Super Tuesday marked the end of primary season in North Carolina. With the decisions made on who the parties will run for each office, the real race can begin. One race North Carolinians might want to keep their eye on is the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. JLF’s Dr. Terry Stoops writes in his research brief this week:

Last year, Mark Johnson announced he would not seek re-election as superintendent of public instruction and instead would compete for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. His loss in the primary means that he will exit elected office after the completion of his four-year term as the face of North Carolina public schools.  Voters went to polls yesterday to select the candidates that would vie for the office.  In November, North Carolinians will choose between Democrat Jen Mangrum and Republican Catherine Truitt.

Catherine Truitt is the chancellor of Western Governors University, and Jen Mangrum is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Both candidates have significant experience in both K-12 and higher education.

The role of Superintendent is often misunderstood. Stoops explains:

Most North Carolinians assume that the elected superintendent of public instruction is the chief of the state’s public schools.  After all, “public instruction” is right there in the title, and the superintendent is often the most visible representative of public schooling in the media.  But actual governance is anything but clear…

According to the N.C. Constitution, the state superintendent is the secretary and chief administrative officer of the State Board of Education. In this capacity, the superintendent serves as a nonvoting adviser to the lieutenant governor, state treasurer, and 11 gubernatorial appointees that supervise and administer North Carolina’s system of public schools.  State statute also directs the superintendent to organize and establish a Department of Public Instruction and “have under his or her direction and control, all matters relating to the direct supervision and administration of the public school system.”

Read the full brief to learn more about the candidates’ diverging policy positions here. Read Dr. Stoops’ op-ed  on the science of reading in Carolina Journal here.