Incumbent Democrat June Atkinson held a commanding lead over GOP challenger John Tedesco in the race for superintendent of public instruction late Tuesday night.
Atkinson, leading by nearly 9 percentage points with 99 of 100 counties reporting, said she was excited to be able to continue working for the state. Atkinson and Tedesco, a member of the Wake County school board, competed for the chance to run the state Department of Public Instruction for the next four years.
On her way to winning a third term, Atkinson emphasized improved graduation rates, which topped 80 percent this year. She has criticized Tedesco as inexperienced and for having a cloud of chaos surrounding him. The states largest school district is in upheaval over changing student assignment plans.
Tedesco painted Atkinson as part of a Democratic old-guard that is out of step with the Republican-controlled legislature. Tedesco said he wanted to reorganize the department and its 900 full-time and part-time employees to reduce agency costs and redirect more money to local districts.
This is a crucial time for public education and DPI, with teachers using a new curriculum, the state in the middle of implementing changes required by its Race to the Top grant, and the legislature contemplating a way to use public funds to pay for private schools.
Atkinson said Tuesday night that she has a good working relationship with legislative leaders.
I have over the years worked with people who will be in leadership in the General Assembly, she said. Ive worked hard to make them know that, even if we dont agree all the time, they can count on the information I provide, and we can work together.
Atkinson led the fundraising race, bringing in more than $287,000 by the end of October.
More than $214,000 came from the states public finance fund.
Tedesco had raised about $66,000 by the end of last month.