Politics & Government

Erin Jones concedes schools chief race to Chris Reykdal

Chris Reykdal, right, will be Washington state’s next superintendent of public instruction. Erin Jones, left, publicly conceded the race to Reykdal on Tuesday.
Chris Reykdal, right, will be Washington state’s next superintendent of public instruction. Erin Jones, left, publicly conceded the race to Reykdal on Tuesday.

State Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, will be Washington state’s next schools chief.

Erin Jones, a former Tacoma Public Schools administrator, conceded the race to Reykdal on Tuesday in a post on Facebook.

Jones, a Lacey resident, posted a video congratulating Reykdal on his win and wishing him good luck as the state’s next superintendent of public instruction.

The race between the two former teachers ended up being the closest of nine contests for statewide elected offices in Washington this year. Reykdal led Jones by about one percentage point as the final votes were being counted this week.

“I have been eliminating the gap between Chris Reykdal and myself since Nov. 8, but not fast enough,” Jones said in her Facebook video.

In the end, Reykdal won by about 28,000 votes out of about 2.6 million cast in the race.

Reykdal, who gave up his state House seat to run for state superintendent, has been in the Legislature since 2011. He was vice chairman of the House Education Committee, and was previously a member of the Tumwater School Board.

Since 2002, he has worked for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges and is now its education division associate director. He also spent three years as a teacher at Mark Morris High School in Longview.

Jones, a former teacher in Tacoma and Spokane, has worked as an assistant superintendent in the state superintendent’s office and also served as the equity and achievement director for schools in Federal Way.

Most recently, she was director of the AVID study skills program for Tacoma Public Schools, a position she resigned in June to focus on her state superintendent campaign.

While in Tacoma, she helped train educators in cultural competency.

Reykdal said Wednesday he was happy the election is settled so he can focus on preparing to assume his new office.

“We’re just full steam ahead on transition,” he said.

Reykdal will replace outgoing state superintendent Randy Dorn, who was elected in 2008.

In recent years, Dorn has been a harsh critic of what he has deemed the Legislature’s slow progress to fully fund public schools. In the McCleary education-funding case, the state is under a court order to correct school-funding gaps by September 2018.

Reykdal will be stepping into the schools chief role as lawmakers are struggling to solve the most complicated part of the McCleary ruling: taking on school-employee salary costs that are being paid unconstitutionally by local school districts. The Legislature has pledged to solve that problem — which many lawmakers estimate will cost an additional $3.5 billion every two years — in 2017.

Reykdal, who was backed by labor unions including the statewide teachers union, has said he supports a combination of levy reforms and capital gains taxes to generate new funding for education.

Staff reporter Debbie Cafazzo contributed to this report.

Melissa Santos: 360-357-0209, @melissasantos1