Tuesday’s elections brought many surprises. Certainly one of the larger ones on the state level was Mark Johnson’s victory over State Superintendent June Atkinson.
Johnson, a first-term member of the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School Board, and a relative political newcomer, narrowly defeated Atkinson’s bid for a fourth term by 55,736 votes out of nearly 4.5 million votes cast. Johnson won 50.6 percent of the vote; Atkinson 49.4 percent. Atkinson, originally elected in 2004, had been the nation’s longest serving State Superintendent.
Johnson’s victory came by winning two-thirds of the state’s 100 counties. Johnson triumphed in coastal and inland counties and he had strong support in the mountains. Atkinson’s main strength was in the Piedmont and Northeastern North Carolina.
Pundits have speculated Johnson may have been the recipient of a tidal wave of Republican voters. Johnson’s support exceeded 2012 Republican levels by over 291,000. Atkinson’s 2016 vote totals were down 129,000 from 2012 levels.
Johnson campaign targeted an education establishment that continually asks for more money but fails children. Johnson believes schools should focus on equipping teachers, accessing technology, college and workforce readiness and less on testing.
In recent months state officials have trumpeted the state’s 86 percent graduation rate. But as Johnson told ednc.org:
That’s a great statistic until you know that nearly half of all those graduates fail to meet a single readiness benchmark on the ACT, almost half of all graduates who go to community college need to take remedial courses and many employers who say that they can’t find good candidates due to a ‘lack of education credentials’.
Johnson’s victory has given him one of the toughest and most important jobs in North Carolina. There are 1.6 million reasons why he needs to succeed and millions more who think they know how to make that happen.
Congratulations and good luck to Mark Johnson!