Superintendent of Public Instruction – Chris Reykdal

Legislative Questionnaire

Candidate Info

Candidate Name:   Chris Reykdal
Position Sought:    Superintendent of Public Instruction
Are you an incumbent for this position?    Incumbent
Home Legislative District:    22nd
Are you a Democrat?    Yes!

Campaign Info

Campaign Manager or Point of Contact:    Sammi Payne

Part I – Candidate Background

1. Please briefly describe your qualifications, education, employment, community and civic activity, union affiliation, prior political activity, and other relevant experience. Beyond your qualifications, what makes you the best candidate for this position or office? Please describe any specific background or unique perspective you offer and how those will help you accomplish your goals for the position sought. If possible, give practical examples.


I’m a proud public school graduate from Washington State (Snohomish High School Class of 1990), I graduated from Washington State University, and I hold an MPA from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

I began my career as a public school teacher (Longview, WA), I worked for the State Senate for three years, and for our State’s Community and Technical College System Board as CFO and Deputy Executive Director for 14 years before being elected as State Superintendent. For six years at the College Board, I also served in the Washington State House of Representatives, 22nd LD – Democrat!

I’ve been a member of three unions, International Woodworker, Teamster, and Washington Education Association.

I was a local school board member for four years, and I’ve served as a foundation trustee (College Spark), and on dozens of other boards and commissions.

I eat, sleep, and breathe public education and have my whole life. As the son of two people with an 8th grade education, I fell in love with education as a student. I knew my teachers cared about me and all I wanted to do was become a teacher myself and give back for a lifetime. My work has always been about education opportunities, as a teacher, school board member, or working on labor or tax policy as a legislator, it is always about giving people (young and not so young) opportunities to self-actualize. My work will always be in service to institutions that don't seek profit from net margins but seek the common good by empowering individuals and closing opportunity gaps.

2. What prompted you to run for this office?

I was a three-term legislator and fourteen years an executive for our State's community and technical college board, and I understood that policy and budget transformations in public schools could be achieved by someone with personal experience growing up with significant financial barriers, professional experience as an executive and lawmaker, and the relationships in K-12, higher education, labor, local government, and state government to build lasting coalitions of impact.

3. What are your campaign’s most important themes, issues, or priorities (three to five)? Share issues or priorities specific to the office that you’re running for.

A) In my next term I will be focused on building a statewide advocacy network to ensure that our public schools remain PUBLIC. Some other candidates, ideological organizations, and the GOP want to privatize our system. They want assessment handed over to testing companies, they want vouchers so that “non-profit” schools, for-profit companies and schools, and religious institutions are propped up with taxpayer funds. They will resegregate our schools by ability, race, income, and religion, as a result of their agendas. There is no greater fight in Washington’s public education system than to ensure our schools remain public – publicly funded, publicly operated, and publicly accountable!

B) We will have to once again work to build a full funding coalition for our schools. Since the peak of funding in 2019, our schools are now down $1,000 per student adjusted for inflation. That’s a billion dollars needed just to deliver the programs that were in place in 2019. Since then, COVID, a culture war, and a mental health crisis have impacted schools and young people. So, the real need to amply fund our schools and deliver on our promise of a world-class education easily exceeds $2 billion per year in an ideal investment model.

C) We are rewriting our learning standards to substantially engage students in media/digital/information literacy. We have built incredible regional mental health networks to support students, but that is a response system. We now need to redesign the way we deliver instruction and supports in the modern age to address the growing anxiety students are bombarded with via social media and other propaganda pushers. We have to teach kids about the tools they are using (the strengths, risks, and harms). We have to focus on critical thinkers and critical consumers of information to get ahead of those who seek emotional chaos to sell clicks, views, and worse. I was one of the first state superintendents in the United States to issue AI guidance. More is coming. We have to empower young people with information literacy and access to students supports to get on top of our mental health crisis in the United States.

4. What steps are you taking to run a successful campaign?

I have been endorsed by over 130 current and former elected officials including the Governor, Congressman Kilmer, Speaker Jinkins, Majority Leader Billig, Public School Employee/SEIU 1948, Machinists 751, Teamsters, LDs, county parties, additional labor organizations, and advocates across the state. I've been to fifteen counties already (while running a state agency and surviving a Legislative session :-)). I've raised nearly $100,000 (It will take $350,00 to $400,000). I've run two successful statewide campaigns and three legislative campaigns, they are all unique, but there is one common denominator – my work ethic, integrity, vision, and thirst to build genuine progressive coalitions to support public education.

Part II –  Yes or No Questions, please qualify your response if necessary

1. Do you support steps to build a fairer economy through tax reform, including a wealth tax?    Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #1
2. Do you support the right of public workers, excluding military, to bargain and strike?    Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #2
3. Do you support legalizing multi-unit homes statewide, as proposed in the #Homes4WA bill, to help alleviate the affordable housing crisis?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #3
4. Do you support legislation to address climate change and protect our environment, including the Keep Washington Evergreen Act?    Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #4
5. Do you support women’s unrestricted access to reproductive healthcare?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #5
6. Do you support achieving a universal, affordable, quality single payer healthcare program?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #6
7. Do you support laws regulating the purchase, ownership, and carrying of firearms?     Yes
Optional: Qualify Your Response to #7

Part III – Free Response (Please answer at least four questions fully, consider the remaining three optional)

1. Why are you running as a Democrat? What aspects of the Democratic platform most resonate with you?

I was born and raised a Democrat. My parents had an eighth-grade education, but they survived on hard work and a belief that those who do the work should get paid a fair wage and have basic dignity. I have been a member of three labor unions, and my children's names are Carter and Kennedy! Our party is defined by the word progress(ive) – we literally stand for making progress by creating opportunities and closing opportunity gaps.

I agree 100% with our platform, our education components make very clear that we are the party of genuine PUBLIC education. Publicly funded, publicly operated, and publicly accountable. We have "Democrats" who want to forget the publicly operated part. Our constitution and laws of the State of Washington recognize "common schools" as those lead by locally elected school boards. Those who support charter schools that are privately operated, voucher schemes that send money or "scholarships" to private operators, are in direct violation of our platform. Democrats need to adhere to our belief in public institutions as the best and most effective way to empower the public good and individuals who need the most help. We need to be about the ends and the means of public education. You can't have one effectively without the other.

2. What important state and local issues have you worked on (or taken an interest in) that you feel aren’t getting enough attention from elected leaders and the media?

Our strong and resilient students and educators are being defined by an inaccurate and unreliable single test. It's intentional to create fear and clicks. My team works on the building blocks of success, instead of one dip-stick measure. Early learning and early literacy, kindergarten readiness, universal meals, mental health supports, dual language access, universal dyslexia screening, adequate recess, play, and arts, career exploration, acceleration programs, dual credit in high school, career and technical education pathways, and so much more. We build the steppingstones! The results: record dual language learners, top 15 in the nation in reading, top 10 in the nation in middle school math. Highest graduation rate in our state's history with the lowest remediation rates our colleges have ever seen. Our public K-12 students are awesome, but we are stuck in binary proficient/not proficient testing world, with an assessment, in math for example, that is designed backwards from calculus. It's like telling 2/3rds of 3rd graders they are a failure at P.E. if they aren't on track to shoot 10 of 10 from the free-throw line.

In my larger work, I have been grateful to co-sponsor marriage equality legislation, worker safety protections, and to be a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case that defeated Tim Eyman's 2/3rds tax requirement. There are so many progressive causes, issues, and laws I have been blessed to work on and bring to reality. My whole voting record, bill sponsorship, and more can be found on as a background to my progressive values before I dove deep back into K-12.

3. What legislative reforms do you support to achieve greater equity and inclusion for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ individuals in our communities?

There is no single piece of legislation. We have to take a whole community approach. From housing, to banking, to land-use, to carbon policies, early learning, K-12, higher education access and more. I do believe to get true representation we should split leg districts into an A/B model. The Senator would represent the whole district, but each house member would have half their current geography. This will eventually result in law makers much closer to the neighborhood level and representation that is much more diverse and reflective of the districts they serve. That same logic extends to school boards. At least four of five board members in every district should be elected in area districts in the general election. This would bring substantial diversity rapidly to the biggest layer of local government we have in this state — 1,477 school board members. They collectively control 43% of the state budget ($16 billion per year), and another $2.5 billion in local levy funds. Diverse school boards are our next powerful step in BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ representation for impact. I don't think you get lasting change until the change seekers are the change makers.

4. What are some obstacles inherent in proposed legislative solutions to climate change? How would you approach those obstacles in order to best overcome or minimize any negative effects?

In my part of this complex policy arena (in my current work life), I serve on the Boad of Natural Resources. I am trying to delink timber harvests from school capital budget funding, create an older forest policy, and retain trust-land revenue in the mostly rural communities where the resources are derived. Natural climate solutions are part of the total climate solution. I believe there are bipartisan coalitions ready to put more complete solutions together.

On the larger climate issues, we have to fight to hold on to CCA revenue, and then push it further into a regulatory system that creates more incentive to not pollute than it does to pollute and pay.

5. What safety, law, or justice reforms are you currently in favor of, and how will you work to implement them?

I can only say that K-12 has worked really hard to make restorative practices a standard part of our SEL curriculum. K-12 can probably teach the adult criminal justice system some effective strategies. We have also learned it has limits, and there are times when students need one-on-one supports to get the help they need and to allow the larger community (classroom) to move forward. Not every individual can be treated and supported effectively with community-based-only solutions.

6. What steps do you think need to be taken to improve voter turnout and increase voter trust in our election process?

I travel the state extensively and I get to talk to thousands of students in both college and high school. If I could impart one thing on Democratic leaders it is this: Young people value "the candidate" much less than they do the issues – specifically climate change, racial and gender justice, safety, and higher education affordability. We are on the cusp of transitioning America's biggest voting block from Boomer/Xers to Millenial/Zs. We have to lean into issues over candidates, specific policies over broad platforms, and targeted engagement over "broadcast" systems. When we connect the voter to "their" issues, instead of selling them "our" candidates, we will increase voter engagement, voter trust, and persistence of voters to stick with an issue until it gets resolution.

7. Do you think public schools are adequately funded? If not, what minimum requirements should be met in an adequately funded public school system? What specific forms of taxation would you support to attain that funding?

I built a comprehensive funding model, much of it was used by the Legislature in the McCleary funding reforms. It relied on capital gains tax, state property tax, with more tax credits for low-income families and fixed income seniors. That plan also leaned into the shift that we have to make from a gross-sales tax to a profit tax on businesses and services. Our current tax code punishes low-income families in favor of the wealthy, and it harms startups and small businesses in favor of multi-national corporations and businesses that operate with huge gross margins. I strongly support a wealth tax and believe Democrats should go on the offensive to get this onto the ballot in 2026. We will need progressive ballot issues to insulate the impacts of mid-term elections with a second term Democrat in the White House.

The bottom line is our state taxes our collective GDP less than the national average. Our schools pay the biggest price for that because we are one of the most heavily state-funded education systems in the nation (75% state, 17% local, 8% federal). Most states rely much more on local taxes. When our state fails to tax adequately or progressively, we underfund education. We have even slipped as a share of the state budge from 2019 (52%) to 44% today. We need progressive, adequate taxation, that focusses on early learning, K-12, and higher education investments.

Printed Name    Chris Reykdal
Date (mm/dd/yy)    03/08/2024

Comments are closed.