News reports of Democrat Patty Schachtner’s surprise special election win against a Republican for a state Senate seat in Wisconsin’s rural 10th District have said this:
- She won big in a county that elected Donald Trump as president by 17 points last year.
- The victory is a huge “wakeup” call to Republicans, according to Gov. Scott Walker, a conservative Republican.
- She is the St. Croix County medical examiner.
Here’s what they don’t say: She is a former member of the Wisconsin Bear Hunters’ Association, a gun-safety advocate, and a member of the Board of Education in the School District of Somerset who talked about public education while she was campaigning.
In fact, the issue of public education is front and center to Schachtner, and local issues were what helped her win the election, commentators said.
An interest in education issues could affect elections later this year in a state where public education advocates have accused the Walker administration of cutting K-12 funding (even though Walker says he is spending more than ever in the state), stripping teachers of collective bargaining rights and attempting to change the long-standing mission of the University of Wisconsin system.
Her website features “education” at the top of a list of issues she wants to address, and she has said she would push to increase funding for public schools as well as support an effort to allow college graduates to pay off their student loans at lower interest rates.
Here’s what she said as a candidate on a questionnaire by the Hudson Star Observer in response to this query: “What should the state do about attracting and retaining teachers in Wisconsin, especially rural areas?”
In the last five years, we have seen a sharp decline in teachers, especially in rural areas. The state needs to fully fund rural school districts so that teachers can be paid a living wage and so the teaching profession is once again a desired career path. In addition to investing in school districts, we need to invest in the economies of our small towns. Inspiring young people to move to our region for recreation, thriving local business, and broadband capabilities will bring more teachers and other professionals.