A local resident emailed Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal (candidates for Washington State Superintendent of Schools in 2016) and asked several questions. Following is the original email and, to date, the response from both candidates in the order he received them. They said their responses could be shared.
Original Email to the Candidates
My wife and I are Washington State voters. We were reading the Voter’s Pamphlet and did not see where you stand on school choice or providing vocational training for students.We believe that parents and taxpayers, especially for those in inner cities or where there are under-performing schools, the ability of the government to provide school choice for those parents is essential to our education system.
We believe, that even in this new economy, there will always be a need for students to choose a profession [trade or skill], that may not require a college education, to obtain skills that provide well-paying careers. Even robots, solar panels, and self driving cars need inspection, repair and maintenance.
As a young man I knew I wanted a career in aviation. I lived in an area where in my high school days, my mother and I had a discussion regarding my future. She understood my desires and placed me in a vocational school to learn and become certified as a FAA certified AIrframe and Powerplant mechanic. When you graduated you had the necessary training and skills to pass the very complex FAA tests. I passed and as an 18-year-old held a FAA license to conduct commercial activities. That was 48 years ago. I was only unemployed 3 weeks in that 48 years and I’m retired with a comfortable living. My wife learned to be stenographer out of high school and held many private and public sector jobs in her life.
We need the ability for young folks to be able to learn trades and obtain skills that allow them to enter the workforce, if they do not want to initially pursue college.
The voting period is nearing and this is an important position, Superintendent of Public Education.
Please provide an answer on your positions regarding these two areas.
He received the following response from Erin Jones:
Good morning. I absolutely believe parents and children should have choice in their education. I spent my career in this state teaching in the poorest schools in the urban centers of Tacoma. I am also the mother of 3 black children. In the early years, when my husband and I were making very little money as an educator and youth pastor, we lived in the same, poor community where I taught, so my children were forced to attend schools that were sub-par. I absolutely know the heartache of being forced to send children to a school I knew was not serving them well, especially my oldest son, who suffers with dysgraphia.
We moved away to Spokane for several years after acquiring and later adopting a little girl from a gang family in Tacoma. We wanted to give her a news shot at life. Best choice!
Upon my return to the West Side, I came to work at the Tacoma school district office and was able to witness the transformation of a district. Now the school that was failing my kids is a STEM school. The school at which I taught is now one of the highest-performing schools. There’s a School of the Arts, a Science and Math Institute and an Engineering School, along with two Montessori academies and a language immersion school now. Families can select the school that best served their children. This is what I want to see in every urban center!
Federal Way is doing some similar work with the Federal Way Academy and Technology Access Foundation, a public-private partnership that serves primarily students of color and is a choice school. Another bright spot in Federal Way is the new partnership Federal Way HS has developed with local machine shops. The equipment and materials required to create a machines class at the school site are exorbitant, so they have done the next best thing – students are being bussed to local machine shops to learn on the job.
I absolutely believe we should be giving students more opportunities to learn trades, but the machinery and disposable materials required are very expensive. In a time when we need to be particularly efficient, I believe we should be looking for local partners who are willing to partner and provide students with internships in which they can learn on the job. These are the kinds of opportunities for which I will be advocating.
I grew up in the Netherlands, where all students either graduated with an industry certificate or a diploma ready for college. This is what I would like to see us move towards in Washington state.
Thank you for reaching out. If you have other questions, feel free to ask.
Candidate for Washington State Superintendent, 2016
Here is the response he received from Chris:
Thank you for taking the time to reach out to me to ask about my views on providing choice options and vocational-technical training to students. This is actually one of the biggest issues I talk about in my campaign, along with full funding and fixing our broken standardized testing system!
I completely agree with you. The world is getting more technical and our economy is begging schools to prepare kids for professional/technical careers beyond high school. Sadly, we seem to be pushing every student to a university. We need to ensure kids have the necessary skills, training, and resources to pursue other options beyond high school, including technical colleges, apprenticeships, military, and other careers.
Our schools’ lack of CTE offerings is also suppressing our graduation rate, especially among boys, who now drop out at a 25% higher rate than females. I am absolutely committed to returning CTE programs to our high schools and ensuring every district has the necessary resources to graduate career and/or college ready. With so many companies searching for people to hire with more than a high school diploma but less than a baccalaureate degree, we have a huge opportunity to help grow our state’s economy!
Here is where I discuss CTE on my website: http://www.chrisreykdal.com/issues
It is the second issue listed. I also have the endorsement of the Washington Association for Career and Technical Education. I’m the only candidate who has shown a real commitment to this.
You also asked about my position on school choice. I also agree that parents should have options on where they send their students to school. Every parent and every student should feel comfortable with their school and like it is the right match! We have some fantastic innovation schools in our state, and I think we must continue down this path for the sake of all of our students. I do believe that these schools should still have some nexus to a publicly elected board. Therefore, the current charter law remains unconstitutional in my opinion. If the courts dismiss it once again, I believe the only legal option is local school board authorized charters.
Thanks again for reaching out to me. Please let me know if you have any further questions!