Concerns raised over outside spending on school board races

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 8:58 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2022 at 9:03 PM CDT
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - Many of the school board races Tuesday night had extremely close results including one in Oshkosh.

Some of this is because of never before seen spending that came from outside groups.

Flyers sent thru the mail highlight some of the spending on school board races across the state by groups like the Republican party and Wisconsin Education Association.

Voters in Northeast Wisconsin were no exception to the partisan message backed by big money.

“These were races that were financed by twenty five bucks here, twenty bucks there,” said Professor Mordecai Lee with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

He added that he’s seen a big shift recently.

“We’re seeing Democrat and Republican money seeping in in figures that astound us for traditional school board races but are relatively common when we’re talking about partisan races,” Lee told us.

In Oshkosh only a slim margin separated all four candidates on the ballot, but incumbents Stephanie Carlin and Liz Szilagyi kept their seats, even though challengers Sara Noe and Kelly DeWitt had endorsements and backing from Republican gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Kleefisch.

Across the state Kleefisch, has made education a priority on the campaign trail, and saw 34 of her 48 candidates she supported win Tuesday night.

Still, Democrats say Republicans should have done better in a year that’s suppose to favor them, with state party chair Ben Wikler releasing a statement, “What we saw last night is a sharply divided state that’s likely to come down to the wire in the fall.”

As for the impact on school board decisions, Lee had this to say.

“This is a unhealthy development and it would really be great if it’s only a one off, instead of a real trend for the future.”

In the Oshkosh race, Carlin kept her seat over DeWitt by just 61 votes.

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