GA State School Superintendent election – both primaries result in runoff


The hotly contested primary races in both parties for the GA Department of Education School Superintendent were partially decided and will both head to a runoff between the top two candidates in each party.

On the Republican side nine candidates vied for the position and the top two were Mike Buck with 19.6% of the vote and Richard Woods with 16.9% of the vote. Buck currently serves as the Chief Academic Officer for the GA DOE and previously served as an Assistant Superintendent and as a high school principal.  Woods currently is a small business owner and previously served as a school principal, teacher and coach.

On the Democrats side six candidates were in the race and Valerie Wilson (31.9%) and Alisha Thomas Morgan (26.4%) far outpaced the rest of the field. The next closest candidate had 18.7% and it dropped quickly from there.

While statewide turnout was low with only 18.7% of registered voters showing up at the polls, the vote totals may be an indication of things to come. The highest turnout was for the Senate race with 890 thousand total votes. The State Superintendent race had a fairly large undervote as only 727 thousand cast ballots in both party primaries. However, the Republican voters showed up and outpaced the Democrats by two to one.

For the detailed results on all the primary elections yesterday, see statewide results here and Fulton County results here.

The runoff election will be held on July 22, 2014.

The following is some brief background on each of the candidates in the upcoming runoff:

Mike Buck (R) (campaign website) – currently serves as the GA Chief Academic Officer and previously served as Rome City Schools Assistant Superintendent and Rome High School Principal. On his campaign website Buck states,

I support local control and flexibility for school districts and communities that have demonstrated their commitment to higher accountability for student achievement in exchange for greater flexibility from Title 20 (Georgia law that governs education) and the accompanying state board of education guidelines and rules. 

I am committed to ensuring that our [teacher and leader] evaluation system is firm, fair, and consistent and ultimately leads to enhanced student achievement.

Parents have the right to choose public school, including charter schools; home school, or private school as the education option for their children. 

Richard Woods (R) – He has worked for within the Irwin County School System for over twenty-two years and has served as a social studies teacher and coach. In 2002 he was promoted to administrative leadership and, among other positions, served as an elementary school principal.For several years, he worked as the purchasing agent for an industrial laser company and currently serves as the founder and owner of a small business. On his campaign website, Wood lists his policy goals,

  •  End unnecessary data collection, meaningless paperwork, repetitive documentation.
  • Be wary of accepting any policy or legislation that is approved or sponsored by the federal government.
  • Protect independence and autonomy of our home and private school institutions.
  • End the practice of unfunded mandates – if we can’t afford it, we don’t need it!
  • Develop a statewide purchasing consortium for the purpose of using large purchasing power to lower cost.
  • A complete audit of the Georgia Department of Education should be performed to remove costly and unnecessary regulation.
  • Use block grant funding to offer more financial flexibility to local school system.

Valarie Wilson (D) (campaign website) – She currently serves as Executive Director of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, Inc. In 2002 she began serving on the school board of the City Schools of Decatur and served as Board Chair from 2005-2011. In 2009 she joined the Georgia School Boards Association and served as its president in 2012-2013 and spoke out against Amendment 1 that created State charter schools. Previously she served as Director of the Human Services Department in Fulton County and as Director of Fulton County’s Office of Aging. On her campaign website, Wilson list her policy priorities as,

Oppose Privatization – “I’m very troubled by the movement to sell our schools to private interests. I believe all schools, including non-profit charter schools, have the potential to facilitate needed reforms and develop new teaching methods. But I oppose for-profit charter schools because they lack accountability and stability. And…I oppose vouchers. They don’t reach the kids who are most in need—they usually aren’t nearly large enough to cover tuition.”

Support Common Core – “The Common Core is a set of strong standards that will help our students to compete in the global labor market. Legislators’ efforts to replace these evidence-based standards with home-grown guidelines will hurt our students and could contribute to an exodus of educators from the public system.”

Defend Local Control – “The school boards were elected by local communities. They know our children best. Yet their hands are being tied by legislators and other bodies so they can’t make decisions based on what they know. As state superintendent, I’ll help to give schools back to their communities.”

Alisha Thomas Morgan (D) (campaign website) – She currently serves in the Georgia House of Representatives where she sits on the Education, Appropriations and Health & Human Services committees, and also serves as Vice Chair of the Innovation Subcommittee on Education. In this position, she supported Amendment 1 (the constitutional amendment that reestablished the Georgia Charter School Commission in 2012); co-sponsored the state’s new Teacher and Leader evaluation law that better measures the effectiveness of educators; is leading the effort to end the state’s “Last In, First Out” hiring practice for new teachers; and sponsored a school transferring law allowing parents to choose a public school within their school district based on the best interest of their child. Her campaign website lists additional policy priorities,

  • Implementing a strong teacher evaluation system that gives educators clear and immediate feedback to improve their teaching
  • Create partnerships with the faith, civic, and corporate communities that will enhance educational opportunities for educators and students
  • Build relationships with private and non-profit entities to provide training for school and district leaders in the areas of human capital and leadership.
  • Encouraging the use of data driven decisions that allow education professionals the opportunity to think outside the box to meet the needs…for all students
  • Equipping every Georgia public school with state-of-the-art technology to provide students with individualized learning opportunities. 
  • Common Core[She] believes that staying-the-course with the higher standards is the right thing to do for Georgia…
  • Parent Choice – She is a supporter of virtual education, public charters, and is the author of the state’s law that allows parents to choose a public school within the school district that best meets the needs of their child.… Morgan believes that all options should be on the table for parents and students, enabling them to choose the approach to education that best meets their learning styles and individual needs.

Also, a couple of other quick notes on the primary election:

  • Brenda J. Muhammad, who served on the APS Board of Education for 14 years, ran in the Fulton County Commissioner race for District 5 and secured a position in a runoff with Marvin Arrington, Jr. In addition, former APS BOE candidate Dell Byrd was in this race, but finished a distant third.
  • Beth Beskin, who has presented her views to the APS Board of Education in public comment on several occasions, finished at the top of her primary for the District 54 GA House race, but missed topping the 50% mark by only four votes. Unless something changes in a recount, she will be heading to a runoff in July against John McCloskey who received 30.3% of the votes.
  • Perennial candidate Eddie Lee Brewster, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the APS Board of Education this past November, was also unsuccessful in his bid for the District 4 Fulton County Commission seat. His opponent received 71% of the vote.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]

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