroom abortions.” Some ideas include encouraging more to consider adoption (both of our children are adopted), easier access to birth control and real-world sex education in our schools.
Is the state doing an adequate job of protecting Wisconsin’s natural resources?
I am very concerned about our water here in the southeastern Wisconsin region. Wisconsinites deserve to know that their families are drinking safe water. Ensuring that our water is safe for our children to drink, for recreational use and for our family farmers to use is not government overreach, its common sense. The DNR has had their budget, staffing and independence from political pressure cut significantly and are not able to monitor all the environmental needs in the state. We must remember that safe drinking water is a must and we cannot assume that it will always be there. Right now it is part of a give-away in the political system. Many of these newly licensed high capacity wells have drained lakes and rivers putting our $19 billion recreation industry at risk, not to mention the safety and well-being of Wisconsin families.
To learn more about Andy Mitchell, go to AndyMitchellforAssembly.com.