State Superintendent Candidate Dr. Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams
Pushing for School (Funding) Reform
Dr. Shandoelyon Hendricks-Williams at her Silver Spring
Drive home in Milwaukee.
enroll their children in private schools, if we look at also some of the rebates and levies that people are able to benefit from, then it’s not just the choice and charter
schools that are syphoning off educational funding. There are other funding decisions and other places that educational funding is going to where it does not end up
in schools. And so we’ll be involved in a debate on Wednesday night around school funding with the other candidates. And some of that is going to be elevated
because when we talk about charter and choice, it’s not as if charter and choice are the only areas where some funding is supposed to go towards schools and
doesn’t end up in schools. And so it is a very larger conversation than just charter and choice. It’s a conversation about people being able to write-off expenses
because they make a choice. Certain taxpayers can afford to send their children to private schools, make a choice to dos so and then they are given a tax break that
comes out of the taxpayers’ dollars. So if we are going to do that, if we are going to talk about where money is going that is supposed to be going to education, then
we need to pull back all of the money, including those rebates from families who are able to write-off their tuition and put all of that money back into education.”

And in part to the inequitable funding distribution for schools, Hendricks-Williams feels that teachers are inequitably distributed as well.

“We have the best and most experienced teachers who do not teach in our most needy school districts and schools,” Hendricks-Williams said. “We need
experienced, licensed talented teachers teaching in our most needy schools. There is data that shows that our most needy students being students of color, students
with disabilities and students for which English is a second language are more prone to having first or second year teachers who are inexperienced and even more
devastating, teachers working on a teacher’s permit or substitute license. That undermines the ability for that child to receive high-quality instruction from a teacher
who possess the knowledge, skills and disposition to deliver that.”

And it is this inequity at the start of a child’s life that contributes to the inequities that the child will continue to experience as a teenager into adulthood.

“The achievement gap is very haunting, disturbing and disappointing to me as a person of color,” Hendricks-Williams said. “For me as an African American to live in
Wisconsin and know that it is on so many naughty lists: the worst place for an African American child to grow up, the largest achievement gap, the highest
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling

Dr. Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams didn’t necessarily intend to become an educator growing up. It
grew more out of a love for her son who had multiple disabilities and the somewhat “foreign”
educational institution to which she would be entrusting her son’s future to. She wasn’t going to
leave anything up to chance.

And Hendricks-Williams firmly believes that parents should be able to choose which school is best
for their child, that they shouldn’t be trapped by an educational system in inferior schools, but should
be able to choose a school of excellence no matter what that school may be.

Hendricks-Williams believes in public education. It’s just that its impact is disparate and a lot of that
has to do with funding in Hendricks-Williams view.

“There have been conditions that have been allowed to exist that made it permissible for people to
say we need to have other choices,” Hendricks-Williams said. “If we eliminated those conditions
and we created equitable funding and we looked at how we also give tax credits to people who
disparities in unemployment, the highest disparities in homeownership, the
highest disparities in income, and the highest disparities in incarceration
rates. The achievement gap leads to all of these other things. When we have
individuals who are not able to graduate ready for life, ready for adult day
programs or sheltered workshops if they are disabled, not ready to go into
apprenticeship or trade, not ready to go into the military or Peace Corps or
college or careers, then we have all of these other things. We have people
who don’t have the skills to get a job, so we have unemployment. We have
people who aren’t able to earn the money to buy a house, so we have the
homeownership gap. We have people who cannot become entrepreneurs
that they want to become and open up businesses. We have the health gap
because people don’t have jobs that offer health insurance or there is a lack
of access to high quality health care in certain zip codes. All of these are a
result of not educating all of our Wisconsinites and the achievement gap.”

Hendricks-Williams sums up her campaign platform in her Bill of Rights for
Students that she says is based on Wisconsin court cases and Wisconsin
statutes.

“In Wisconsin statutes, it says reading, math, writing, science, social
studies, phy ed, art, music, health and social sciences should be taught,”
Hendricks-Williams said. “It’s not just a wish list that I sat down and wrote.
It is something that the state legislature has passed as statutes. It is
something that Supreme Court justices have rendered a discussion about as
it relates to what happens in Wisconsin. And it is grounded in research as it
relates to what we need to provide our children if they are to graduate and
be successful. If we are going to continue to have entrepreneurs, if we are
going to have people who can buy homes and contribute to property taxes
that are used in municipalities for various reasons, if we are going to lower
the incarceration rate, if we are going to increase employment and
entrepreneurship, if we are going to increase the number of our young
people in Wisconsin who will pursue the military, if we are going to increase
not just college enrollment, but also college completion rates, these are the
things that we need to do.”

Hendricks-Williams is ready to take on the inequities in Wisconsin’s public
education.