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Education

Tumwater Lawmaker Joins Race For Washington Schools Superintendent

erin_jones_chris_reykdal.jpg
Erin Jones Campaign / Washington House Democrats
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State Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, announced Thursday he will give up his House seat to run for state schools superintendent in 2016, joining Tacoma school district administrator Erin Jones in the race for Washington's top elected education post.

Current superintendent Randy Dorn has not yet said whether he will run for a third term. A spokesman said Dorn is waiting to see what the state Supreme Court does next in the ongoing McCleary school funding case before making his decision.

"He's done great — I have nothing but respect for Randy," said Reykdal. "He's been a great partner for [the legislature], I meet with him regularly.

"He's been a tremendous champion for full funding of K-12 education."

Reykdal, who's also employed as an administrator in the state's community and technical college system, said he won't wait for Dorn's final decision about whether or not to seek a third term.

He said he must enter the race to begin fundraising before next winter's legislative session, during which state election rules prevent candidates from collecting campaign contributions.

Jones, his only declared opponent, already has a head start. Jones has already traveled to 21 cities and districts since launching her bid for the office in April and has been very visible in the education community.

"I guess I don't worry about [name recognition] so much," said Jones, who served on Dorn's cabinet as assistant state superintendent between 2009 and 2012. "[Reykdal] is known as a politician. I want to run as an educator."

On key policy issues, the two candidates differ from Dorn on at least one point: both Jones and Reykdal would both oppose mandating a link between statewide test scores to teacher evaluations.

But on other issues, the Jones' and Reykdal's views align better with Dorn's. The two declared candidates also support broader class size reductions — not only in Grades K-3, as the McCleary ruling mandates, but in Grades 4-12 as well.

Jones' support of the idea, though, hinges on finding enough quality teachers and finding the money to build a lot more classrooms.

Reykdal says he voted against suspending Initiative 1351, which would have reduced class sizes in the upper grades. He acknowledges the state couldn't afford to implement the measure. But Reykdal would've preferred delaying pieces of the initiative rather than shelving it wholesale, pointing out I-1351 would've funded more support staff and social services in schools.

(Updated at 4:30 p.m. PDT with comment from Dorn.)