Tedesco announces bid for top state schools post
Posted January 26, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — Wake County school board member John Tedesco announced Thursday that he's seeking the post this year as the state's top education official.
"I think it's critical, at this time, that our children in North Carolina have a true champion who is willing to fight for the complex issues that will give them opportunities in education," Tedesco told WRAL News.
Tedesco joined the Board of Education in 2009 and has since chaired the board's task force on economically disadvantaged student performance.
As part of a Republican-backed majority elected that year, he helped lead the way for a new superintendent and a new student assignment plan – the latter which sparked protest and sometimes negative national attention.
"There are those who love me and those who don't, but I have earned the respect of those who don't by staying true to my word," Tedesco said.
One of the former majority's accomplishments was managing deep budget cuts without cutting teaching jobs, Tedesco said.
Current state education leaders, he said, have been lax in that area.
"They could have taken a more active role in helping to trim wasteful spending and streamline those dollars to protect teachers, like we did in Wake County," he said.
In a news release announcing his campaign, Tedesco said Gov. Bev Perdue's administration and current Superintendent June Atkinson have "failed our children."
"During Perdue's first two years in office, with a Democrat-controlled General Assembly by her side, we lost more teacher jobs in this state than we had in the previous quarter century," Tedesco said in the release.
He also took aim at Atkinson, who last week said she was running again because "we are winning."
" I quite frankly do not see a state burden by education bureaucracy, firing thousands of teachers over the past four years and producing a 50 percent reading proficiency for our minority children as winning," Tedesco said.
"More than ever, we need real leadership and our teachers need support," he continued.
Tedesco joins a race with a pool of candidates who include Republicans Ray Martin, a Cary teacher, and former Monroe City Council candidate Richard Alexander.
Besides Atkinson, Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, is also in the running on the Democratic side.
Atkinson said in an interview that she doesn't want to leave office during what she calls a remodeling effort for the public schools.
"It was a hard decision, but there are quite a few things that we have under way," Atkinson told The Associated Press last week. "I feel like we're in the middle of the game and I don't want to leave the game."
Glazier has said that he could do a better job than Atkinson of standing up to Republicans, whom Democrats in the Legislature have accused of damaging the schools with spending cuts.
"The superintendent has got to be a chief advocate for public education, for the students of this state and the chief advocate for the professionals who teach," Glazier told reporters. "I intend to take that message statewide."