Interviewer: Brett, tell us about yourself. Why are you running?
Brett Hulsey: My name is Brett Hulsey. I'm running for the state legislature, District 77, because I want to create a better Wisconsin, a better Madison, Shorewood Hills, Middleton, and Dane County. I've lived here and raised my family here, and I think it is important that we all take action to create better schools. I've been a PTO president. I create jobs to help us grow out of this economic recession, and cleaner lakes and cleaner energy; so.
Interviewer: So, why are you qualified to serve in the state assembly? What makes you stand out?
Brett: Of the candidates, I'm actually the proven progressive. I've been on the county board 12 years. I authored the resolution against the war. I have actually helped balance the county budget as chair of the personal finance committee for four years, a $492 million budget. I also run a small business, an award-winning environmental energy consulting business, Better Environmental Solutions. You can go to www.BetterEnviro.com and see it. We work with businesses to save lives, reduce pollution, and save money and create jobs.
Interviewer: So, you have experience then dealing with all the things that businesses have to deal with, both to generate money and pay taxes and all these other things.
Brett: And create green jobs. I'm also the only teacher in the race. I teach at MATC; I'm a lecturer there. I'm a guest lecturer at UW. I've lectured at Madison and Middleton public schools. And I've been in environmental education 32 years. I've taught math and science in the classroom, and I have a master's in science education. So, I'm the candidate that has the most hands-on education betterment experience.
Interviewer: Brett, what is the state's role in K-12? What should it be?
Brett: The state's role is key. The schools that we have in Madison, Middleton, and Shorewood Hills are excellent schools. We have great schools, but we need to make them better. The state promised to pay two-thirds of the funding for our students. They have not kept that promise. And I, if elected, will work to try to keep that promise, obviously, given the budget challenges we have.
Interviewer: So, what about issues like local control and teacher licensing? The whole education reform movement is discussing changes in these things, whether there should be state standards that are mandatory or recommended, or teacher licensing. Should the state just be a money conduit, or should it be more active on these local issues?
Brett: I believe in the responsibility and accountability; I think you need a balance of the two. But, what I see is that No Child Left Behind is going overboard on student testing. And what I'd like to say is if we graded politicians the way we try to grade teachers, it would be "No Citizen Left Behind." When I was getting my master's in education, I found that the two things that predict a student's success are the income of their parents and the education level of their parents. Why are we grading teachers on basically whether society wins or fails? If we graded politicians that way, you would throw them out - if there was a high unemployment rate or if salaries dropped - and obviously, politicians wouldn't like that. So, one of the things that I will promote is this idea of "No Citizen Left Behind" and see if politicians like to be graded by the same standards.
Interviewer: So, one of the most controversial things that happened in the recent assembly, in terms of local control, was taking away the school district's ability to go to arbitration and taking away the economic argument. Essentially, the teachers' union was very successful at negotiating this. So, if a school district has money problems, they can't use that as an argument for arbitration, and local school boards have been complaining about this. That's a good example of the state stepping into a local issue.
Brett: But honestly, as a former teacher myself, and union vice-president, the thing is these are small things. If the state puts the two-thirds in that they promised to put in, many of these issues go away.
Interviewer: It would make a difference.
Brett: So, let's let the state put the money where their mouth is. That's why I'm running for state legislature.
Interviewer: How would you prioritize state spending, given the many demands the state has? Where would K-12 sit? You talked about the two-thirds. Obviously, there are health care needs. Higher education in the UW system has been flat-line for quite a few years.
Brett: What we learn today determines what we earn tomorrow. And one of the things I find teaching courses at MATC is that people come there wanting to learn. They're retraining; they need those job skills. I think all education is important. K-12, higher ed, and technical education are my top priorities. But, part of my clean jobs plan is we have to have people who are trained and able to do the high-tech, green jobs that are going to be the future of our economy. And that's why I support education over building new four and eight-lane highways, for instance.
Interviewer: So, what about concerned citizens and education policy? How can people influence policy? Is it possible?
Brett: As a former PTO president, the thing that I found was "get involved." I volunteered in my son's class. I saw the great thing that SAGE is, which we need to protect and expand at our school. As PTO president, we started family fun nights. We raised money for teacher needs and educational needs. We created a school rain garden. We created a bus system for our meetings for people of low income. We had translators there for people who didn't speak English. Basically, get involved. One of the things I want to do is make it so that parents can get family leave to go volunteer at school. The parents that I saw involved in our PTO, it was hands-on, making every school better. If you make your school better, and everybody makes their own school better, all schools will get better.
Interviewer: So, other than education, what would you say your top priorities are should you be elected?
Brett: Clean jobs, better schools, and cleaner lakes and cleaner energy. And these actually all tie together. My Relight Wisconsin plan would relight every single school building and government building and building in the state of Wisconsin. It's estimated we could cut our energy costs about 50 percent. We'd rather that money go to teachers and students than to energy companies and oil companies.
Interviewer: Coal plants.
Brett: Coal plants and shipped to Peabody Coal. So that, according to the Energy Center of Wisconsin, will save about $900 million a year, which is a good down payment. It also creates 700 jobs, and it reduces air pollution by 2.6 billion pounds a year. So, that's a combination thing of solving all problems with one solution. And the Public Service Commission, by the way, can take action on that this month or next month. They don't need legislative actions.
Interviewer: Great. Finally, what else would you like to say to the voters for September 14th?
Brett: The other thing I wanted to point out real quickly is my Safe Routes to School program. I started the Slow Down and Protect Us campaign in 2005, because many of the people in my neighborhood were concerned about their kids getting to Spring Harbor Elementary School. When I got elected to the county board, kids had to literally walk through mud to get to school. So, I got $50,000 to start the sidewalk process. We're now working to save the underpass there, so they can get under University Avenue and make University Avenue safer.
I'm the proven progressive in this. I'm the proven educator. I'm the one who has actually worked to make our schools better. And I would appreciate your support on September 14th.
Interviewer: Great. Thanks for taking the time, Brett.
Brett: Thank you.