Barge breaks Republican ranks, endorses Democrat Wilson

Georgia’s Republican state school superintendent again defied conventional political form Thursday by endorsing Democrat Valarie Wilson to be his successor.

John Barge made the announcement in front of Tucker High School in DeKalb County, saying Wilson’s vision for education is more aligned with his than Republican superintendent candidate Richard Woods.

“Education leaders also know that, despite the rhetoric, they have taken massive hits to their budgets over the last four years,” Barge said. “Valarie Wilson has and will continue to be a staunch advocate for the return of resources to our public schools.”

Barge’s complaints about inadequate funding for public education prompted him to a surprising primary run for governor earlier this year against a fellow Republican and incumbent, Gov. Nathan Deal. Deal handily beat Barge and former Dalton Mayor David Pennington.

Woods said Barge’s endorsement shows Wilson will pursue what he described as several failed education policies.

“My opponent is endorsing the continuation and expansion of a failed testing model, a teacher evaluation tool that overburdens our teachers and overemphasizes test scores, a broken relationship with the governor and General Assembly, and a top-down approach to educational decision making,” Woods said.

Woods also called on Wilson not to hire Barge as a consultant, contractor or employee if she wins.

Barge and Woods have a history. Barge defeated Woods in the 2010 Republican Party primary for superintendent.

The election is Nov. 4.