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Candidate Joe Biden endorses RUSD referendum in a 'highly unusual' move

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Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden has endorsed the Racine Unified School District referendum on the April 7 ballot.

“We need to invest in our public schools and our students, and that’s why I’m proud to support these two referendums to support our schools in Milwaukee and Racine,” Biden said in a statement.

The 30-year referendum would allow the Racine Unified School District to levy over $1 billion to build and renovate schools and close several aging schools in need of substantial repairs.

His campaign announced the endorsement Tuesday afternoon, along with the endorsement of a $87 million Milwaukee schools referendum.

The Associated Press called Biden’s endorsement “highly unusual,” since national candidates will rarely weigh in on local issues like school referendums.

Racine’s referendum is for the renovation and construction of facilities. Milwaukee’s money is focused on operational expenses, including staff and programming.

The Democratic campaigns — namely Biden and his only remaining challenger, Bernie Sanders — have been quiet in Wisconsin, where Election Day is scheduled for April 7. Potential rallies or gatherings in the days leading up to Election Day are banned due to COVID-19.

Neither Biden nor Sanders has campaigned in Wisconsin in person this year.

Across Wisconsin, more than 40 school districts have referendums on the ballot, seeking more than $1.6 billion combined.

Biden, the former vice president, has been endorsed by the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. The NEA has also endorsed the Milwaukee referendum.

"We appreciate any and all support of our referendum and long-range plan to support our students," RUSD Chief of Communication Stacy Tapp said in a statement.

School Board President Brian O’Connell did not know that Biden had endorsed the referendum until a Journal Times reporter called him Tuesday afternoon.

He responded with a laugh, saying “Really? … That’s great.”

“While it is a local issue, we appreciate the support,” O’Connell said.

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