Education

Republican lawmaker weighing a run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

State Rep. Craig Horn

State Rep. Craig Horn, a Republican from Union County who chairs several education committees in the General Assembly, created a week-ending buzz when he told WRAL-TV that he’s considering a run for State Superintendent.

Horn told the station that he’d been thinking about running for superintendent for several weeks after being asked by educators and community members from both sides of the aisle to consider a run for the seat.

In an interview with Policy Watch, Horn, 75, confirmed he is weighing a run for State Superintendent but expressed concern about a lengthy, expensive campaign in what he believes will be a toxic political environment in 2020.

“When you get into these long campaigns and bruising primaries, inevitably it gets personal,” Horn said. “That just doesn’t hold much allure to me.”

The State Superintendent’s seat is currently held by Republican Mark Johnson who has not announced whether he plans to seek reelection.

Horn said he asked Johnson if he planned to seek reelection.

“He told me he hadn’t decided or maybe it was he wasn’t ready to announce,” Horn said. “He didn’t reveal his plans to me.”

Horn said its “more likely” that he will run for superintendent if Johnson does not seek reelection and “less likely” he will if Johnson does.

Justin Parmenter, a Charlotte educator who blogs about education issues, wasted little time attacking Horn’s legislative record after hearing rumors that Horn might run for State Superintendent.

Here’s what Parmenter said about Horn in a tweet:

Most recently, Parmenter has been critical about Horn’s support of virtual Pre-K for four-year-olds.

Horn expects to face criticism about not being an educator.

“I see why people would believe the superintendent should be an educator, but I can tell you from my own experience that when you run an organization you surround yourself with really smart people,” Horn said. “You motivate them, support them and get out of their way.”

Horn noted that North Carolina has 1.8 million students, more than 100,000 teachers and a $10 billion K-12 education budget.

“That sounds like a management challenge to me, not a classroom teacher challenge,” said Horn, who served in the Air Force and was a food broker and businessman before being elected to the state House in 2010.

Horn said he believes the superintendent should have the support of teachers. There are pockets of discontent teachers across the state who are hyper-critical of Johnson.

“We have great teaching going on in North Carolina and great teachers,” Horn said. “Teachers have got to feel like someone has their back.”

Horn is the first Republican to announce interest in running for state superintendent.

Meanwhile, six Democrats has announced plans to run for the seat.

The six announced candidates are:

  • Educational consultant and former teacher Amy Jablonski of Raleigh,
  • Charlotte educator and activist Constance Lav Johnson,
  • Wake County school board member Keith Sutton,
  • Michael Maher, assistant dean for professional education and accreditation at the College of Education at NC State University,
  • James Barrett, a Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board member, and
  • Jen Mangrum, a clinical associate professor in the School of Education at UNC-Greensboro who ran for a seat in the legislature last year against Senate leader Phil Berger.

The filing deadline for the state superintendent’s seat is Dec. 20. Primaries will be held March 3, 2020, followed by the General Election Nov. 3, 2020.

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