Education is clearly the most pressing issue in Washington state.
So, the good news — no, make that fantastic news — for Washingtonians is that the two candidates to lead the nonpartisan state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction are outstanding.
Chris Reykdal and Erin Jones share a vision and passion for education that are similar — from their goals to improving the testing systems to providing equity in the classroom for all students.
However, how their backgrounds and experiences are different.
Reykdal is a lifelong Washingtonian, growing up in Snohomish. He began his career as a teacher for three years. He served on a local school board and has spent the past 14 years as an executive in the state’s community and technical college system.
He is currently a state legislator from Tumwater, where he is vice chairman of the House Education Committee.
Jones, originally from Minnesota, grew up in The Netherlands where her parents taught at the American School of The Hague. She returned for college and began her education career in Washington state.
She has a 23-year career as a teacher and school administrator from Tacoma to Spokane. Jones has been honored state teacher and educator of the year. She has worked in difficult, challenged schools.
These laundry lists could be far longer for both but still not do either candidate justice.
If you spend five minutes with Reykdal and Jones you will be wowed by their intellects, impressed their breadth and depth of knowledge and captivated by their passion for improving education to benefit every student.
So who should be elected? That’s the question that we wrestled with for some time.
Ultimately, we give the nod to Jones in this razor-thin race.
While we see great value in Reykdal’s legislative and management experience, Jones’ vast experience in K-12 education at many levels and in different programs are the difference.
Jones truly understands what gets teachers fired up about teaching, and she has a clear vision of what she wants to do to make our education system better. Her focus is like a laser and her people skills are so phenomenal we don’t doubt she will accomplish her goals.
We were also impressed with the number of teachers and administrators she has a personal relationship with in Walla Walla and around the state.
Jones has spent plenty of time testifying before the Legislature. She also testified on behalf of OSPI in the McCleary case. We are confident she can handle her own when it comes to politics.
She was not endorsed by the WEA, the teachers’ union, and we see that as giving her more independence in her reform efforts.
Again, Reykdal is a tremendous candidate. His legislative experience should serve the state well, particularly as lawmakers attempt to fully fund basic education. He, too, shows strong people skills.
Voters simply cannot go wrong. Whether Reykdal or Jones is elected, Washington’s schools will be in great hands.
But we recommend Jones as a slightly better choice.