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A Republican joins the race to be Washington’s next schools chief

Chad Magendanz is seen speaking during the 2014 legislative session.
Aaron Barna
Chad Magendanz during the 2014 legislative session.

Chad Magendanz served two terms in the state House and is now a computer science teacher in Bellevue.

Chad Magendanz, a Republican and former state representative who teaches computer science in Bellevue’s public schools, has launched a campaign to lead Washington’s K-12 school system.

Magendanz — pronounced like Häagen-Dazs — said he’s running because he believes schools are focusing too much on “divisive” culture wars and should get back to basic academics.

“Just as we don’t want religion in our public schools, we shouldn’t want any political doctrine to be pushed on our students,” Magendanz said.

The Issaquah resident served two terms in the state House of Representatives, from 2013 to 2017, for the 5th Legislative District, which comprises much of eastern King County. As a freshman representative, he was the top Republican on the House Education Committee.

Magendanz also helped lead negotiations on legislation responding to the McCleary decision, a landmark 2012 Washington Supreme Court case that changed how schools are funded in Washington. The Legislature implemented a new funding formula after the court determined the state was underfunding schools.

“I’m very proud of the fact that we more than doubled the state funding for public schools over eight years. For the first time, we got maybe not perfect, but adequate funding for schools — and then we didn’t see the needle move. Even before COVID, we weren’t seeing the needle move,” Magendanz said, referring to student outcomes.

“That’s when I realized it’s not all about money,” he said. “It’s got to be a culture that you create in the classroom that’s pushing kids to perform to their maximum ability.”

Magendanz is running to unseat Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, who he said has not properly dealt with COVID-19 learning loss.

He also recalled an Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction directive that he received to withhold a child’s gender identity and pronouns from parents, unless a child consents. He said that while he believes in inclusive schools, teachers should be partnering with parents.

“I want to assume the best of parents until proven otherwise,” he said.

Magendanz said he also believes in more transparency to promote trust in public schools, adding that he records his classes so parents can hear what’s going on. Magendanz has taught full-time since 2019.

He joins another teacher in the race: Reid Saaris, a Democrat, who founded the national nonprofit Equal Opportunity Schools.

Magendanz left state politics after narrowly losing a 2016 state Senate race to Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, who is now running for governor.

During the 2016 legislative session, Magendanz was the prime sponsor of a bill that kept the state’s charter schools open after the Washington Supreme Court found the state’s original charter school law unconstitutional. He has also sponsored and passed legislation to prosecute cybercrime, provide alternative teacher certification options and help reduce truancy.

Magendanz was also the Issaquah School Board president for a year, starting in 2011. He worked for about a decade as a program manager at Microsoft and served as a submarine officer in the Navy during the 1980s and 1990s.

He has a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering from Cornell and a master’s in teaching from Central Washington University.

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This story was originally published by Washington State Standard.