Elections Bring Six New (Mostly GOP) State Schools Chiefs

By Erik W. Robelen — November 05, 2010 1 min read
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By now, you’ve no doubt heard plenty about this week’s elections, especially for Congress and governorships, and the major gains made by Republicans. These results will have big implications for the direction of education policy and funding.

But you’ve probably heard far less, if anything (except from Education Week), about the shift in leadership coming from state schools chiefs. In all, as my colleague Sean Cavanagh has reported, six states—Arizona, California, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming—elected new chiefs this week. In Idaho, incumbent Republican Tom Luna won a second term. Also, in a race decided this summer, Oregon’s chief, Democrat Susan Castillo, won a third term.

The only Democrat among Tuesday’s winners was California’s Tom Torlakson, a state lawmaker and former high school teacher who had the backing of teachers’ unions. (His race, to replace outgoing chief Jack O’Connell, was technically a nonpartisan one.)

State superintendents, of course, typically play an important role in shaping and implementing education policy, with fallout that can be felt at the classroom level, including from state standards and assessments. Only about a quarter of state chiefs, however, are elected by voters.

Here are Tuesday’s winners, by state:

Arizona: John Huppenthal, a veteran Republican state senator who is the chairman of that chamber’s education committee.

California: As mentioned, Tom Torlakson.

Georgia: John Barge, a Republican and public school administrator. He’s also previously worked at the state department of education, where he was the state director for career-technical and agriculture education.

Idaho: As mentioned, Republican Tom Luna won a second term.

Oklahoma: Republican Janet Barresi, a former school speech pathologist who has helped found charter schools.

South Carolina: Mick Zais, a Republican and a former president of Newberry College.

Wyoming: Republican Cindy Hill, a former junior high school principal.

For EdWeek‘s overview and analysis of election results, click here.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.