Education News

Key Takeaways from the Second WA Schools Chief Candidate Debate

The second debate for the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction saw three candidates—incumbent Chris Reykdal, Peninsula School Board member David Olson, and education nonprofit founder Reid Saaris—discussing critical issues facing the state’s public education system. Hosted by the League of Education Voters and the Association of Washington Student Leaders, the virtual debate provided a platform for the candidates to outline their visions and address pressing concerns such as overcrowding, funding, and parental involvement. The debate highlighted the differing approaches and priorities of each candidate as they vie for the top education post in the state.

Overcrowding in Schools

One of the most pressing issues discussed during the debate was the problem of overcrowding in Washington’s public schools. Reid Saaris emphasized the severity of the situation, sharing personal anecdotes from his teaching experience. He recounted instances where teachers had to manage classrooms with over 40 students, which he argued is detrimental to both students and educators. Saaris called for immediate action to address this issue, suggesting that the superintendent should take responsibility and provide districts with viable solutions.

Chris Reykdal, the incumbent, highlighted his efforts to secure additional funding from the Legislature to support smaller class sizes. He pointed out that while there are caps on class sizes through the fourth grade, similar measures should be extended to higher grades. Reykdal’s approach focuses on legislative advocacy to ensure that schools receive the necessary resources to manage class sizes effectively.

second washington schools chief candidate debate highlights key issues

David Olson, on the other hand, stressed the importance of community support in passing local levies to fund efforts aimed at reducing class sizes. He argued that engaging parents and community members is crucial for securing the financial backing needed to address overcrowding. Olson’s perspective underscores the role of local initiatives in complementing state-level efforts to improve classroom conditions.

Funding and Resource Allocation

Funding for public education was another major topic of discussion. All three candidates agreed on the need for increased state funding, particularly for special education. Chris Reykdal defended his record, noting that the Legislature has advanced a billion dollars to special education during his tenure. However, he acknowledged that more work is needed to fully meet the state’s mandate to fund special education.

Reid Saaris criticized the current funding levels, arguing that they fall short of the state’s legal and moral responsibilities. He highlighted the struggles of paraeducators, who often face financial hardships despite their critical role in supporting students. Saaris called for higher pay for paraeducators and more comprehensive funding to ensure that special education needs are adequately met.

David Olson took a more confrontational stance, expressing his willingness to use his position to pressure the state Legislature and the Supreme Court to fulfill their funding obligations. He emphasized the need for a strong advocate who can hold the state accountable and ensure that schools receive the resources they need. Olson’s approach reflects a more aggressive strategy to secure funding and address resource allocation issues.

Parental Involvement and Rights

The role of parents in the education system was another key issue debated by the candidates. David Olson championed parents’ rights, arguing that they should have as much access as possible to their children’s education. He criticized a press release from Reykdal’s office that advised schools to wait for pending litigation to clarify disputes surrounding a parents’ rights initiative. Olson’s stance highlights his commitment to empowering parents and ensuring their active involvement in the education process.

Chris Reykdal defended his office’s position, explaining that the guidance was necessary to navigate the legal complexities of the initiative. He emphasized the importance of balancing parents’ rights with the need to comply with state laws and regulations. Reykdal’s approach seeks to find a middle ground that respects parents’ involvement while ensuring that schools operate within the legal framework.

Reid Saaris also acknowledged the importance of parental involvement but focused more on the broader systemic issues affecting education. He argued that addressing overcrowding and funding challenges would ultimately benefit parents by improving the overall quality of education. Saaris’s perspective suggests that empowering parents goes hand in hand with addressing the structural issues within the education system.


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