School choice blurring party lines in Georgia superintendent race

Georgia Republican schools superintendent Richard Woods, who hopes to be elected to a third term in November, says he sees the role of the Department of Education as “service and support” and “compassion over compliance.” PHOTO: Jon Gillooly

Editor’s note: This article appeared last week on the74million.org.

Among the six candidates the Georgia Association of Educators endorsed for statewide office, all were Democrats, save one: Republican schools Superintendent Richard Woods.

The two-term incumbent’s support of a controversial new “divisive concepts” law that restricts what teachers can say about race and diversity in the classroom was apparently less worrisome to the union than the platform of Alisha Thomas Searcy, his Democratic challenger.

“His opponent, regrettably, has a long history of advocating for taxpayer funding of private schools that we cannot overlook,” President Lisa Morgan said when announcing the union’s slate of candidates.

Searcy was elected to the state House at just 23 and consistently advocated for school choice legislation during her 12 years in office. She co-authored a law that allows students to transfer to other schools within their district, voted in favor of the state’s tax credit scholarship program and championed a constitutional amendment creating the State Charter Schools Commission.

Groups seeking to start a new charter school can apply directly to the commission instead of their local district.

“It’s opening up opportunities within public education for literally hundreds of thousands of children,” Searcy said, noting that her views are likely to earn her some Republican votes. “I have a track record of working across the aisle and having bipartisan relationships.”

Woods also supports charter schools but expanding choice has not been the focus of his campaign.

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