June Atkinson, the states superintendent of public instruction, told a group of editors and reporters Monday that if vouchers are to promote competition between private and public schools, then private and public schools should be subject to the same testing so parents can make a fair comparison.
House Majority leader Paul Stam, an Apex Republican, helped push through vouchers for low-income students during the last session. He doesnt think Atkinson has any business commenting on Republican ideas to boost private schools with public money.
She should stick to her own knitting, he said.
With one comment Stam crystallized the lack of respect shown by state Republican lawmakers for other elected officials, not to mention the Constitution, when it comes to steamrolling their ideology into law.
Heres a reminder: Stam was elected with 24,942 votes; Atkinson, a Democrat, was elected with 2,336,441 votes. Her knitting covers the whole state and it certainly includes demanding a fair contest if Republican lawmakers want to pit public schools against private schools that are getting public funds.
The superintendent of public instruction usually isnt a particularly partisan office. The welfare of the states children comes first. But its good to see Atkinson willing to take on a legislative leadership that has been dismissive of professional educators. Atkinson, a former teacher, is speaking up for whats right about public schools and whats best for the 1.5 million students and the 95,000 teachers.
Atkinson has a lot of sensible ideas about what schools need and what makes them better. With the state's graduation rate hitting a record high and test scores improving, there are signs that those ideas are working. There is far less broken than Republicans are trying to fix.