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Incumbent Chris Reykdal wins new term as state superintendent of public instruction

UPDATED: Tue., Nov. 3, 2020

Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal faces Maia Espinoza in the November 2020 election.
Incumbent Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal faces Maia Espinoza in the November 2020 election.

Incumbent Chris Reykdal won a second term as superintendent of public instruction on Tuesday, after a race defined by COVID-19 policies, partisan politics and controversial sex ed measure Referendum 90.

Reykdal was ahead of Maia Espinoza by about 14 percentage points as of Tuesday night’s vote count.

In the final weeks of the election, prominent Democrats, including Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, came out in support of incumbent Chris Reykdal, citing concerns that challenger Espinoza would drain education funding for a stipend program that she claims would help parents with COVID-19 costs.

The state Democratic Party donated more than $100,000 to Reykdal’s campaign in the final two weeks of the campaign. The state Republican Party donated $15,000 to Espinoza’s campaign.

Espinoza has criticized Reykdal for what she calls a lack of leadership during the pandemic, saying schools were ill-prepared to handle distance learning. Reykdal has said because of the state’s focus on local control, it isn’t up to him how and when schools reopen.

Espinoza agrees that it should be up to school districts, but says they should’ve had more guidance from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Espinoza also criticized Reykdal’s support for the new comprehensive sex ed bill, which passed in the past Legislative session and would require school districts to teach sex ed multiple times throughout a student’s K-12 education.

The issue ended up in the state Supreme Court, after Reykdal sued Espinoza over a line in her voters’ guide statement claiming he championed a policy that teaches sexual positions to fourth graders.

The state Supreme Court ruled against Reykdal, saying the statement was not demonstrably false and he could not prevail in a defamation case. The line stayed in the voters’ guide.

It was not the only part of Espinoza’s statement that Reykdal called into question.

Espinoza, who states she is a school teacher with a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, is actually not a certified teacher, nor had she completed her master’s degree by the time the voter guide was mailed.

Espinoza’s nonprofit organization, the Center for Latino Leadership, also falsely claims it has a 501(c)3 tax exemption on its website. The organization currently does not have that exemption.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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