Cobb school board member Jaha Howard runs for state superintendent

Board member Dr. Jaha Howard speaks during a Cobb County School Board meeting in Marietta on Thursday, July 15, 2021. He announced this week that he is running for state school superintendent. (Christine Tannous / AJC file photo)

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Board member Dr. Jaha Howard speaks during a Cobb County School Board meeting in Marietta on Thursday, July 15, 2021. He announced this week that he is running for state school superintendent. (Christine Tannous / AJC file photo)

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

State School Superintendent Richard Woods now has a third challenger for his role overseeing more than 2,300 schools in Georgia.

Cobb County school board member Dr. Jaha Howard is entering the campaign.

“I’m excited about this first phase of the campaign that’s centered on actively listening to educators and families before we finalize our platform,” he said to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday.

The dentist previously said he was considering a run for the state job because of the “casual safety response” of schools to COVID-19. He said he also felt motivated to run because he opposed what he described as a “manufactured” outrage over critical race theory.

Howard was referring to the outcry against CRT in some school districts. And also to the state school board’s decision in June to pass a resolution limiting classroom discussions about race and controversial events.

Since then, lawmakers have introduced legislation on the matter. Howard joined some metro Atlanta school board members in publicly opposing it.

Howard will be campaigning in the Democratic primary against Gwinnett school board member Everton Blair. He entered the race last week pledging to move beyond the “screaming and yelling” about education policy.

Blair is Gwinnett’s first Black and openly gay board member. He’s framing himself as a candidate who can foster consensus and tone down rhetoric over mask requirements, virtual schooling and vaccine mandates.

The winner of that race will face Woods or another Republican in the November general election. So far, only Woods and John Barge, the previous state superintendent, have entered the race on the GOP side.

Barge told the AJC in November that he was campaigning to excise “ideologies and things that are creeping” into schools, distracting from their core mission of reading, writing and arithmetic. The consequence, he says, has been tumbling academic performance.

Woods, in his eighth year as superintendent, started campaigning for a third term last spring. He said last fall that he would use another four years to close pandemic-related learning gaps, increase graduation rates and grow the shrinking teacher pipeline. He also wants to give high school graduates more education and work options.

Both Barge and Woods have spoken against critical race theory.


Role of State School Superintendent

The state school superintendent leads the Georgia Department of Education, and is responsible for monitoring schools and distributing state and federal funding to them. The superintendent must ensure that schools are following the law and state Board of Education rules, are being competently administered and are using money for the intended purpose. The superintendent can also make recommendations to the state board.

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