Tom Barrett made headlines March 30 when he announced he would seek the Democratic nomination in Wisconsin to unseat Republican Gov. Scott Walker in June’s recall election. Barrett previously lost to Walker in the 2010 gubernatorial election, but the Milwaukee mayor jumped into the race on the same day that the state announced that a gubernatorial recall election must take place on June 5, to the joy of the state’s Democratic Party.
However, those who visit the state teachers’ union website will see that the Wisconsin Education Association Council’s previous gubernatorial endorsement has not changed. As of April 2 the union, one of the big political backers of efforts to recall Walker, continued to back Kathleen Falk, an environmental attorney and a former Wisconsin county executive. Falk was diplomatic on Friday, issuing a statement saying that she welcomed Barrett into the race, although she also stressed her fight against Walker’s policy initiatives for over a year.
WEAC previously endorsed Barrett when he lost to Walker in the 2010 race. The union did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In the education section of Barrett’s new campaign website, he emphasizes his previous fight in 2010 to equalize state education funding so that a district’s income levels are taken into account as well as property values. He also highlighted the Youth Summer Jobs Program he launched while serving as Milwaukee’s mayor. Interestingly, he does not mention Walker by name on his education page.
By contrast, Walker is featured prominently on the Falk campaign’s issues page on education. For example, she says that Walker threatened the future of the state by making the biggest cuts to education in Wisconsin’s history. She also specifically calls out Walker for proposing to use state money to fund private-school voucher programs, and says that education reform does not call for “attacking teachers or gutting public schools.”
In a previous life, Barrett served in the U.S. House of Representatives. A quick perusal of his voting record reveals that he voted yes on No Child Left Behind in 2001, although he did sponsor an amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 2001 to recruit and train an additional 100,000 teachers over a seven-year period to reduce class sizes in early grades. He also voted against allowing states to use federal funds for private school vouchers in 1997.
The party primary is on May 8, and the general recall election is June 5.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.