Recommendations for DPI Primary

Holtz & HumphriesWe The primary election for Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction Superintendent is Tuesday, February 21st. It is important that you vote in this election because the visions for Wisconsin’s children held by the primary candidates are very, very different.

Tony Evers – Worst Possible Choice

First, if you are against Common Core State Standards, forced high stakes testing, and judging teachers, schools, and districts by so called “Value Added Measures” you simply must vote against current superintendent Tony Evers! Tony Evers made Wisconsin the very first state in the union to adopt Common Core State Standards in 2010. He declared by edict that Common Core State Standards would serve as Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards in June 2010. He has remained an strong proponent of Common Core and its associated high stakes testing regime and intensive data collecting apparatus. If the standardization of minds and destruction of data privacy ushered in my Common Core is important to you, Tony Evers simply must not be your vote this Tuesday!

John Humphries – Problematic At Best

John Humphries platform and campaign team seem to have been put together by committee. Though he touts his endorsements by Republican Chairman of the Assembly Education Committee, Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt along with Democrat state Rep. Jason Fields as “[leading] this nonpartisan campaign with a focus on improving statewide outcomes,” we must point out that these representatives have been strident supporters of so called “education reform”, “accountability”, and school-to-work initiatives that are underpinned by Common Core State Standards and high stakes testing. Though Thiesfeldt pushed for hearings on Common Core Standards in 2013, he offered no bills that tried to reign in data collection, testing, or the standards themselves. Since then Thiesfeldt has been a good soldier for Republican leadership in the effort to erect a centralized education accountability apparatus. Since becoming Education Committe chair, he has seen to it that no repeal of Common Core has seen the light of day. Thiesfeldt is seen as a Robin Vos-Scott Walker puppet and many believe that Humphries himself is being pushed by the Walker-Vos machine to grease the skids for full on centralized, cradle to grave workforce development plans that rely on Common Core and digital badging. Like Thiesfeldt and Fields, Humphries seems to be totally on board with slotting children for jobs at earlier and earlier ages through testing. He has called for tougher standards and tougher district report cards which means more testing and centralized control of schools.

Most problematic is that Humphries testified at Thiesfeldt’s Common Core committee meetings in 2013 heavily IN FAVOR OF COMMON CORE, but now says that he’s against Common Core because “in the years since the adoption of Common Core, good intentions have given way to inadequate communication and poor implementation.” This position almost seems to have been created by a focus group to allow Humphries to garner votes from both sides of the Common Core debate. This sort of doublespeak has been used nationwide by candidates who are generally in favor of the goals of Common Core and just want to attack the poor implementation and PR campaign. Humphries has touted himself as a conservative choice in an effort to contrast himself with Tony Evers, but he has signed the Scott Walker recall petition and also states he voted for Obama and Hillary Clinton. We would note that Scott Walker seems on board with Common Core (despite his stated opposition) and Obama and Clinton are unabashed Common Core proponents. Whatever, your position on Walker, Obama, or Clinton, you must find Humphries’ tendency to want to ride both sides of the fence on important issues like Common Core standards and high stakes testing troubling.

In terms of Common Core, Humphries is problematic. He does not seem to possess actual deep commitment on this issue and seems to spend most of his time with his finger in the air. Being against Common Core, but for increased Accountability of districts to the State is inconsistent. A vote for Humphries is at best a crap-shoot… it is very likely a vote for the status quo, which in Wisconsin is a dismal possibility.

Lowell Holtz – Hope Springs Eternal

Dr. Lowell Holtz shows some signs of actually removing Common Core as Wisconsin’s model academic standards. In communications with Stop Common Core in Wisconsin, he has mentioned that he would remove Common Core, effectively repealing the standards. He has stated that he would give districts wide latitude in adopting their own standards and also provide an avenue for district to avoid Common Core aligned Wisconsin Forward examinations. This would effectively move control over academic standards and testing to the school district, restoring more local control. We want to see more details and believe he should tout these platforms to more effectively differentiate himself from Common Core champion, Tony Evers. We do have some concern for his statement of support for Donald Trump’s secretary of education Betsy DeVos, however, his disdain for Common Core, high stakes testing, and student data collection seems genuine. Questions abound as to whether he could actually prevail in a general election against Evers in April, but we feel that Holtz is the only choice for DPI superintendent that has any hope of starving the data beast, restoring local control of education, and truly repealing Common Core. Holtz is our recommendation for your vote in the Feburary 21st primary.

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About Jeffrey Horn

Jeffrey D. Horn is a father of four children, a grassroots activist, and a data scientist. He is the author of the essay "LEARNING WITH LEVIATHAN: OBJECTIFICATION, SURVEILLANCE, AND CONTROL IN A CONCEALED COMMAND ECONOMY" in the book "Common Ground on Common Core: Voices from across the Political Spectrum Expose the Realities of the Common Core State Standards." Earning his Bachelor of Science degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he also holds a master’s degree in mathematics and a Ph. D. in computer science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. A professional programmer, he works daily to build infrastructure that can be used to leverage Big Data in improving advertising, medical decisions, investing, and more. Very conscious of the tension that exists between technology and personal freedom, he has been educating and advocating against Common Core and high-stakes testing in Wisconsin for several years. Over the course of 2013 and 2014, he spearheaded an initiative to unite a variety of organizations and individuals on Common Core related issues for the purpose of sending several open letters to state-level public officials in Wisconsin. The letters ultimately helped to ensure a series of public hearings on Common Core at locations around the state in late 2013. You can contact Jeff via email at or via Twitter: @jeffreydhorn