KUOW had this piece about the job recently and called it "ceremonial." I think that might be more the Lt. Governor role but certainly not the state superintendent. Many people think it is to support teachers but the role is an executive/administrative role that supports teaching and learning (which would include teachers but that is not the main focus.)
Here's what former state rep Marcie Maxwell had to say by way of explanation:
In my years as a School Board Director, Legislator and Governor’s Education Policy Advisor, I’ve worked closely with OSPI Superintendents, and understand the roles and responsibilities of this statewide official. The role of OSPI Superintendent is deep in politics, policies and budgets. OSPI is a statewide agency of 400+ employees with program oversight and reporting for billions in state and federal education funds.It is important to have someone who cares about schools and students but it's more important to consider that the state superintendent sits on several key committees including the timber committee (because some school funding comes from timber sales.) You need someone who knows this landscape and Reykdal does.
Maxwell goes on to state that Reykdal has been a teacher (three years early in his professional career), a fiscal director for higher ed systems but has also been an elected official - both a school board director and a state representative. That on-the-ground knowledge of both how schools work and the people who do the funding is a significant item in the list of what Reykdal would bring to the office.
Besides his teaching certificate, he also has a Master's degree in Public Administration (government finance, budgeting and performance management.)
In the Legislature, he has served as the vice-chair of the House Education Committee. He's worked in the Washington Senate before being elected, as a fiscal analyst for transportation.
In short, he knows his stuff and is ready to step into the executive role of state superintendent.
But I believe the state superintendent should also be able to talk to teachers and kids because the role also has some cheerleading to it; mainly, promoting belief in our public schools.
Reykdal grew up the youngest of eight kids in a poor family. As he puts it:
I was able to succeed and go on to college largely due to elected leaders who made tough choices on issues that weren’t politically popular – government assistance, food stamps, and state funded college grants. These programs, along with an outstanding public education system, provided me incredible opportunities.Reykdal certainly could be a beacon to students in families that struggle. And, because he lived it himself AND worked as Deputy Executive Director for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, he could help students find the road forward. That's inspirational.
He is endorsed by current superintendent Randy Dorn as well as former superintendent Terry Bergeson, and the deputy superintendent, Gil Mendoza and two assistant superintendents, as well the the third place finisher in the primary (who also works for OSPI), Robin Fleming. Those are people who know the job and believe Reykdal can do it best.
And talk about bringing different sides of the table together (and being able to work with them), his elected legislative endorsement list has everyone from ed reformers Matt Manweller (something of a rotweiller for ed reform) and Senator Andy Billig to moderates and progressives like Senator Christine Rolfes, Rep Lillian Ortiz-Self, Senator Marko Liias, Rep Sharon Tomiko-Santos, and Rep Gerry Pollet.
Chris is a calm, knowledgeable person. I was a little surprised in a recent conversation I had with him, how many times I would bring up an issue that he already had a good background to reference. He also repeatedly explained about how in the legislature the number of times he was able to reach across the aisle to get work done. That's tremendously important in the months ahead as the McCleary funding issue comes to a head.
Most important to me, is that I do not have doubts about what Chris says and who he is. He is clear on both his foci for the office and who he is.
I will repeat what I have said previously about Erin Jones, his opponent. She is bright and capable and charismatic.
But, as Marcie Maxwell points out, there are these concerns:
-Readiness for OSPI political leadership with legislators, the Governor's office, federal agencies, school districts, unions, parent organizations and the media?I had not endorsed in the primary because frankly, I was torn between the two candidates. Both have good points. But my late husband watched me endorse/support candidates only to see those candidates not be all that was advertised. He always told me to listen to my gut, not my head or my heart. Meaning, if something seems off, listen to that signal.
-Minimal budget and fiscal accountability experience?
-Her testimony to support opening a charter school, then denial of same?
-Statement in a meeting I attended earlier this year that revenues for McCleary would not be her role at OSPI?
-Challenges in answering LGBTQ and media questions?
-Recent photo taken with Freedom Foundation's education lead? FF is a known far right anti-public schools, anti-LGBTQ, anti-climate science, anti-women's health, anti-union organization. http://nwaccountabilityproject.com/facts/
-Attending the WA Republicans Roanoke Conference then explaining to Dems that she didn't know what Roanoke was until she arrived there? Fine that she attended but she didn't Google to find out what she was attending...
There is just too much explaining going on in Jones' campaign for me (as well as excuse-making on the part of her supporters who repeatedly say she gets cornered by media. She's running for public office, so naturally she's going to get asked questions. It feels a bit like a cult of personality and not advocacy for her abilities.)
With Reykdal's strong credentials plus that knawing feeling I get from Jones' campaign, it was not a difficult choice for me.
Chris Reykdal for State Superintendent of Public Instruction.