State ed board ‘perfect place’ for Rankin
When Joyce Rankin was 10 years old, she told her parents she wanted to be a fifth-grade teacher.
Last month, she was selected from among a pool of nine candidates to succeed Marcia Neal in representing the 3rd Congressional District on the Colorado Board of Education.
“To me, it’s the pinnacle. It’s a perfect place for me to be and a real honor to be selected,” said Rankin, who lives near Carbondale when she’s not at the state Capitol with her husband, state Rep. Bob Rankin.
Her new appointment and her role in her husband’s office do not constitute a conflict of interests, by the way, unless she wants to testify in committee. Otherwise, the closest the two are likely to come in a professional role is when they both appear on the 2016 ballot for re-election.
With a bachelor’s from Michigan State University and a master’s in education from California State University at San Jose, Rankin started out teaching elementary school before moving up to principal. After moving to Colorado, she found ways to remain involved in education — teaching computer use and water aerobics and writing how-to books. Even in her role as her husband’s aide, Rankin found a way to bring schools into the mix with the “interns in the field” program, through which local students keep the senator informed on his district.
Rankin — whose other claims to fame include a 3:02:39 finish time in the 1988 Olympic marathon trials — admits she occasionally found herself in her husband’s shadow, but didn’t feel the need to call attention to her own accomplishments.
“We knew it; I knew it,” she said.
She’s unlikely to fade into the background in her role on the Colorado Board of Education.
“I think we have a ways to go in our education system in Colorado,” she said. “I think a lot of our students are not career- and college-ready, although that seems to be the mantra.”
Setting a low bar for graduation may be easy, she observed, but it does students an injustice.
“The more we lower our standards, the less it means,” she said.
Rankin emphasized that the board doesn’t make the law. Its most pressing role right now is to select a new commissioner of education. Otherwise, it’s mostly a matter of facilitating communication between schools and the Legislature.
Since most aspects of education are left up to the state, that’s a critical role.
“I think people know what’s going on at the federal level and at the local level, but there’s that state level that a lot of people don’t even know exists,” said Rankin.
One of four Republicans on the board — which, unlike local school boards, is explicitly partisan — Rankin is in favor local control on the district, school or student level as opposed to mandates or earmarked funding from the state.
“The closer you get to the students, the better it is,” she said.
While she’ll be fairly removed from the classroom herself, she’s excited to be involved with kids again.
“They’re our most important resource,” she said. “They really are.”
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