The responses to these questions were edited for length and clarity by the Georgia Decides team. Each candidate was allotted 150 words for each answer and some answers were trimmed in order to abide by that length requirement. Other edits were made to make sure readers can fully follow and understand the candidate responses.
Campaigning for: State School Superintendent
How does your background equip you for the job you are seeking?
State Superintendent is a policy and leadership job. In addition to being a parent of three school age children, I am the only candidate in recent history who has state legislative experience (12 years), and the only candidate who has led a system of schools prior to serving in this role. I worked across the aisle to pass education legislation. As a superintendent my team and I raised our CCRPI score from 43 to 85, and the teacher retention rate from 25% to 75%. My track record of getting things done as a policy maker and getting results for students and teachers uniquely qualify and prepare me to take on this role and the significant challenges we face in public education including school safety, teacher burnout, and designing a school system that meets the needs of our students in every corner of the state.
What role should government have in the lives of Georgians? How would you apply that philosophy to the job you are seeking?
The role of government is execute the laws and values of the state. It is to protect people from discrimination or mistreatment, and to ensure access regardless of zip code or background. In some cases it must also serve as a safety net for those who need additional support.
As it relates to State School Superintendent, it is my job to ensure we meet the constitutional requirement to provide a public education to every child in our state. As a state we must ensure access for all students regardless of where they live in the state. The most basic violation of this currently is rural students and some in urban areas. I believe the state must serve as a safety net and fill that gap so they have the opportunity to receive an education with all of the tools and resources due to them.
If you are elected (or re-elected), what problems will you spend the most time solving and why?
If elected, I will focus on school safety, teacher burnout, and re-imagining education.. As a parent, I want to be confident that my child will return home to me safe each day. We have varying levels of school safety measures in place across the state. This must be addressed.
If we do not address teacher burnout, we will see a further crisis in education. Teachers deserve to feel respected and should be compensated for the work they do.
Our current system is outdated in many ways. We must stop delivering a telegram education to a TikTok generation. Instead, create a system that is relevant, meaningful and meets the needs of today’s students.
I will also focus on the funding formula, special education, and ensuring broadband access in every corner of the state. These are tough issues that require an experienced and well prepared leader with a background as a superintendent, policy maker and parent.
Georgia is a politically diverse state. How will you work to represent Georgians whose political views differ from your own?
As a former state legislator, I have a proven track record of working across the aisle on education issues. I am proud of this record and my ability to bring people together across political, racial and geographical lines on behalf of children. I am also not afraid to disagree with my own party. I believe that when it comes to education, we should be bi-partisan or non partisan. I will always be open to listen, to dialogue with those whom I may disagree, and work together with anyone who wants to work on behalf of children.
Who has been the biggest influence on how you view government and politics? What have you learned from this person?
I recently held a campaign event with two former United States Secretaries of Education. One is a Republican appointee, the other a Democratic appointee. Both ushered in sweeping changes in education in our country during their tenures. While from different parties, Both Arne Duncan and Rod Paige share a vision of a strong public education system that is student centered, focused on attracting and retaining effective teachers with high expectations for kids; prioritizing safe schools; and providing courageous leadership with a willing to work across the aisle to get results for children. My relationship with them both reaffirms that we must put politics aside in education. When and if we do, students, families and educators win. I’m honored to have the support and counsel of both these national education leaders.
Politics is often about compromise. How do you decide when to compromise and take small, incremental wins, and when to refuse compromise?
As a six-term legislator, I was often faced with this question. Compromise is inevitable in this process. I have not and will not compromise on my value to always do what is in the best interest of students. I have experiences in this as a superintendent as well as a state legislator.
I have passed laws that took several years to pass because it required work and building more support. The incremental wins along the way were worth the wait. I have also co-sponsored bills, that after passage, I realized we compromised too much making it difficult in implementation.
My experiences as a former legislator and superintendent have prepared me to serve as State Superintendent to know when to compromise, how to achieve incremental change, and ultimately find success. These are vital skills to have now given the significant issues we must face in education.
There were politicians who questioned the outcomes of Georgia elections in 2018 and 2020. Do you think Georgia’s elections are secure and will you stand by the results?
Yes, I believe Georgia’s elections are secure and I stand by the results.
In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, state law and local enforcement authority will determine access to abortion. If elected, how will you use your authority to influence abortion access or enforcement of abortion restrictions?
This issue is not relevant to a State School Superintendent. Personally, I support a woman and her doctor to make medical decisions. My focus will always be to be a champion for students, educators and parents, and working each day to ensure every child in every corner of our state has access to a high quality education.