In the race for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, voters can’t go wrong.
Two top quality, credible candidates are vying for the nonpartisan post. Erin Jones is a long-time educator and former OSPI administrator with vision, while Chris Reykdal is a former legislator and an official with the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
Considering the number of challenges immediately facing the next head of OSPI, we lean toward Reykdal.
His stint the past six years as a lawmaker gives him the edge in this race, primarily because the next state school superintendent will have to start the job with no time for a learning curve.
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That’s because lawmakers must figure out a way to amply fund K-12 education by the end of the next legislative session, as set out by the McCleary lawsuit and the deadline imposed by the state Supreme Court.
Reykdal has been a legislator from Tumwater for six years, serving as vice chairman in the House Education Committee. While we would have preferred the Legislature already had solved the school funding dilemma, we can’t blame the failure on one person.
At least Reykdal is now in a position to bring what legislative knowledge he has on the issue to OSPI. He decided not to seek re-election for his House seat this year so he could run for the state superintendent’s job, which is being vacated by Randy Dorn.
We believe that Reykdal’s relationship with other lawmakers will come in handy as state officials grapple with school funding strategies.
In addition, Reykdal has been a teacher, has served on a school board and his years of service on the state community and technical college board means he has a unique understanding of the need for more vocational training in our public high schools.
He said the emphasis on all students being college-ready has narrowed the offerings in many school districts, and too many students are forced to take lecture courses when their learning style is more hands-on. He wants to increase the number of pathways to graduation so more students can be successful.
Jones also is all about ensuring every student in the state receives a quality education. She said state school officials need to “change the narrative” of what success looks like, and that in the current system, some students are set up to fail.
She has a passion for helping poverty-stricken students and also believes a variety of career paths are necessary to help students succeed. As an educator, Jones has racked up numerous state and national awards, including Educator of the Year in 2015 by the Washington State PTA. A few years ago, she was named one of 10 White House Champions for Change for her work promoting better education opportunities for black students in her community.
She has been a public and private classroom teacher, assistant director at OSPI and most recently an instructor with the Tacoma School District. Jones left that post to campaign full-time for the state superintendent job.
In 2009, Jones testified on behalf of OSPI in the McCleary case. She believes school funding should be based on actual need, with the money following the student rather than a formula that focuses on equal amounts per school.
Jones is impressive and we admire many of her ideas. But Reykdal has been working in the legislative trenches on education, and we think that gives him a head start on the job.
The Tri-City Herald recommends Chris Reykdal for state Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Look for our recommendation Wednesday on Initiative 732, the carbon tax proposal.