Career educator Jen Mangrum is exploring a campaign for N.C. superintendent of public instruction in 2020, the Rockingham County Democrat confirmed.

“I am still in the exploring stage and traveling the state to see what kind of support I would have,” she told Longleaf Politics.

Mangrum recently concluded her first run for public office, challenging Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. She was not able to keep the race close (Berger won 63-34), but she did succeed in building enthusiasm and a donor base. Mangrum regularly drew big names to campaign with her, including Gov. Roy Cooper and Sen. Jeff Jackson.

A race for state superintendent would likely be much, much closer.

Mangrum is currently a professor of education at UNC-Greensboro. Before that, she spent a decade in the elementary school classroom in Onslow and Guilford County schools, and another five years in administration.

Mangrum’s campaign for the state Senate centered on education policy. She’s also been deeply involved in political fights over class size funding and teacher pay.

Presumably, Mangrum would face current first-term Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson. Johnson, a Republican, upset long-term Democratic incumbent June Atkinson in 2016.

Johnson was elected at age 33, becoming North Carolina’s youngest statewide elected official. He spent two years at West Charlotte High in the Teach for America program.

Photo by Mark Johnson via Facebook

The race would likely become a direct statewide referendum on the Democrat and Republican visions for education in North Carolina.

During her Senate campaign, Mangrum spoke about accelerating teacher pay raises, reinstating bonus pay for teachers holding master’s degrees and resurrecting the original Teaching Fellows program that helped future teachers pay for college.

Johnson has focused on making the Department of Public Instruction more efficient and supported the Republican agenda of raising teacher pay, but has yet to mark a significant accomplishment.

Cover photo by Jen Mangrum via Facebook.

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