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Madison’s teachers union released its endorsement late Monday for the School Board primary set for Feb. 19.

For Seat 3, members voted to endorse public education advocate Cris Carusi. Ali Muldrow, the co-executive director for GSAFE Wisconsin, received the Seat 4 endorsement. Madison Teachers Inc. announced a dual endorsement for Seat 5, recommending both incumbent School Board member TJ Mertz and one of his challengers, Ananda Mirilli.

Nearly all the School Board candidates made their case to MTI through a candidate questionnaire and interviews last month. Candidates interviewed with the political action arm of MTI, which is comprised of 13 people who guide the union’s endorsement process during each election cycle.

The union’s bylaws require two-thirds of the committee to agree on a recommended endorsement in order for the recommendation to go to MTI members for approval via an emailed ballot. Voting closed at 5 p.m. on Monday.

Seat 5’s endorsement was particularly unique in that two candidates were endorsed.

“In advancing this recommendation, this committee highlights Mr. Mertz' strong record of service as a BOE member, his steadfast advocacy for the concerns of educators, and his unmatched expertise on educational policy and financial matters,” MTI’s endorsement announcement said. “At the same time, the committee recognizes the valuable and diverse experiences, insights and expertise that Ms. Mirilli would bring to the BOE. Both candidates are strong supporters of Madison schools, public educators and public education and the committee determined that a recommendation for dual endorsement was appropriate in this race.”

The liberal group Progressive Dane endorsed Muldrow and Mirilli — who have coordinated their campaigns — last month.

MTI's endorsement of Muldrow cited her youth advocacy work. 

“In advancing this recommendation, the committee highlights Ms. Muldrow’s advocacy through GSAFE for LGBTQAI youth in our schools, her focus on empowering youth, and her involvement and work to strengthen Madison’s public schools for all students,” MTI’s voting committee said.

Carusi and her opponent, One City Schools founder and CEO Kaleem Caire, are a lock to advance to the April 2 general election after the third candidate in the Seat 3 race dropped out last month.

MTI cited Carusi’s opposition to voucher and independent charter schools in its endorsement.

“Carusi is opposed to vouchers and independent charter schools and strongly believes that we need to continuously work to improve our public schools, rather than support alternatives,” MTI’s endorsement said.  

Caire’s One City Schools, which expanded from One City Early Learning Center, is one of the state’s first 4K and kindergarten charter options authorized by the University of Wisconsin’s Office of Educational Opportunity.

Caire said in his MTI questionnaire that he supports public charter schools “but only those that have produced higher levels of student outcomes and attainment, or that (are) designed to meet a particular need that traditional public schools either struggle with or do not offer.”

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Caire’s proposal for a charter school called Madison Preparatory Academy, which was aimed at making progress in addressing Madison’s longstanding achievement gap between white students and students of color, was voted down by the School Board in 2011.

Caire said in his questionnaire that he does not believe school vouchers are necessary for MMSD.

Despite the snub by MTI, Caire has been endorsed by Adelante, the new political group organized by School Board member Gloria Reyes to propel candidates of color into local public office.

Muldrow faces three other candidates in the Seat 4 race: former Dane County Board member David Blaska, local restaurant owner Laila Borokhim, and semi-retired physician Albert Bryan. Mirilli and Mertz are vying to advance to April’s general election amid a third candidate, Amos Roe.

MTI is not endorsing a candidate for mayor, whose crowded primary race will also be on the Feb. 19 ballot. MTI did endorse Lisa Neubauer to replace retiring Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

School Board candidates will face off in a candidate forum hosted by Grandparents United for Madison's Public Schools tonight at Christ Presbyterian Church on East Gorham Street at 6:30 p.m.

Education Reporter

Negassi Tesfamichael is the local education reporter at The Cap Times. He joined the paper in 2018. He previously worked as an intern at WISC-TV/ and at POLITICO.