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Tony Evers

Wisconsin state schools Superintendent Tony Evers talks about his campaign for governor Friday at the Baraboo News Republic office.

The state’s top education official says more preventive measures must be taken to stop gun violence in the nation’s schools.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers, who also is running for governor, said Friday that if lawmakers fail to take action in wake of recent mass shootings, more are sure to happen. A high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday left 17 people dead and more injured, including two critically.

“It’s important to have the prevent measures, but the fact of the matter is if we don’t do something as a country around this issue of guns, we’re going to be seeing another massacre every month,” Evers said. “It should not be a NRA/hunter vs. anti-gun people issue. It should be how in the hell can we figure out how to keep these guns out of the hands of people?”

Evers has been head of the state Department of Public Instruction since 2009 and announced his campaign for governor in last August, joining a crowded field seeking the Democratic nomination in hopes of unseating incumbent Republican Scott Walker. If elected to the state’s highest office, Evers said he believes the state should take measures to protect Wisconsin students. He listed longer wait times to purchase firearms and more stringent registration laws as examples.

Evers made the comments during an interview at the Baraboo News Republic office, after which he attended a fundraising event at a local restaurant. If elected, he said his top three priorities as governor would be to finance education at the collegiate and K-12 levels, strengthen the middle class and protect the state’s natural resources.

Evers said he believes Walker’s elimination of collective bargaining rights for most state employees with the passage of Act 10 is in part responsible for the state’s teacher shortage and for college professors leaving the University of Wisconsin System for universities in other states — and taking their research funding along with them.

“No matter where I go, people feel that they have been disadvantaged by this governor in a way that’s hurtful,” he said. “The idea that we need to divide and conquer really doesn’t do much to aid our economy or have people feel good about the state of Wisconsin.”

To strengthen the middle class, Evers said he would take federal subsidies for Medicaid to lower the cost of healthcare, and work with the Legislature to lower state taxes and eliminate them for people who earn $50,000 annually or less. He said he supports raising the minimum wage and investing in the state’s infrastructure.

“Investing in those things, whether it’s transportation, or internet or mass transit — that creates middle-class jobs,” Evers said. “We’re going to have more revenue to make that happen, whether it’s a gas tax or something else.”

Evers said he also would restructure the Department of Natural Resources so that its head secretary is once again appointed by an independent board instead of the governor. He said the measure would ensure the state’s resources are protected and restore balance between business and the environment.

“We have to get it out of the hands of the push-pull that happens with the governor and the Legislature over natural resource policy,” he said.

In a governor’s race that’s saturated with more than 15 Democratic candidates, Evers said his experience as an educator, administrator and head of a government agency set him apart. He added that he has won three statewide elections for state superintendent, with the latest coming with 70 percent of the vote.

“Right now, I’m in charge of an agency that is in charge of 860,000 public school kids and 100,000 people who work in those schools,” he said. “No other candidate has that kind of experience.”

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @prinsenjake

Baraboo News Republic Reporter