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Elections for superintendent, high court judge next week

Wisconsin voters will go to the polls April 7 to select a new superintendent of public instruction and a Supreme Court justice.

Rose Fernandez, Mukwonago, and Tony Evers, Madison, are candidates for a four-year term to replace Elizabeth Burmaster, who's headed the Department of Public Instruction since 2001.

Jefferson County Judge Randy Koschnick, Oconomowoc, is challenging 32-year incumbent Shirley Abrahamson, Madison, for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The DPI provides direction and technical assistance for public elementary and secondary education. It offers programs and services to local school administrators, distributes state financial aid and administers federal aid. The current salary for state superintendent is $122,516.

The Supreme Court is composed of seven justices. It may review cases decided in any lower court or it may hear original actions. Justices are elected to 10-year terms.

The justice who has served the longest consecutive term is chief justice. The salaries are $137,414 for a justice and $145,414 for the chief justice.

Superintendent candidates

Rose Fernandez is president of the Wisconsin Coalition of Virtual Schools. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing.

After completing her master's degree in pediatric nursing at UW-Madison, she was named patient care manager of the Emergency Department Trauma Center of Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

After marrying and starting a family, Fernandez worked part time in a home health agency and later took a management position there.

When she enrolled her older children in a public charter school, Fernandez became an advocate for education reform.

According to Fernandez's website,, she "defeated the Wisconsin Education Association Council and the Department of Public Instruction to save Wisconsin's virtual schools."

"Pouring more money at a problem doesn't solve it. That's true in business, government and public schools," said Fernandez. "The decisions we face center around not just investment in education. It's about the return on that investment."

Tony Evers, the current deputy state superintendent of public instruction, is endorsed by the Wisconsin Education Association Council.

Evers holds master's and doctorate degrees from UW-Madison. He has worked over 34 years as a teacher, principal, superintendent, regional administrator and deputy state superintendent.

Evers lists fair and sustainable funding for education, safe and respectful schools, investment in innovation that works, "every child a graduate," and the recruitment and retention of quality teachers among his priorities.

"Children, no matter where they live, from Milwaukee to Mellen, must have the same opportunities," says Evers on his Web site. "For this to happen, we must ensure that the state continues to provide its two-thirds funding commitment."

His Web site is

"I will be a tireless advocate for Wisconsin schools," says Evers. "I will bring experience, accountability and fiscal responsibility to this office."

Supreme Court candidates

Randy Koschnick has served as one of four judges in Jefferson County in southeastern Wisconsin for nearly a decade.

Before being elected to the circuit court, he was a public defender for 14 years in La Crosse and Jefferson counties.

He earned his law degree from Hamline University School of Law and worked as an intern in the Homicide and Sexual Assault Prosecution Unit of the Hennepin (Minn.) county attorney's office.

"I think that I have a good, well-rounded background," said Koschnick of his work as a trial-court judge, as a public defender and in prosecution.

"The role of a justice is to apply the law, not make it," he said. "I pledge to not legislate from the bench."

Koschnick's Web site is

Shirley Abrahamson has been chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court since 1996 and a justice since 1976. She practiced law in Madison and taught at both Marquette and UW-Madison law schools.

Her law degree is from Indiana University, and her doctorate of law is from UW-Madison.

"I have visited every county in the state," Abrahamson replied to a League of Women Voters question about her qualifications. "Judges must understand people's perceptions of the system, so we can improve it."

She added, "A good justice has the ability and discipline to interpret the Legislature's language and intent in light of the constitutions, the legal precedents and the facts of the case. That ability, exercised impartially, fairly and independently of any agenda, is essential to the job."

Her Web site is