By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow is resigning from her elected position to take over the top education job in Virginia, she announced Thursday.
Balow, first elected to the superintendent’s office in 2014 and re-elected in 2018, announced she would resign from the position to take over as Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. It was not immediately clear when she would take over in Virginia.
Kari Eakins, the department’s chief policy director, will serve as interim superintendent when Balow leaves the office, Balow said.
“I am honored, and deeply humbled, to announce that Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has asked me to serve as Virginia’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. With a focused drive to lead on the front lines of educational transformation in this country, I have accepted,” Balow said Thursday. “Serving as State Superintendent for the last seven years has been the greatest honor and challenge of my life.”
Balow said that Gov.-elect Youngkin made educational transformation the centerpiece of his campaign and that Virginia was on the “cutting edge” of the battle of the future of K-12 public schools.
Youngkin will be sworn in as governor on Saturday. He was elected in November, beating Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Prior to his time in politics, Youngkin worked for the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm.
“The work we will do to restore parents’ voices in education, push for innovation and student success, enhance school choice, and to eliminate political ideology from the classroom will set a new tone in Virginia and the nation,” Balow said. “We have made great progress on these very items during my tenure in Wyoming.”
Balow said that during her time as state superintendent, she made parents’ voices a priority by including them in policy making decisions. She also pointed to the “historic” computer science education requirements, which is “greatly enriching and modernizing the curriculum delivered to our students.”
She said that she has been an advocate for school choice, noting she has placed her own children in private school at times.
“I supported groundbreaking legislation during the 2021 session of the Wyoming legislature to substantially increase the opportunity for charter schools to form in our state,” Balow said. “And when it comes to politics in the classroom, I’ve made my position crystal clear that partisan politics and radical theories should not be forced upon our children.”
Balow began her teaching career in Hulett and has built a 25-year career in education and politics, serving as a national literary consultant, an executive in state government, a policy advisor in the governor’s office and state superintendent of public instruction.
“I have served in leadership positions of national education organizations and led through COVID-19 with the highest percentage of students learning in-person in the nation,” she concluded. “I am ready and more motivated than ever to engage at this critical time in our nation’s history serving alongside Governor-elect Youngkin as he leads Virginia through this historic opportunity to reset and restore public education with parents and students as the priority.”
Balow was elected to her first term in office in 2014, defeating Democrat Mike Ceballos with 61% of the vote. She was unopposed in her bid for re-election in 2018.
Balow is the second superintendent in recent memory to leave office before her term expired. Trent Blankenship, who was elected as superintendent in 2002, announced in 2005 he would leave his position to take the job of superintendent for schools in Barrow, Alaska.
After returning to Wyoming, he ran for the superintendent’s position in 2010, challenging former Superintendent Cindy Hill for the Republican nomination for the post. He won 14.6% of the vote, finishing third behind Hill and Jim McBride.