We worked with groups across the State of Washington to define questions and issues they want candidates for State Superintendent of Schools to address. We sent those questions to the Espinoza and Reykdal campaigns. We gave both until midnight September 26th to respond after which we would not accept their comments. Why the time limit? We didn’t want one candidate to have any advantage by knowing their opponents responses.
We emailed both campaigns multiple times. In the end Ms. Espinoza responded but the existing State Superintendent Chris Reykdal never did. Not a single note. So…we bring you the list of questions and Ms. Espinoza’s responses. The only other thing we can do is to share our views of how Mr. Reykdal’s actions and behaviors have played out and how we interpret what he thinks in a separate article.
Here are Ms. Espinoza’s responses to the questions. The entire document can be found on our blog site under her name in the 2020 OSPI candidates section of the site: https://swweducation.org?page_id=6378
Q1: Do you support our current homeschooling and charter schools? Yes /No. Why?
Response: Families know their kids best. For many, homeschooling is a terrific opportunity for students to receive an education while embracing experiences otherwise unavailable due to the traditional model. As a proud supporter of parental choice, I also support charters. Charter schools are an important option in public education. Families should be empowered to decide what school and school model is right for their child whether that’s charter schools, homeschooling, online school or another approved format, the choice should be in the hands of those who know best, the parents.
Q2: Do you support teaching phonics? Yes /No. Why?
Response: There are several schools of thought on how to best teach reading, and phonics is one of them. I want districts and parents to make the choices that work best for their kids. If phonics is that choice, great! My focus is just getting more of Washington’s kids reading. Right now, nearly half of them aren’t at grade level. We can do better.
Q3: Do you support Comprehensive Sex Education (including gender discussions starting as early as kindergarten)? Yes/ No . Why?
Response: The recently passed CSE bill is a massive overreach by the state and the current superintendent. We don’t have a state-mandated curriculum for any other subjects, yet the current administration chose this legislation to champion. I do not support gender discussions from kindergarten and it is apparent to me that CSE is more of an agenda-based sex-ed than a science-based one. Instead of pushing a controversial sex-ed bill, we should be ensuring our kids receive the education they are Constitutionally entitled to.
Q4: Do you believe the current SBAC testing is effective, valid, and indicative of student performance? Yes/ No . Why?
Response: This testing puts teachers in a terrible position of having to teach to a test just to keep their jobs. Teacher turnover is increasing because of this pressure, and our kids suffer as a result. We should let teachers embrace their natural gifts of teaching and get children to love learning again.
Q5: Do you support school choice? Yes /No. Why?
Response: Yes! Income inequality and the uneven distribution of school funding dollars has created a massive opportunity gap. By testing school vouchers this year, and embracing school choice we can combat this systemic inequality.
Q6: Do you support repealing the Common Core State Standards with a return to classical education options? Yes /No. Why?
Response: I understand the need to make sure students across the U.S are getting a good education, but current practices don’t allow teachers to teach as they see fit for their students! Common Core is another attempt at addressing poor educational attainment which has not worked and simply put, if it doesn’t work we shouldn’t use it. As a teacher myself, I’ve seen first-hand how teachers’ hands are tied in many situations, it’s disappointing because so much teacher training is developing classes and curricula but we’re not allowing them to do just that.
Q7: Is the role of the SPI to help shape the worldview of students? Yes/ No . Why?
Response: This is not the job of out-of-touch politicians in Olympia. Worldviews ought to come from family, community, religion, and history.
Q8: Do you believe that teachers unions exert a disproportionate impact on education decisions in Washington State? Yes /No. Why?
Response: The education system needs to exist in balance. We cannot allow the influence of the most powerful union in our state of outweigh the needs of our students. Unlike the politicians financially supported by this union, I look forward to working with with teachers’ unions and parents to deliver what’s best for the students of Washington.
Q9: Should trade and life skills education be increased and STEM decreased? Yes /No. Why?
Response: Both CTE and STEM are vital parts of our school system. However, because our focus has recently only focused on STEM we haven’t allowed our students to take advantage of CTE related opportunities. At the same time that Washington state has a skilled labor shortage, we are continuing to push college as the only continued learning option. We know trade jobs often pay above the state income average with little student debt and provide ample opportunity for entrepreneurship. It’s okay to offer both CTE and STEM but we must ramp up our options in CTE for students statewide. Moreover, teaching life skills should not be an elective class in public education–it should be standard!
Q10: Should local school districts have complete control without demands from the State or OSPI? Yes /No. Why?
Response: Some of the best wisdom given to us by the Founding Fathers was that we should decentralize powers and trust in local control as much as possible. Local districts know the needs of their community much better than distant bureaucrats in Olympia. OSPI should provide guidance and support for school districts.
Q11: Is funding for K-12 sufficient? Yes /No. Why?
Response: We have ample school funding in K-12 education in Washington. One problem we face is that local funding is over-reliant on levies and is tied to zip code, which results in geographic funding inequities. To make matters worse, our state receives some of the most Title II federal funds in the country. The Seattle area receives an unfair share of these migrant education dollars, while the highest proportion of migrant workers live and send their kids to school in rural Washington. We need to ensure that our revenue streams are managed in ways that are transparent and fair. We’ve more than doubled our budget, but our kids still are not receiving an adequate education. The lack of score growth is a clear sign of fiscal mismanagement and poor
leadership. The best calculations show only 40% of education dollars making it to the classroom, which is a scandal of mismanagement and poor leadership. As Superintendent, I will ensure our revenue and spending streams result in improvements and are accountable to parents and teachers.
Q12: Has the prototypical funding model for schools and the increases in state funding solved the funding adequacy problem? Yes/ No . Why?
Response: We do not have a funding problem. The problem we have is inefficient spending. We can keep raising more and more funds, but so long as we don’t spend them wisely and see them siphoned off for non-essential needs, we will continue to see issues of under-resourcing in education. Some of the most well-funded schools are also some of the worst, while adequate funding is essential, so is the leadership needed to make the best use of those funds.
Q13: Should union collective bargaining be open to the public? Yes /No. Why?
Response: Our society is built on transparency and openness. The taxpayers funding our schools deserve the right to see how their money is being spent.
Q14: How do you differ from your opponent?
Response: My opponent has been bought and sold by special interest groups, some behind out of state! My campaign is almost exclusively funded by individuals and we have managed to raise as much as my opponent even with him having a more than 3-year head start. It’s clear who stands to represent families. The current administration does a lot of talking about equity and local control, but when push comes to shove, Superintendent Reykdal puts up barrier after barrier to keep kids from the education they are Constitutionally entitled to. I have experience in closing opportunity gaps, increasing student outcomes and helping lift up the communities often forgotten in public education.
What are your top 3 priorities in 2021?
1. We need to protect our kids from the mandatory sex ed law that the current administration championed.
2. We also need to better implement technology to offer class variety, improve teacher satisfaction, and support individualized learning plans.
3. We need to make sure our students are equipped for life after graduation. Every student should be taught financial literacy, independent living, healthy relationships, and how to separate fact from opinion.
Any additional comments?
Now is our chance to reimagine a better education system because the status quo is no longer an option. We need to: use technology to innovate in classrooms and unlock possibilities for more personalized learning; provide school schedules that fit the needs of working families and teachers; teach students key life skills like managing finances, living independently, and resolving conflicts; and support parental choice and local control. While the incumbent was pushing a radical sex-ed curriculum, nearly half of Washington’s students are failing to meet state standards in core subjects. I am running for Superintendent because I believe our kids deserve better and can achieve more. I will update our school system to meet the needs of families, teachers, and the future economy.