Wednesday, February 4

State Superintendent: Rose Fernandez

Nonpartisan parent with a desire for more local, parental, and institutional flexibility

You can tell when someone is passionate about what they are running for when a ten minute interview turns into forty. As I have continued to learn, the position of state superintendent has very little delegated authority, but what authority the office has through advocacy and influence Fernandez plans to use.

Fernandez first became interested in the position when she led a group of parents who successfully fought to keep their charter school from the legal harassing of WEAC. DPI was named in WEAC's charges against the school, but instead of defending the parents and children, they turned WEAC lapdog and ended up supporting WEAC. But Fernandez fought back and helped pass bipartisan legislation to keep the charter schools.

It is this advocacy for parents and children in the face of special interest that Fernandez says she wants to continue as State Superintendent. "Money is not always the answer" she warns, but that does not keep Fernandez from offering bold ideas. Fernandez has proposed a turnaround team for the Milwaukee School District that would empower a "team of community leaders to reform curriculum, negotiate with the teachers, and determine whether to divide up the school district" among other things.

These ideas aren't ones that come from inside the educational establishment, but little about Fernandez has an insider feel. Fernandez also wants merit pay for teachers so that the local school districts have more control. Indeed, the local control is a reoccurring theme for many of the solutions that Fernandez envisions. Rather than framing different school options by quotas or five point plans, she talked about local school districts having the ability to add charter schools, vouchers and even online learning alternatives if that is what parents and the local school governments desire. Even hot button issues like sex ed and creation and evolution were examples for Fernandez of where local communities and parents should take the lead in determining what is best for their children rather than those at the top.

"I give all the credit in the world to those who take advantage of [homeschooling]," Fernandez said when talking specifically about homeschooling. It is these sort of options that Fernandez would love to see further utilized and encouraged at the DPI rather than the sabotage she encountered when she looked as a parent for help from this same institution a few years ago.

Correction: Originally the piece said that Fernandez wanted to abolish QEO. She wants to keep QEO but wants merit pay to be given out under the QEO.