Of the six candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, incumbent Chris Reykdal is best qualified for the job.

Reykdal’s experience as an educator and legislator will help him lead competently during this time of unprecedented disruption in public K-12 education. Voters should return him for a second term.

Although the work is not yet finished, during his first term the former high school history teacher, Tumwater School Board member and state representative advocated for court-required gains in state school funding, including incremental improvements in funding for special education. Still, this spring’s sometimes chaotic-seeming response to the COVID-19 pandemic revealed important fault lines in the state’s public school system, as local districts scrambled to implement distance-learning plans.

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Too many students were failed by resource gaps, particularly in technology and access to broadband, exposing disturbing inequity and critical barriers to learning. Some school districts and educators faced steeper learning curves for online instruction. This fall, local districts must be given the resources to meet learning needs of students while being held to appropriately high standards. Students cannot be allowed to fall between the cracks.

To help, the state education chief must continue to guide and support local school districts as they balance teaching responsibilities with public health safeguards to protect against future flare-ups of COVID-19. Most critically, he should remain laser focused on the state’s most vulnerable students. He must forcefully advocate to protect recent state funding increases from looming state budget cuts.

Among his most notable challengers are teacher Maia Espinoza, who served on an OSPI student data task force and was moved to run over the controversial new sex education law, and Dennis Wick, a former Snohomish School Board member.

Reykdal’s previous term as Superintendent of Public Instruction and broad range of education-related experiences give him the tools and perspective needed to navigate these difficult times.