Incumbent Superintendent June Atkinson is a lifelong educator, while Republican challenger Richard Morgan is a former state lawmaker who served as co-speaker of the House.
"I am the only candidate who has the experience of being a teacher, community college administrator, community college instructor, educational administrator and state superintendent for three years," Atkinson said.
"I've had real hands-on experience at the highest levels of state government putting together budgets," Morgan said. "I think my business background adds a fresh perspective."
The state superintendent has no policy-making or administrative duties at the state Department of Public Instruction, so Atkinson used the position over the past four years to bring attention to education issues.
When it comes to decreasing the dropout rate and increasing the graduation rate, the two candidates differ sharply.
"(We need to) make sure we put that quality teacher in every classroom, and that comes back to funding, which is where my specialty exists in the General Assembly," Morgan said.
"We must make sure our schools that are struggling with low graduation rates have a new structure, make sure students have access to electives and career technical education," Atkinson said.
They agree on increasing the time students spend in the classroom, saying it's necessary for students to compete in the global arena.