Kalus staged a news conference in Providence to outline some of her views – the first, she said, in a series of public events to discuss key issues. She began by quoting an unlikely source – Malcolm X – for calling education the passport to the future.

Education “is deeply personal to me,” Kalus said. “Education saved my life, it saved my future. I was a failing high school student, and a department of education official offered me a version of school choice, allowing me to go college for high school, and through that process something clicked. I went on to receive dual degrees from UMass-Amherst and two master’s degrees, one from the London School of Economics and the other from Columbia University.”

Kalus said she supports making a quality education a constitutional right and backs adjusting the state education funding formula to assist low-income communities.

But Kalus, who has cited Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a role model, declined to offer a yes or no answer when asked by reporters if she supports banning certain books or restricting the teaching of race and racism. Instead, she repeatedly said her focus would be on reading, writing and math. DeSantis signed a bill earlier this year banning the teaching of critical race theory.

Rhode Island has struggled for decades to improve its under-performing public schools, a process complicated by the pandemic.

Kalus said Rhode Island gets unacceptably poor results despite spending generously on public education.

Echoing something she said while launching her campaign, Kalus said Rhode Island needs to emulate Massachusetts, where students have made significant gains over the last quarter-century.

Her policy specifics include funding universal pre-K, emphasizing testing throughout the school year rather than at the end of the year, and boosting technical education and school choice.

On whether she would keep state Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, Kalus offered this response: “So what I’ve said about everyone that is currently in the administration is that I would expect that they resign. And if they can show results and qualifications, then they’ll be rehired. I’m not punitive. However, I will say that I am not impressed by the progress that has been made.”

Kalus will face Democratic Gov. Dan McKee in the November election.

Ian Donnis can be reached at idonnis@ripr.org. Follow him on Twitter @IanDon and sign up for email delivery of his weekly RI politics newsletter.