In 2018, when 36 governors’ seats and three-fourths of states’ legislative seats will be up for grabs, education is looking to be one of the few issues that could catch the eye of voters from both sides of the aisle in today’s hyperpartisan climate.
And what better way to appeal to voters’ education interests than to have actual educators and education advocates themselves run for office? Consider:
- Wisconsin state Superintendent Tony Evers already has filed to run as a Democrat in that state’s gubernatorial race next year.
- Four high school students have entered Kansas’ governor’s Democratic and Republican primaries.
- The National Education Association says it will urge its teacher members to run for office themselves in the near future.
- And this week, Jared Henderson, the former head of a nonprofit group that recruits teachers to work in low-income areas, said he will run as a Democrat in the Arkansas race for governor race.
In a state as conservative as Arkansas, it’s a long shot. Mike Beebe, whose term ended in 2015, was the state’s last Democratic governor before the state turned deep red.
“This state does have a history, and it’s not a long-gone history, of voting for Democrats,” Henderson told the Associated Press. “The main way I’m going to run this campaign is I’m going to go all over the state, I’m going to meet with everyone I can sit down with over the next 12 months, look them in the eye, do more listening than I do talking. In Arkansas, we have a record that you can win people’s trust if you deserve it.”
Henderson, 39, said he doesn’t necessarily abhor current Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s education policies, but he did say Arkansas’ education goals don’t necessarily prepare it for the future.
“I think we need to think on a more fundamental level about how to build an education system that will work in a job market we can’t define right now,” he said.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.