North Carolina’s Democratic state schools chief June Atkinson, the nation’s longest-serving superintendent, was ousted in her re-election bid by Republican Mark Johnson, a member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education, according to the Associated Press.
Atkinson was elected in 2005 and was twice re-elected. During her tenure, she fought to raise teacher pay and helped North Carolina gain a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act and a federal Race to the Top grant.
But a Republican-dominated legislature sent down a wave of funding cuts and accountability measures to the state’s public schools in recent years, expanding charter schools’ footprint and including test scores in teacher’s evaluations.
Johnson, a former teacher, had been critical of standardized testing in his campaign, said the state should move away from the Common Core State Standards, and favored improving the screening process for hiring teachers.
Atkinson may have lost Tuesday night in part due to the large Republican turnout in North Carolina. State analysts said last month that the governor’s race overshadowed the state’s superintendent’s race. In that race between incumbent Republican Pat McCrory and state attorney general Roy Cooper, a Democrat, candidates fought over which party had done more to raise teacher pay.
The superintendents only had one debate during this election.
Across the country, the average tenure for state superintendents is just three years.
In 2012, Education Week published a Q&A with Atkinson.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.