San Diego, CA.- While it certainly doesn't have the political fervor associated with partisan politics, make no mistake, the race for Superintendent of California is hotly contested.
Candidates Marshall Tuck and Tony Thurmond have been trading barbs over the direction of the states school system, responsible for educating more than 6 million students.
Marshall Tuck has spent most of two decades as a school administrator and is backed by California's charter school community. For five years he was the president of the Green Dot Public Schools, a network of charter high schools in low-income neighborhoods of Los Angeles. He then became CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, whose goal was to turn around some of Los Angeles Unified’s schools with the highest dropout rates.
Tony Thurmond, is backed by the state's teachers' union. A second-term assemblyman and social worker by training, Thurmond founded or ran several nonprofit organizations that worked with low-income foster children. Thurmond served one term on the city council in Richmond and on the West Contra Costa Unified school board before being elected to the Assembly district serving Richmond, Berkeley and parts of Oakland.
The race has become abnormally expensive and politically combative. Tuck, who ran and lost for state chief in 2014, has raised in excess of $3 million. Thurmond has raised close to $2 million.
In the June Primary, Tuck beat Thurmond by just 2 percentage points.
A Big Agenda
Whomever voters choose, the new Superintendent will have a full plate.
- The National Assessment of Education states California's poor students perform worse than their peers in every single state except for Alaska.
- The state has suffered from teacher shortages, leaving hundreds of classrooms overseen by either unqualified or substitute teachers.
- Local districts administrations budgets have grown exponentially as billion dollar bond measures continue to be approved by voters.
Tuck and Thurmond have each stated publicly they will use their power as a bully pulpit to push their own agendas.
They both promised to replace the state's 25-year-old charter law and find a new way to pay down its $100 billion pension debt.
Down Ballot Race
Name recognition in down-ballot races is particularly key, and in this race, each candidate has a considerable amount of name recognition. That typically translates into a close race which is what we saw in the June Primary with Tuck beating Thurmond by just 2 percentage points.
For 20 years Thurmond has served as a social worker, school board member, and city council member. He has turned that public service into a number of key endorsements including the union representing California's prison officers has have emerged as a player. The group announced a $500,000 expenditure for television ads to help elect Thurmond.
Tuck has served as the president of Green Dot Public Schools, a national network of charter schools, and was the founding CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. A group that operates 18 elementary, middle, and high schools serving 15,000 students. Tuck has found support in a number of Charter school champions including Bill Evers, a critic of Common Core and Betsy Devos supporter.
Tuck said he learned the necessary ingredients for improving schools by running his own set of charter schools in Los Angeles.
I reached out to both campaigns for an interview. Marshall Tuck responded and here is our conversation: