Democrats eye Georgia school superintendent’s office in 2018

It’s still more than a year away, but the election for Georgia’s highest K-12 educational office is already attracting potential candidates.

An advocate for educators and a former PTA leader have filed preliminary paperwork, and incumbent Richard Woods said he plans to run for re-election.

Otha Thornton, the immediate past president of the National PTA; and Sid Chapman, current president of the Georgia Association of Educators, registered with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, which is required to raise election funds -- Chapman on Friday and Thornton in late March.

"I'm exploring the possibility," said Chapman, who has been on leave from his job as a high school social studies teacher in Clayton County while he's been leading GAE the past few years. He lobbied the parent group, the National Education Association, to put millions of dollars into last year's successful campaign to defeat the Opportunity School District referendum, which would have endowed the governor with unprecedented power over "chronically failing" schools. He said he respects Woods but the office needs a "more assertive" person to push back on the governor's attempts to intervene in schools.

Thornton, a defense contractor at Fort Stewart, also spoke publicly against the OSD. Like Chapman, he said he plans to run as a Democrat. Both are watching the battle for the 6th Congressional district between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat John Ossoff to see what it might portend for Democrats in 2018. "That will be a tipping point," Thornton predicted.

Woods is the fourth Republican elected to the superintendent’s office since Democrat Werner Rogers lost it to the GOP’s Linda Schrenko in a 1994 shocker. Back then, Georgia was still electing Democrats to state office.

Woods announced via YouTube a couple weeks ago that he plans to seek a second term, saying he worked with lawmakers to reduce reliance on high-stakes testing. "Our children are being prepared for life, not a test," he said.

In other Local Education news:

Governor Deal signed 10 education bills into law, including a sanctuary school bill.

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