Election To Watch: Jay Inslee vs. Rob McKenna

There are gubernatorial elections in 11 U.S. states (and two territories) in 2012. Obviously, the education agendas of candidates in each election are important — many believe that Scott Walker’s June 5 re-election vs. Tom Barrett in Wisconsin could be indicative of the next year of American politics and beyond — but the Governor’s race in Washington state, likely to feature Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna, piqued our interest.

McKenna appears to have made education his primary issue of the campaign; Inslee has countered with a multi-tier plan of his own.

This piece breaks down where they differ on education policy. McKenna has supported charter schools; Inslee supports something similar to charter schools that he calls “innovative schools” — grant-funded alternative schools overseen by local school boards (Inslee has indicated that the traditional charter school model can dodge public accountability, which he sees as vital).

They both are in favor of a law using student test scores as a baseline for hiring, firing and tenure decisions.

One massively important drawback to this race is that both candidates have been vague on their school funding plans, even though outgoing Governor Christine Gregoire has noted that “new revenue is necessary.”

Is Rob McKenna one of the most education-focused gubernatorial candidates in America? Or should his vague funding plans concern us?

McKenna won the major endorsement of Stand for Children – they endorsed Gregoire last time out — using a “blind taste test” model.

In July of 2011, Washington ranked No. 20 on one metric ranking states in math and science education. It was No. 25, with a “C”-ranking, on the ALEC metrics. Within ALEC, the state received a “D+” ranking in the teacher quality areas. Clearly, the future of education in Washington state is a major issue — in the past decade, the percentage of the state budget dedicated to education has fallen from over half to around 40 percent, as one example — and this Governor’s race will make some inroads towards re-setting the path.

What’s your take: Inslee or McKenna? And how important is this election relative to other gubernatorial races?

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