Paul Adair is a 21-year Germantown resident, retired scientist, writer, and lecturer.
Don Pridemore, current Republican State Assembly member from the 22nd District, is running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Pridemore is facing incumbent Tony Evers in the April 2nd election. The occupant of this non-partisan office is responsible for overseeing the public school system, including setting state curriculum standards, licensing teachers, and disbursing federal school aid.
Pridemore is by no means a mainstream Republican. Some of his fringe ideas have gained him national notoriety. For example, Pridemore was one of nine Wisconsin politicians who told the Tea Party group Campaign for Liberty that he would support state legislation to declare Obamacare illegal and advocated arresting federal workers who take steps to implement it in Wisconsin.
In November 2010, Pridemore drafted a “papers please” bill, based on the infamous Arizona anti-immigrant law.
Representative Pridemore sponsored 2011 AB 596, allowing the sale of low-efficiency, high wattage incandescent light bulbs. This bill was aimed at circumventing a 2007 Federal energy efficiency law which has become a cause célèbre among the tin-foil hat crowd.
World class research in stem cell science is one of UW-Madison's crowning achievements. These efforts can lead to cures for some of our most grievous diseases. In the name of his rigid ideology, Pridemore sponsored the failed 2011 Assembly Bill 214, which would have effectively ended human stem cell research in our state.
Along with soul-mate Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-Romulus), Pridemore sponsored 2011 Senate Bill 507, which required the state Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize single parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect. In a TMJ 4 interview, Pridemore said that even in abusive relationships, there are other options than divorce. He stated, “"If they can refind those reasons and get back to why they got married in the first place, it might help.”
Pridemore is currently only one of 99 members of the State Assembly. However, he still has been able to garner a great deal of negative national publicity for his wack-a-doodle views. Think of the damage that he could do to the reputation of our state in the highly visible office of State Superintendent of Schools.
It is clear that Don Pridemore is in the extreme fringes of even today's Republican/Tea Party. However, the office to which he aspires is a non-political office. Maybe his bizarre political views wouldn't affect his decisions as State Superintendent of Schools. What about his views on educational topics? What type of education-related bills did Don support during the 2011-2012 legislative sessions? Can this serve as an indicator of his educational priorities?
In 2011, Pridemore voted for the largest cuts in funding to public schools in our state's history. This led to the one year loss of 2,312 public school positions and unprecedented turmoil in our schools. That action alone is not a good omen for someone aspiring to be responsible for our public schools.
At the same time that he was acting to defund public schools, Pridemore was voting to expand the wholesale transfer of taxpayer money to religious and for-profit schools. He voted to remove caps on vouchers in Milwaukee and Racine counties. This is not surprising, as Pridemore received political contributions in 2006 and 2008 from out-of-state Amway heir Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy. The DeVos's are major forces in the school privatization movement.
Further exhibiting his education priorities, Pridemore sponsored 2011 Assembly Bill 188. This legislation attempted to extend the time that schools using racially offensive mascots are given to switch those mascots. You can't make this stuff up!
Pridemore sponsored 2011 Assembly Bill 337, which attempted to remove discussion of contraceptives from school Human Growth and Development curricula and required telling teenagers that abstinence is the preferred choice of behavior.
Local school boards can currently form charter schools in their districts. Pridemore sponsored a failed attempt to remove the charter school decision process from local boards of education and put it in the hands of a statewide board of political appointees. 2011 Assembly Bill 51 speaks volumes on Pridemore's view of local control of schools.
Through his sponsorship of 2011 AB 551, Pridemore attempted to reduce, by more than half, the hours of teacher training required for people with certain bachelor degrees to obtain a teaching permit. In Don's world, teachers don't really need much training before being set loose in the classroom.
Is this what we want in a Superintendent of Public Instruction? Someone who has shown that they want to privatize and decimate the public schools system of which Wisconsin is so proud? Someone who introduced a bill to take decision-making on charter schools away from local school boards and give it to a cabal of Madison politicians? Someone whose wacky policy notions will make Wisconsin a national laughingstock? I should think not.