Balow seeks to build relationships, advocate as superintendent
Jillian Balow, candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction, emphasizes her conservative values and unique background.
“It’s about bringing Wyoming’s conservative values to the office,” she comments. “I am uniquely qualified, as no other candidate is, with strong government leadership skills, as well as an education background.”
Beginning in education
As a fifth generation Wyomingite, Balow grew up in Laramie and Gillette. She graduated from the University of Wyoming and spent the first 10 years of her professional career in the classroom, teaching in Hulett and Gillette.
“After I finished my master’s degree, I was called out of the classroom to be a leader,” Balow continues.
While working in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Craig Thomas, Balow developed distaste for the federal government, realizing the superiority of Wyoming’s government.
She then began working at the Department of Education as a consultant and a supervisor.
Balow moved from the Department of Education to Governor Matt Mead’s office, where she served as a policy advisor on his staff. Later, she was appointed to an administrator position in the Department of Family Services, where she is currently employed.
Balow was involved in reorganizing the agency, leaving her with oversight of 200 employees across 28 offices and a monthly budget of nearly $10 million.
“It is pretty unique to have government leadership and education experience,” Balow comments. “I really feel like this qualifies me to run for office.”
“I’m not a politician, and I never envisioned running for office,” she says, “but I read that people should run for office when they have a fire in their belly and bile in their throat. I am to that point as an educator in our state.”
Balow notes that if elected to office, she would seek to make education about teaching children rather than politics.
“We need to take the politics out of education and focus on our students’ success and education issues,” she explains. “When we read about education in the newspaper, it needs to be about education, not politics in education.”
Balow also emphasizes collaboration, coordination and consultation in leadership.
“Engaging partnerships and finding new partners that we haven’t engaged in the past who can be a real value to our education system is important,” she says. “We need to really work with our partners.”
“This will be a bigger challenge than anything I’ve undertaken,” Balow comments, “but I have really good success to build on.”
Referring to her time in the Department of Family Services, Balow says she turned a $6.2 million deficit to a $0.5 million surplus in only 17 months, introducing efficiency upgrades to accomplish the goal.
She also notes that opposition Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core Curriculum present additional challenge.
“Everyone talks about what is wrong with the Next Generation Science Standards,” Balow explains. “We need to have Wyoming standards.”
“Common Core Standards started as a set of standards that were supposed to be rigorous and stand alone,” Balow adds, noting that the standards were adopted in 2012 as the Wyoming Content and Performance Standards. “They present higher standards than we have ever had, and I think that is a great starting point.”
Bringing Wyoming to the classroom – including agriculture and mining concepts – can help to make the science standards Wyoming’s standards.
Balow’s timeline for fixing standards begins in 2015, when the review process for adopting new standards in 2017.
“We really do have an opportunity to make our standards better,” Balow says. “The Wyoming Content and Performance Standards provide a good starting point, and we will be able to do a lot of work collaboratively to move these forward.”
Balow also notes that the position on boards and commissions in the state is also very important.
“I find myself telling citizens, ‘This is why you need to care about this race,’” she says. “It goes so much further than education in terms of the boards and commissions that the top five elected sit on.”
Balow remarks that the boards and commissions are vital to Wyoming’s economic prosperity.
“The process where local governments partner with the states to get grants and loans is a unique process. I don’t think it works in very many states, but I think it works in Wyoming,” she says. “I have faith and belief in the process and think it is an amazing connection for local governments to make with the state.”
On her candidacy, Balow notes, “I am intent and committed to working with people and being an advocate, rather than an adversary.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.