State superintendent candidates brace for another round of big spending

Tom Torlakson nearly won another term as superintendent of public instruction outright Tuesday but will instead face second-place finisher Marshall Tuck in November. That’s not particularly good news for Torlakson or the California Teachers Association, Torklakson’s chief financial backer. The union faces the prospect of spending millions of dollars more of teachers’ dues to counter independent expenditures by self-styled education reformers who favor charter schools and an end to teacher tenure.

“CTA was hoping Torlakson could have ended it last night,” said John Pitney, political observer and government professor at Claremont McKenna College.

Torlakson got 46.9 percent of the vote, just shy of the majority vote that would have avoided a top-two candidate runoff in the non-partisan superintendent’s race. Tuck, a former CEO of a Los Angeles charter school organization and head of former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a group of 17 low-performing schools, took second with 28.6 percent. The third candidate, Lydia Gutierrez, a Long Beach Unified veteran teacher who campaigned against the Common Core standards, got 24.4 percent.

Gutierrez is a socially conservative Republican, and Tuck, though a Democrat, also pitched to Republicans in the primary (see mailers that Pitney posted on his website), and will continue to do so, Pitney predicted. Together their two vote totals top Torlakson’s.

“It shows Tuck’s potential base of support, but that said, union support is important, and Torlakson is the favorite,” Pitney said. “If conservatives had a dream candidate, it would not be Marshall Tuck. But if you are to the right of center, Tuck is preferable.”

Torlakson, a former legislator and high school teacher, and Tuck each raised about $1 million. The CTA spent more than $4 million independently of Torlakson’s campaign on anti-Tuck and pro-Torlakson radio ads and mailers. Tuck’s backers included William Bloomfield, a real estate developer from Manhattan Beach, and Los Angeles philanthropist and charter school promoter Eli Broad. They spent more than  $1.5 million combined. If they up the ante, it’ll be a big drain on CTA.

For an Edsource profile of Torlakson and Tuck, go here.



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2 Responses to “State superintendent candidates brace for another round of big spending”

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  1. Chris Reed on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:58 pm06/5/2014 11:58 pm

    • 000

    “self-styled education reformers who favor charter schools and an end to teacher tenure.”

    Groan. So Barack Obama and Arne Duncan are “self-styled education reformers”?

    I fear John Fensterward takes such a beating from the education establishment status quo whenever he writes stuff that upsets them that he’s gone Patty Hearst.

    “Self-styled education reformers”?

    Why don’t you just write LIARS/PHONIES/FRAUDS?


  2. Gary Ravani on Jun 5, 2014 at 3:55 pm06/5/2014 3:55 pm

    • 000

    “counter independent expenditures by self-styled education reformers who favor charter schools and an end to teacher tenure.”

    The key words here are, of course, “self styled reformers.” None of these people who favor ending “teacher tenure” have any real education background. Tuck was trained as a business manager.

    To replace permanent status (having due process rights) the faux-reformers want to use” teacher effectiveness,” aka, student test data, aka, VAM. Who would object to that besides the self-serving unions? Let’s start with the National Research Council, RAND, and ETS. The latest to weigh in against VAM is the American Statistical Association who asserts that “teachers account for about 1% to 14% of of variability in test scores,” and, “Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.” Of course, what would they know about statistical methodology when it comes to evaluation?

    It may have been some years since Tom Torlakson was actively working in a classroom, but he is still the only candidate who has actually worked in a classroom and still identifies with being a teacher.

    The latest election is noted for being one of the lowest in voter turnout in some time. Low turnout is characterized as giving undue influence to conservative voters. (Hence the nationwide conservative efforts to suppress the vote.) The November election should be a very different story. It will still be a heavy pull because of the billionaires who support suppressing unions, actual teachers, and the general working class interests and will put money into Tuck’s campaign. Those who favor supporting an actual educator and genuine reform efforts will support Torlakson.

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