Idaho's Fox Ousted; Eastin Re-Elected Calif. State Chief
In Idaho, Democrat Marilyn Howard bet that voters had grown so concerned about Republican state schools Superintendent Anne C. Fox's controversies that they would replace her with a political novice. Ms. Howard won her bet last week, and the race--by 10 percentage points.
Meanwhile, in California, Superintendent Delaine Eastin, thought vulnerable as the incumbent in a state where student performance is lagging, held off Gloria Matta Tuchman's Election Day challenge by 7 percentage points and won re-election with 53.5 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. The post is officially nonpartisan, though Ms. Eastin is a Democrat and Ms. Tuchman a Republican.
In the nine elections for state school chiefs on Nov. 3, five of the six incumbents seeking re-election held onto their jobs and, overall, five Republicans and four Democrats won their bids for the top education posts in their states. At the same time, in a dozen state school board races, voters primarily kept the status quo.
In her one term in Idaho, Ms. Fox fueled controversy by spending $8,000 to redecorate her offices and firing a half-dozen top deputies while giving her campaign manager a high-level job; she fired him after reports of a 10-year-old charge against him for soliciting sex from a minor.
Ms. Fox, a former elementary school teacher and principal, was also criticized for burning bridges to the state school board and others in the education establishment with her support for tuition tax credits and for phonics-based reading instruction.
Ms. Howard, who won the Democratic nomination by upsetting a candidate heavily backed by former Idaho Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus, was endorsed by the state's major newspapers. A former elementary school teacher, Ms. Howard is now the principal of West Park Elementary School in the northern Idaho town of Moscow. She vigorously opposed the tax credits and backed a broad-based approach to teaching students to read.
In California, Ms. Eastin, a veteran Democratic state lawmaker who often butted heads with retiring GOP Gov. Pete Wilson on school spending, teacher pay, and private school vouchers, won a second term with a newly elected Democratic governor and a predominantly Democratic state legislature.
"Most of us are pretty excited over the prospect of not being locked in constant arm-wrestling, even over the most minute details," Ms. Eastin said last week as she continued at the helm of the nation's largest K-12 state system, with 5.7 million students in 8,000 schools.
She said she would look to Gov.-elect Gray Davis, a moderate Democrat, to restore education budget cuts and retrieve federal funds for a school reform demonstration program that Mr. Wilson rejected with a line-item veto.
Ms. Eastin also anticipated better relations with a new state school board, citing the possibility that Mr. Davis could withdraw one of the outgoing governor's recent, unconfirmed appointees to the 11-member board.
"There are centrist Republicans on the board who are willing in fact to make things work. The partisan ones will not have anyone in the corner office to direct them," Ms. Eastin asserted during a postelection telephone press conference.
She acknowledged, however, that Ms. Tuchman, a Santa Ana 1st grade teacher who co-directed last spring's successful campaign in support of Proposition 227, the ballot measure aimed at essentially eliminating bilingual educa tion in California, must have struck a chord with voters. The challenger won nearly 3 million votes and raised millions in campaign contributions.
In other elections for schools chiefs:
- Arizona incumbent Lisa Graham Keegan, a Republican, ran unopposed on the ballot and handily defeated two write-in candidates; Georgia GOP incumbent Linda C. Schrenko kept her job by beating Democrat Joseph Martin; Wyoming GOP incumbent Judy Catchpole defeated Democrat Gene Lane; and Oklahoma Democratic incumbent Sandy Garrett bested Republican Linda D. Murphy.
- In Florida, Republican Tom Gallagher defeated Democrat Peter Rudy Wallace for the open chief's seat. Voters chose outgoing Superintendent Frank Brogan, a Republican, as Florida's lieutenant governor-elect; in Oregon, Republican Stan Bunn beat Democrat Margaret Carter for that open seat; and in South Carolina, Democrat Inez Tenenbaum prevailed over Republican David Eckstrom.
State Board Races
Twelve states also had state school board contests on Nov. 3, some of which featured sharp ideological divisions.
In Texas, Democratic incumbents on the state board fought off a bid by Republican religious conservatives to win control. The GOP candidates lost two of the four contested seats they needed to take a one-seat conservative majority. The races leave the 15-member board with a GOP majority of nine, but three of those Republicans are considered moderates.
"We have said when voters are aware of the agenda of an extremist, they will vote to reject that candidate," said Samantha Smoot, the executive director of the Texas Freedom Network, a 4-year-old group formed to fight the influence of social conservatives in education.
In Kansas, moderates missed a chance for a majority when a Republican conservative won a key race in the state's northeastern district. With that, the Kansas state board will keep its 5-5 ideological split, a division that has deadlocked efforts to set policy on testing, charter schools, and teacher licensing.
Michigan's new school board will also maintain its 5-5 party-line split. State voters elected Sharon Gire, a Democrat and outgoing chairwoman of the state House education committee, and Eileen Weiser, a Republican, for at-large seats over incumbents Gary Wolfram, a Republican, and Barbara Roberts Mason, a Democrat.
Voters also elected 37 state school board members in Alabama, Hawaii, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, and Utah. In Florida, the governor and six members of his elected Cabinet serve as the state school board.
Vol. 18, Issue 11, Pages 13,16