If there’s one thing all 11 candidates for state Superintendent of Public Instruction agree on, it’s that Washington schools are in crisis.
But exactly how each of the candidates would go about fixing Washington’s education system is as different as poetry and calculus. Some would hit the basics, others would embark on strict, accountability-based reform. One would simply dismantle public education.
In this crowded field, educator Terry Bergeson stands above the others as the person who has the experience, talent and savvy to continue education reform, and the political and community backing to be effective.
Only former legislator Chris Vance offers a viable alternative. Vance appeals to reform-minded voters who think a politician should run the state office. His ideas are laudable, but he’s woefully lacking in education experience.
Ron Taber is decidedly hostile to public education. Author of Initiative 173 for school vouchers, Taber would gut public schools of their funding and ghetto-ize them as parents flee to private schools. He’s also flooding the campaign with $500,000 of his own money in an effort to buy the office.
Bergeson, on the other hand, started her 30-year career as a teacher and counselor and moved up quickly from there. She’s been vice president and president of the Washington Education Association and has experience on the administrator’s side of the table as well, working for four years as the executive director for Central Kitsap School District.
Bergeson’s WEA tie makes her credible with teachers whose support is crucial to real change. Since 1993, she’s been executive director of the Washington Commission on Student Learning - the board charged with developing learning standards and new assessment and accountability systems under the state’s education reform law.
Bergeson is a strong supporter of reform and aims to make profound changes in teacher education and training. On the commission she has been working to focus Washington’s schools on core academic skills, toughen up standards and require accountability from administrators, teachers and students. She’d continue that crucial mission as SPI.
Bergeson has support from business leaders, politicians, educators and parents - and the know-how to make SPI the place that helps all those entities connect for the good of Washington’s children and the health of the state as a whole.
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