When Blog subscribers first read about Jeanne Casteen in May 2019, she was starting her Primary Campaign to be the Democratic nominee for the Maricopa County School Superintendent post.
Since then, her primary opponent, Jennifer Samuels, has withdrawn her candidacy allowing Democrats to flock to Ms. Casteen as she starts her 2020 general election campaign.
Impeccably qualified to be the next County Superintendent, Ms. Casteen is an experienced educator, education activist, and President of the Creighton Elementary School Board.
She wants to be the Superintendent for all of the county’s families, educators, and schools. She wants increased funding for education and respect for the teaching profession. She also pledges to be a superintendent that will appoint pro-public education representatives to school boards when vacancies occur in K-12 districts and Maricopa County Community Colleges.
Meeting again at the Fair Trade Café, Ms. Casteen discussed the state of her campaign and where she would like to promote as the next Maricopa County School Superintendent.
The questions and her responses are below:
- Please describe the state and progress of your campaign since the withdrawal of Ms. Samuels.
- Volunteers – “The number of new volunteers who have rallied around me and my campaign has been overwhelming. We have people in every corner of Maricopa County who are gathering signatures and knocking doors to make sure my name is on the ballot. “
- Grassroots support –“ I think my campaign has always been grassroots. Most of my friends are teachers, and their time and resources are limited, but I still have a good number of those folks who are walking for me or are monthly donors to my campaign. I have also gotten the support of the Painters Union and S.M.A.R.T. (Sheet Metals.)
- County, LD, and State Party support –“ Since not having a primary, this has probably been the biggest change. Every legislative district has been so supportive with signatures and outreach. It’s been really inspiring going around to every LD in Maricopa County, especially those that are traditionally “red” because they are really working hard. Not just for me, but for every countywide candidate. Their laser-like focus on voter registration and increasing PCs is going to turn Arizona blue in 2020, from the cities to the counties, to the state, and even the presidential election.”
- Fundraising – “Fundraising is never easy, and I would even say that it’s harder during a presidential election year. A county superintendent race isn’t as exciting as a Presidential, Senatorial, or Congressional race. That said, the voters are passionate about public education in Arizona. Wherever I go, whenever I do call time, people tell me about their own experience with public education, or about family members who are teachers, and these people want to support someone who can improve outcomes and conditions for our students and teachers.”
- To what extent have the issues in the race for you changed or remained the same as this campaign has moved forward?
“The issues are the same: we need fair funding, WHOLE child education and supports, and professional dignity for educators. Furthermore, it is important to have a Superintendent that will fill school boards with people that are for education and kids.”
- In meeting the people at campaign events and LD meetings, what are at least two issues they would like you to work on if you become the next Maricopa County Superintendent?
“Voters are very concerned about public education funding, and specifically how the lack of funding has caused the worst teacher retention crisis in the nation. We now have two ballot initiatives that will address teacher pay and putting a cap on vouchers that are overwhelmingly supported by both Democrats and Republicans that I talk to. Those who are on the frontlines of education want a County Superintendent who will find creative ways to support the 58 school districts within Maricopa County, including professional development, partnerships, and innovative learning opportunities for students.”
- Now that you are in essence a general election campaign, please describe at least two ways you are highlighting the differences you have with County Superintendent Watson?
“The biggest difference between Mr. Watson and myself is my board experience. Being on my school board has given me eight years of insight into public education in Arizona. I have seen first-hand how the systematic degradation of education funding has devastated our most vulnerable communities. Working only in Title I schools for the past 12 years has shown me how the state of Arizona seems to intentionally support this devastation through uneven funding practices and the privatization movement. Mr. Watson is pretty quiet about these inequities, but I see a huge opportunity to use this position to reach out to legislators to encourage best practices, or to go to Senate or Legislative committee hearings to speak about bad legislation.”
“Additionally, at a time when schools and districts are supposed to do more with less, I understand the importance of securing grants and grant funding or fostering creative partnerships with various stakeholders to fill in the gaps for our students and educators. Currently, there are no PD opportunities for teachers through the County Superintendent office and hasn’t been since 2018.”
“School Board Appointments: This office is so important in getting strong school board members into vacant positions, and I plan to make sure that these appointments consist of strong, progressive, pro-public education public servants. From elementary to our community college school boards, this function is vitally important.”
- What has been one surprise you have seen running for Maricopa County Superintendent?
“The most surprising thing I’ve seen since running for MCSS is the overwhelming support for public education from both parties. Regardless of party affiliation, voters want Arizona to fully-fund public schools. They want teachers to be paid what their worth, they want all students regardless of zip code to have access to excellent educational opportunities.”
Ms. Casteen would bring a very forward approach to education policy as the next Maricopa County School Superintendent.
She would also appoint school board members that will promote the education ideas of tomorrow instead of the reactionary policies of yesterday.
She is a candidate voters should seriously consider when voting in November 2020.