Jill Underly to serve as Wisconsin’s top education official

NOW: Jill Underly to serve as Wisconsin’s top education official

Wisconsin (CBS 58) -- Jill Underly, who was backed by Democrats, will serve as the top education official to oversee K-12 schools, based on unofficial election results. 

The race for state superintendent of schools was called about an hour and a half after polls closed, showing Underly with a double-digit win over her opponent, Deb Kerr. 

The election is nonpartisan, but Democrats gave Underly a massive fundraising boost over Kerr, who was backed by former governor Scott Walker and other conservatives. 

“I’m honored and humbled by the trust voters have placed in me, and I’m overcome with gratitude by the incredible support we had in this journey,” Underly said. 

During the campaign, Underly focused on the challenges that lie ahead as the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on children, mainly with virtually learning. 

“Wisconsin’s kids and public schools face significant challenges as we work to return to normal, get every student caught up, and support their mental health and wellbeing in the aftermath of this pandemic and the enormous trauma and disruption it’s caused for all of us,” she said. “Overcoming these hurdles won’t be easy, but I know that if we work together, we can get it done and do what’s right for our kids.”

Outside spending in the race topped 1 million, the most ever spent by special interest groups in a nonpartisan matchup, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, who tracks campaign spending. 

Kerr thanked her supporters after the race was called during an election watch party held in Brown Deer. 

“We may have come up short in this race, but this race wasn’t about me, it was always about our kids and families and how they were struggling in these times. Still, I have hope on the horizon and I hope you can see that too,” Kerr said. 

Underly will leave her position as the Pecatonica superintendent to lead the Department of Public Instruction, where she formerly worked. 

One of her main priorities on the campaign was to make changes to the school funding formula, including more money for mental health programs, special education and rural districts.

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