The former chief executive of the nonprofit that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa created to run alternative schools within Los Angeles Unified is challenging Tom Torlakson’s run for a second term as state superintendent of public instruction next year.
Marshall Tuck, 40, was also president of Green Dot Public Schools when it grew from one Los Angeles charter school to 10, before becoming CEO of Partnership for LA Schools five years ago. It’s charged with turning around 17 high-poverty, low-performing district schools. He left that position earlier this year.
In an interview, Tuck cited policy differences with Torlakson. Tuck said he would have pushed for a compromise on the use of test scores to evaluate teachers so that California could have obtained a federal waiver from the No Child Left Behind law. Instead, eight districts had to do somersaults to get the waiver that all districts deserve, he said. And, as CEO of Partnership for LA Schools, he opposed seniority laws, which Torlakson defended, that led to layoffs of a big percentage of young teachers at Partnership schools.
But Tuck, who filed campaign papers on Wednesday, said his campaign would stress the need to transform the California Department of Education from a bureaucracy driven by regulations to an agency that helps superintendents and schools by spreading best education practices and granting flexibility regarding rules.
“The best job the state can do is to minimize regulations and compliance and give more authority to schools and districts,” he said. “Tom and the department are not making that an urgent priority, so that all kids can get a good education.”
The race could turn into an expensive, surrogate battle between the California Teachers Association, which, as Torlakson’s biggest ally, spent nearly $4 million to help elect him in 2010, and the wealthy individuals who spent nearly that much this year pushing reform candidates in Los Angeles Unified. Tuck said he would seek the support of philanthropist Eli Broad and others behind Los Angeles’ Coalition for School Reform. But he said he would reach out to a wider constituency, including teachers and the CTA. Teachers at Green Dot are unionized, as are teachers at the 17 Partnership schools, which work under a standard contract of United Teachers Los Angeles. The difference is that Partnership schools have flexibility from Los Angeles Unified operations.
Torlakson, who’s served in elective office for four decades, “has been part of the political system for too long a time to see the need for fundamental change,” Tuck said. The primary for the superintendent’s race is in June.
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