The rap against North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Wayne Sanstead is that he's been in the job too long - that his ideas about public schools are out of sync with modern public education.

Don't believe it.

No one is more enthusiastic or knowledgeable about public education - in North Dakota and nationally - than Sanstead. His years on the job (he's seeking a seventh term) have superbly equipped him to manage the mandates and complexities that affect schools. He has used his experience to sharpen his focus on his primary concern: children in the classroom.

Sanstead's opponent, Max Laird, is a competent, respected educator with 30 years in the public education trenches. His credentials are impressive and there's no doubt he could do the job. But his case against unseating a seasoned, successful incumbent turns on characterizing Sanstead as an out-of-touch politician who wins because he has a familiar ballot name. Laird says the office should have an independent occupant, suggesting Sanstead is not independent.

Nothing could be further from objective truth. Sanstead's independence is what often gets him in trouble with legislators and the special interests supporting Laird's campaign. The superintendent's re-election record gives him the confidence to make decisions he believes are best for public education, not necessarily to accommodate the agendas of teachers' unions, superintendents' associations or education committees of the Legislature. That's the kind of real independence that puts kids and classrooms first.

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Sanstead maintains his credentials as a classroom teacher and returns to the classroom whenever he can. His enthusiasm for that grassroots part of his job knows no bounds. A former legislator and lieutenant governor, he understands the ins and outs of state government. The holder of a Ph.D. in education, he knows how education theory can be misapplied in the classroom. A student of federal policy, he knows how to negotiate the minefield of federal education mandates to best serve North Dakota. Because North Dakotans have demonstrated again and again they have confidence in him, he is not beholden to the special interests that demand a piece of the education dollar, or worse, undue influence on public education.

Experience seasoned by a historical memory. Deep knowledge gleaned by years of intense focus on schools and students. And a measure of enthusiasm that has not diminished during his years in office. Sanstead has earned another term.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.