Incumbent Chiefs in Wash., N.C., N.D. Face Opposition

By Uganda George — October 21, 1992 2 min read

Elections for state superintendent will be held in five states next month.

In three states--Washington State, North Carolina, and North Dakota--incumbent state chiefs are facing opposition in their bids for a new term.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Nancy Keenan of Montana is unopposed for re-election, while two new candidates are competing for the state chief’s post in Indiana.

Perhaps the closest race is in Washington State, where Superintendent of Public Instruction Judith Billings is being challenged by Terry Bergeson, a former president of the Washington Education Association.

In a nonpartisan primary last month, Ms. Billings held a narrow lead, winning 38 percent of the vote to 34 percent for Ms. Bergeson, who currently serves as an administrator with the Seattle-area Central Kitsap School District.

Ms. Bergeson is focusing her campaign on calls for reduction of the state education bureaucracy and decentralization of decisionmaking.

Ms. Billings is highlighting her involvement in the state’s education-reform efforts. She also argues that in order to improve the quality of education, the state must first change the way teachers teach.

North Carolina’s Partisan Edge

The contest in North Carolina, by contrast, has a partisan edge. There, the Democratic incumbent, Bob Etheridge, is facing a challenge from Teena Little, a member of the state board of education running on the Republican ticket.

Mr. Etheridge has been engaged in a bitter battle this year with the state board and the Republican Governor, James G. Martin, over control of the state education department. Ms. Little is a close ally of Governor Martin, who is retiring this year.

In his campaign, Mr. Etheridge cites efforts to raise the state’s traditionally low Scholastic Aptitude Test scores and establish an annual school report card. He promises if re-elected to support dropout-prevention programs, implement a more rigorous course load for students, and study ways of decreasing the education department bureaucracy.

Ms. Little says she wants to fight for more local decisionmaking, arguing that districts should be able to decide how to allocate resources.

Ms. Little also is calling for more parental choice in public education. She does not support a voucher system for private schools, however.

Tough Fight in Indiana

Another tough fight is taking place in Indiana, where former State Rep. Stan Jones is the Democratic candidate against Suellen Reed, the superintendent of the Rushville schools.

The contenders are seeking to replace H. Dean Evans, who gave up his post in order to mount an unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination against Gov. Evan Bayh.

Mr. Jones, who has served as a senior education adviser to Mr. Bayh, touts his role in a number of reform efforts, including a state law requiring schools to provide before- and after-school child-care programs.

Ms. Reed says she will make changes in the state’s school-funding formula a top priority. She also wants to restore an accountability program under which students would be subjected to statewide testing.

Ms. Reed also favors establishment of a pilot school-choice program, a concept that Mr. Jones opposes.

In North Dakota, Superintendent of Public Instruction Wayne G. Sanstead is running with the support of the state Democratic Party against Len Martin, an independent.

The major issue in the election is the Bush Administration’s America 2000 program, which Mr. Sanstead largely supports. Mr. Martin says America 2000 would permit corporations to take over the schools.

A version of this article appeared in the October 21, 1992 edition of Education Week as Incumbent Chiefs in Wash., N.C., N.D. Face Opposition