Join us for a conversation with Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck as EdSource’s John Fensterwald and Louis Freedberg ask about their positions on critical issues and their visions for California’s public schools.
This video was recorded on May 23, 2018, two weeks before the June primary. Tuck and Thurmond were the two leading candidates in the race to lead the California Department of Education (CDE), which oversees the state’s nearly 1,000 school districts and more than 10,000 public schools. This was a rare joint appearance by the two candidates, their last before the primary. They will face off again in the November 2018 general election.
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LOUIS FREEDBERG: Good morning. I’m Louis Freedberg executive director of EdSource.
JOHN FENSTERWALD: I’m John Fensterwald, editor at large at EdSource.
FREEDBERG: We are very pleased to welcome the two leading candidates for state superintendent of public instruction in California. This is a position that was written into California’s first constitution in 1851. It’s a nonpartisan race. We are very pleased to have Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, who is a social worker by training, a former city councilman in Richmond, and was also on the school board there. He is now in his second term representing his East Bay district. Welcome, Tony Thurmond. Next to him is Marshall Tuck. Marshall ran a charter school organization in L.A. and then ran a district city partnership running several district schools and also in Los Angeles. And he was most recently an educator in residence at the New Teacher Center. Welcome, Marshall Tuck.
MARSHALL TUCK: Thanks for having me. Thanks for hosting the conversation.
FREEDBERG: Well we are looking forward to a robust discussion and we’ve asked the candidates, however, to limit the answers to a minute and a half or less, it will be a challenging assignment. But are we just trying to squeeze in as many questions as possible.
Many of you watching have sent in questions, and we will try to get to some of them during the hour, and we will, in any case, share the questions with the candidates so they can get a sense of what is on your minds. Despite its longevity in California not many people know what the Superintendent of Public Instruction actually does and the office’s powers are actually quite limited. So we’ve asked each of the candidates to make a short opening statement as to why they are running for the post, and why they feel they are qualified to run the California Department of Education. So we’re going to start with Tony Thurmond.
TONY THURMOND: Thank you. I am running simply because I believe that every single student can be successful regardless of his or her circumstances. That’s been the narrative of my own life: using education to overcome humble beginnings.
You know, I’m someone who was raised in the public school system. I lost my only parent to cancer when I was 6 years old. I was raised by a cousin who I never met before. And she saved my life and she made sure I got a great public education. And in spite of those humble beginnings and being raised in a low-income background, being a kid on the free-lunch program, education opened doors for me and it allowed me to become a 20-year social worker and spend 12 years working in schools, to become a school board member and a council member, and to help a district see its graduation rates increase and to reduce suspensions.
In the Legislature, I’ve made it my priority to bring millions to our schools to help our kids to reduce chronic absenteeism and to support important programs like early education, preschool and improve funding for our schools. These are the kinds of things I want to bring to our state. I want to prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow. More STEM, more computer science opportunities so our kids can learn about the jobs of tomorrow and be ready. Improve literacy, improve funding and close our teacher shortage.
It’s important to elect a superintendent who has a track record of working with the Legislature, working with the governor in getting things done, and this is the record that I bring to this office. I’m honored that we’ve built a strong coalition of those who support my campaign and who I believe will help us to do the work as we go forward, including the current Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, both California’s teachers and administrations, endorsed by the California Teachers Association, and over 21 superintendents of county offices of education. Our California Democratic Party, California’s nurses, California’s firefighters, Equality California and Planned Parenthood — together let’s create a great opportunity for all of our students to be successful in the state of California.
FREEDBERG: Thank you Tony Thurmond. Now Marshall Tuck for your opening remarks.
TUCK: Thanks again for all the work you both do at EdSource, and for hosting this conversation. I believe deeply in the promise of public education. I was raised in a household of educators, and the idea that with a quality education somebody can have a successful life regardless of their circumstances, that is the true promise. But unfortunately right now in California, that promise is not being fulfilled for all kids. So as we’re talking right now, there’s 6.2 million kids in public schools in the state of California, and over 3 million can’t read and write at grade level. Think about what that means for their future in the most competitive economy in the history of humankind. And we have to ask ourselves the question as Californians, “How is it possible that a state with so much money, with so many incredible kids, and so many hardworking educators is not getting the job done in public education?” And I believe strongly is because our state has not prioritized our public schools and our elected leaders have not gotten the job done when it comes to public education.
A lot of people blame educators for what’s going on in our public schools, and that’s completely wrong. Teachers did not underfund their classrooms; principals did not smother their schools in red tape. Politicians made these decisions and that’s why we have to change the politics of education, and it starts with electing an educator to be state superintendent and not just another politician. I’ve worked in education for over 15 years. I helped a group called The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. Think of it as a school district within L.A. Unified, just focused on turning around the lowest performing schools in L.A. Our graduation rates were 36 percent when we started in 2008, they’re 81 percent today.
I helped create Green Dot Public Schools, a nonprofit organization opening charter schools in the highest-need areas of L.A. I helped open 10 new public schools, eight of 10 recognized by US News and World Report among the best public schools in the country. That’s what’s possible in public education. I worked with school districts to put in place high-quality coaching and mentoring programs for our teachers. I know what it takes to turn around our public schools, because I’ve done it. More funding for our schools, more compensation and much more support for our teachers, less bureaucracy, more creativity in our classrooms and truly focusing on all kids. It’s time for a leader who has done this work, who’s going to drive real change for our kids and our public schools.
FREEDBERG: Thank you, Marshall Tuck. And I’m going to put the first question to you: A series of reforms are in place right now in California: Common Core, the Local Control Funding Formula, a new accountability system, all loosely defined as the California Way. Do you think California’s education system is on the right track or are there major changes that need to be made? And if, so name the most important change that needs to happen.
TUCK: Yeah, I think we absolutely need major change. We are in a state right now where only one in 10 African-American males that starts high school graduates prepared for college. One-in-10 in the great state of California. It is absolutely unacceptable. We’re in a state right now where we have the largest gap between whites and Latinos in terms of college graduates. And so we absolutely need real change in our schools. That does not mean that there’s folks who work in our schools who aren’t making real progress. We’ve moved forward on the Common Core. Governor Brown passed the Local Control Funding Formula, which said more dollars for higher poverty kids. There is good work to build off of. But without question we need real change, not more of the same. We need educators leadings this work, not just politicians. And when we think about the Local Control Funding Formula, it’s a good example of where politicians aren’t getting the job done. So Governor Brown passed this piece of policy, a very important piece of policy, more money for high poverty kids. I’m a strong supporter of it. The reality is because of interpretation by the current state superintendent, that money is not actually all getting to the highest poverty kids. And my work has been in Watts and East L.A, and South L.A. — wonderful students who have real huge opportunities for the future, but we’ve got to get them better public schools, and we have to make sure every single dollar that is meant for our highest poverty kids gets to our high poverty kids. We’ve got to make sure that the teachers that are supporting our high poverty kids get those supports, and we’ve got to make sure, most importantly, we support our kids.
FREEDBERG: So then if there was one change that you think needs to happen…
TUCK: I think the most immediate change is, certainly as a state we have to increase our overall funding level. So we’re (now) 41st in per-pupil funding. That’s something I can’t do on my own as state superintendent, but I’ll push every day of the week for. A change I can make as state superintendent is to shift the interpretation that was made by the current state superintendent that basically allocated the additional dollars for high poverty schools and allowed that be used for across-the-board raises for all educators, regardless if they actually teach high poverty kids or not. So we make that change right away.
FREEDBERG: OK, let me ask Tony Thurmond. Do you think California is on the right track, or do you think changes are needed, and if so what would you see as the most important change?
THURMOND: Well, it’s a little bit of both. I think that you know California has laid a decent foundation with Common Core, with accountability measures, with funding increases with the Local Control Funding Formula. But it is not enough. And I would say that we are close to being 46th in the nation in per-pupil spending. And we’ve been that way since the 1970s, since Prop 13 passed. We have to close the loopholes in Prop 13 and properly fund education in our state and make education funding number one for California kids.
We’ve got a huge teacher shortage that we have to close. And I’m working on policies right now that would provide a scholarship to anybody who wants to become a teacher; even a teacher housing bill to build affordable housing for educators, because we have found that in many of our communities with the highest achievement gaps, teachers simply cannot afford to live in the communities where they work. If you continue to have a teacher churn, you can’t close our achievement gap.
The Local Control Funding Formula is a great step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough. It only takes us to funding at 2008 funding levels, which was a recession. I’m working on policies right now with legislators that would actually expand the base of funding for school districts and would actually provide more funding through the LCFF framework for the school districts that serve the lowest-performing students.
Throughout my career I’ve worked directly with some of the toughest-to-serve students. I’ve taught classes that were in the juvenile camp, I’ve taught life skills and career trainings and run afterschool programs and managed a $400 million school district, where we’ve increased our graduation rates and improved test scores for some of the kids that come from some of the toughest backgrounds. This can be done, but we have to provide the funding for our schools. We have to provide great professional development for educators to make sure they’re prepared to support our students.
FREEDBERG: And so as you mentioned a number of things, but what would you say would be the number one issue? Is it the funding issue or I guess you also mentioned the teacher shortage, but what would you see as the number one issue?
THURMOND: I think the funding increase gives us the ability to help close our teacher shortage and to provide better professional development for educators. We know that the best way to close the achievement gap is to provide every educator with great professional development and training and to make sure that they’re all prepared to teach kids to support them towards the new standards. That has not happened uniformly in our districts and consequently we’re 43rd in the nation in third-grade reading and third-grade math. We should have a literacy campaign to help our kids improve. But we need resources to get that done. And as superintendent, I will champion efforts that help us increase resources for our schools and make our funding number one.
TUCK: Do we have to follow up on these questions are no?
TUCK: So I guess to me the question for Assemblymember Thurmond and for the Legislature is: why haven’t we done more of this? So he’s been in the Legislature for four years. He talked about the need for increased funding; Prop 13 was pulled back in 1978. And yet the Legislature hasn’t made significant gains in increasing funding. I worked in schools you know in South LA, East LA — we had a shortage of teachers a decade ago. This isn’t new, this isn’t new stuff. So why haven’t we made the big changes that we need to make? There have been some efforts here or there, but why haven’t the Legislature and politicians in Sacramento actually made the large-scale changes to solve these problems rather than continually have the same conversations year after year?
FREEDBERG: Assemblyman Thurmond.
THURMOND: Two things I’d like to say: One is the funding solution that I’ve talked about requires approval from the voters and requires a campaign to educate voters about how to create what’s called a Split Rule Tax so that no homeowner or no senior is going to have to pay more money in taxes, but big commercial property owners who have not paid their fair share of taxes since the 1970s would be asked to pay their fair share. Our kids deserve it. Secondly, since I’ve been in the Legislature, every single year I’ve been able to help provide more money for schools. My legislation provided $35 million for 30 school districts last year to support programs like reducing chronic absenteeism and to help increase graduation rates. Since I’ve been in the Legislature we’ve added almost half a billion dollars in early education. I’ve introduced legislation that makes it more easy for students to go to college who’ve been in foster care, to give them scholarships and grants. We’d made the first year of community college free. I can’t speak for what the legislature did in the 1970s but I can speak for what I am doing now. And literally we’ve provided millions of dollars for our school districts and as superintendent I’ll champion a campaign to help raise another 5 billion for K-12 education in our state. I think that’s a good start to making us number one and we’ll continue until we make our funding number one in the state.
FENSTERWALD: Thank you. Tony, go first. We know there are many outstanding teachers in high-poverty schools but there’s compelling data that show more inexperienced teachers are often concentrated in those schools. What can the state superintendent do to ensure that high-poverty schools get an equal, if not a larger, share of the most effective teachers?
THURMOND: You know the way we do professional development in this state has really been mind boggling to me. Typically a district will send one teacher representative from a school to a training and then that teacher is expected to come back and do a turnaround training for everyone else on their own time. I think that really sets us up to have a bad result. And we should be providing upfront professional development for every single educator, especially our new teachers.
New teachers should get support around classroom management, they should get great mentoring from senior teachers. This year I’ve introduced legislation that will provide just that: mentorship and coaching especially to teachers in one of our toughest areas: special education. Most of our teachers will tell you that they are burnt out, they feel that they don’t get support. The conditions are very difficult. So we’ve got to provide mentoring and coaching to our teachers from the time that they start so that they have the right experiences to be successful. This year I’ve introduced legislation that will provide a scholarship to anyone who wants to become a teacher in areas like special education, computer science, math; the areas where we have struggled. We’ve got to build a culture that says we support teachers. We coach them. We train them. We give them the tools that they need to be successful in the classroom and support our kids. Those are the kinds of things I’m working on now and I’ll continue to work on as superintendent.
FENSTERWALD: Thank you. Marshall.
TUCK: The promise of public education has to be for all kids: Every kid, every neighborhood in the state of California. And, right now as you mentioned for high poverty kids, mostly Latino, African-American students, they get younger teachers that turnover more often, less experienced principals that turnover more often. And if we want quality education for all kids we have to get sustained high-quality teaching, school leadership for all of our kids. The schools that I led, we paid principals more to come work in Watts and East L.A. and South L.A. — because they’re harder jobs. And you can make more in Watts than you could in the wealthier parts of Los Angeles. We have to do that across the board for a higher poverty kids. In South L.A., we pay teachers signing bonuses to come work at Jordan High School because that school had such a hard time actually attracting teachers year after year. And if you have substitutes in your classroom, how can you actually learn?
We also gave our principals and teachers more supports in the highest poverty schools. So we had a principal at Roosevelt High School, that principal had a coach and a mentor a day a week to help them do their job because they’re harder jobs. So we have to actually look at more pay for teachers and principals in the high-poverty neighborhoods and more support and more coaching and training for those teachers. New Teacher Center, which I worked at, our whole focus was: get high-quality coaches and mentors for teachers in our neediest schools. And until we change that dynamic, until we get high-quality consistent teaching and principals our highest-need schools, we will never close this achievement gap and as state superintendent it will be a top priority of mine and that starts with making sure the additional money that’s meant to go to high-poverty kids gets to high-poverty kids.
THURMOND: Could I ask a question on this? You talk about giving higher pay to principals and teachers. Two questions: One, structurally, how would you do that recognizing that pay is something that is established at each individual school district level, the state superintendent doesn’t have direct influence over, that how would you go about doing that? And then secondly, I would just ask, really a values question, wouldn’t it be better to just increase compensation for all of our educators and to say we want everyone to be highly paid, highly trained, highly supported, instead of creating a two tier system that says we prioritize some educators over others? Give everybody the best resources and the best support to go train kids. Wouldn’t it be a better way to go, instead of creating a two-tier system of who gets paid?
TUCK: So we absolutely have to increase pay for all teachers. In our state, we have a situation where two teachers in their 30s who are married can’t buy a house near most places where they work. And that has to change. That’s why we have a huge teacher shortage. So I’m a strong believer. We’re very transparent about it. We need much more pay probably, 30 percent more pay for all teachers.
But you do have to actually differentiate and pay more for the higher poverty community because they are harder jobs. It’s more emotionally draining. There is a reason that our neediest kids for decades have had younger teachers and principals with more turnover because year after year after we’ve allowed that to happen. And what we need aren’t politicians who are just going to say thing but actually people who’ve been educators who make hard decisions with budgets. If I have limited money, and I know that we do not have principals staying in our highest needs schools, we have to pay them more and support them better. And then in terms of district-by-district, ultimately if we give more money for higher poverty kids, which is what Governor Brown has actually put forward, if we deliver on that bill and say that money actually has to go to the highest-poverty school districts you’ll see school districts giving more pay to teachers and principals who are in the most challenging schools. And if we give them more pay plus more support we will break what I believe is the foundation of this achievement gap, which is we are not giving our neediest kids high-quality instruction or high quality leadership. We changed that in the schools I led, which is why we doubled graduation rates. We’re going to change that throughout the state.
THURMOND: So do I get a redirect on that redirect?
FENSTERWALD: No. This is not court. (laughter) So Tony has already mentioned the teacher shortage. How would you characterize the teacher shortage? Is it a crisis? Is it selective, in certain subjects, and what would you do about it?
TUCK: So it is an absolute crisis. There is nothing more important to a child’s success in a school than a teacher in front of a child. Nothing more important. And if we want to have the best public schools in the country, which we should have, if we want a quality education for every child, which is I believe their right, we have to have an incredible investment in our teachers, there’s nothing more important. And the fact that this state has allowed us to have a 10,000-teacher teacher shortage, and the fact that politicians have year after year again just dabbled on the edges versus addressing this issue with real focus and force, shows you the disconnect in terms of the lack of investment in our public schools.
In 2002 when I was running schools in Inglewood, we had a hard time getting math and science teachers to come work in Inglewood, in South LA and East LA. This is not a new issue. It has grown, and so it’s time for us to get serious about, if we want a great school for all kids, we have got to have a wonderful investment in our teachers, and that means we get to pay our teachers more, we’ve got to totally restructure our teacher-training programs. The world has changed so much, our kids have changed a lot, yet our university training programs still are actually not really focused on our teachers and what they need for the future. We have a lot more time for our teachers to work with each other. At New Teacher Center where I worked, it was all about find your most effective teachers and have them be coaches and mentors to other teachers so we’re lifting up the entire profession. We need principals who understand instruction. But most importantly we have to say the top priority for our kids, quality teacher in every classroom, quality principal in every school, I’ve done that before in my work. That’s what we have got to move towards at the state level.
FENSTERWALD: Tony, you touched on teacher shortage would you like to elaborate?
THURMOND: I would say that it’s at a crisis level and there are districts where, you know, 200 teachers are being replaced every year for years straight. You can’t close the achievement gap with that type of churn we need consistency. The teacher shortage, to me, goes back to 2008 when we had a recession in education and lots of cuts got made to release teachers. I actually opposed those kinds of cuts because I anticipated that we’d be in a situation where we’d be scrambling to bring teachers back. Nonetheless that’s where we are. And then the environment has just become very difficult. Teachers get lower compensation, they get blamed for all the challenges that many of our students are experiencing, and they’re not being provided with the right type of training and support. Many teachers tell me that they have not been provided with training that support students towards current Common Core. We should be working with our teachers to make sure that they are able to support our students for the next generation science standards for STEM and STEAM.
There’s going to be a million and a half jobs in technology in just a few years. We’ll only have half the applicants for those jobs unless we do more for our teachers and our students. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation that will give $200 million in professional development in STEM and computer science so that we can support our students for the jobs of the future. Let’s expand our training programs. And again I’ve got a scholarship program that will help anyone who wants to become a teacher, a mentorship program so we can help retain teachers, and a teacher housing program to help address the lack of affordable housing, which has driven many of our educators away from our districts that need them the most.
FENSTERWALD: Thank you.
TUCK: I just want to say that the issue on teachers started well before this recession. I mean those of us who have run schools, we had a hard time getting teachers particularly in high-poverty neighborhoods a long time ago and that’s because this state has underfunded schools. It’s because school districts don’t pay teachers enough. And because we haven’t really invested in developing and supporting our teachers. So this is, this is not something new. I think that the fact that we all know — everyone who works in school, every parent — we know the most important thing in a school is a teacher. And yet our state has under-supported, underpaid, under-embraced — in fact they over-regulated our teachers and taken creativity and innovation away from them for — literally decades, not just for the last eight years. It’s a clear indication of the need for real change in our public schools. The status quo is not working.
FREEDBERG: I wanted to just ask you about the issue of testing. Millions of students have just finished taking these tests. But the last testing results were kind of flat on average. I mean obviously we’ve got a lot of kids doing brilliantly, other kids doing very poorly, but average scores were kind of flat. How concerned should we be about the fact that we haven’t seen a big bump in these test scores and there’s been a move to not focus so much on test scores anyway. So how concerned are you about those scores?
THURMOND: I think that we should be concerned that our test scores are flat and that there have been some places where there have been improvement but those have been few and far between. We should work with those districts that have seen improvement in their test scores and figure out what their best practices were and help other districts replicate that.
This year I organized a roundtable of statewide educators to look at test scores specifically as it relates to the achievement gap and to pair districts together to see how they can help each other with best practices that will help those districts whose test scores have remained flat. And as a legislator I’ve supported adding money to the budget to provide experts who can provide technical assistance to districts to help them strengthen their plans to close the achievement gap. I appreciate that we are in a spirit where people recognize our kids are more than a test score, but we still have to have measures that let us know whether or not students are meeting the learning objectives and how to compare one student’s experience to another.
So we have much more work to do. Obviously, we have to do much more work in an early fashion. Prevention. You know, I have advocated for more early education and preschool programs and that for students who are older, more intervention programs. We’ve got to close our chronic absenteeism gap. We had kids who missed more than 10 percent of school. It’s hard to learn to read by third grade when you’ve been chronically absent from school, and it costs our schools a lot of money. I’ve made reducing chronic absenteeism a priority because we can make sure our kids learn to read by third grade so they can read to learn and use that as a skill for their lifetime, and bring more money to our schools. I will focus on more literacy programs, literacy intervention, enrichment programs to support our students. We need additional support to help raise test scores, and working with districts on their differential programs to help our students who’ve been identified as having lower scores.
FREEDBERG: Just quickly, do you think there’s too much testing in schools? Do you think we need to be reducing the amount of testing?
THURMOND: I think there are many issues for the low scores. Many teachers have told me that they haven’t been trained to support students in the new standards that we are testing for, that they’re still teaching kids to memorize data instead of putting a focus on critical thinking and how we get our young people engaged in their community and in teaching civics. I think that we have to increase our involvement there. And it’s not just about the tests and memorizing the tests. We’ve got to do more around career technical education, so our kids can get hands-on experience. We know that many of our students do better when they’re in an internship and they have an opportunity to learn about a college and career pathway, and this year I’m advocating for $500 million to be spent in our districts every single year to expand career technical education. I don’t think the issue is too much testing. I don’t think that we’re preparing kids for the tests, and that we need to give them more experiences that will help them be successful.
FREEDBERG: OK. Marshall Tuck how concerned should we be about these flat scores?
TUCK: So we should be very concerned about the proficiency rates of our students. We are in the most competitive economy in the history of humankind. Low skill jobs pay poverty wages and nothing else. And over three million kids are not at grade level in reading and writing. Their chance at getting a good job in a knowledge-based economy, in a collaborative economy, in a critical-thinking economy, without strong literacy — their future is ending before begins. It is a crisis. And then if you break it down in detail, the gaps we have right now between whites and Asians in our schools and Latinos and African-Americans, which we have made almost no progress on, are startling. Whites sixty one percent I believe at grade level in English, Latinos 34 percent, African-Americans I think is 29 percent, 27 percent. Thirty point gaps. It is a civil rights issue. It is a crisis. My opinion it’s a moral issue, and it shows that the system has not gotten the job done. And you think about, should we be concerned — this entire state, both the future of our state and our economy, and the individual futures of every child it’s taken away when they aren’t given a quality education. We got to be very concerned. And so it’s time for big change and it’s time for our state to actually prioritize public schools. And we can’t just be a little bill here, here a little bill there, working on the edges. This state needs to get behind this issue, the top issue in the state, and we can be concerned but we also can be optimistic because I’ve seen kids regardless of circumstances and background have phenomenal success in our schools when we support them. And so I am incredibly optimistic about all that is possible. Let’s also be straight up: We have a lot of work to do as a state, and our kids need us to step up for that.
FREEDBERG: And just quickly, the same question, a lot of concern there’s too much testing going on in the schools.
TUCK: And it’s interesting, you have some state-mandated tests and then you have district-mandated tests. So I think some districts have too much testing, and some districts don’t. It depends on how — because it’s partly a state issue, and partly a district issue. I do think that the state must get more flexibility around testing so that we’re testing smart and not just always testing. So one example is, you know Long Beach Unified asked the state to be able to just give the SAT test for 11th graders rather than the state-required test because they they’re giving the SAT to all 11th graders. It makes a ton of sense. Let’s have that. Let’s have one test for 11th graders rather than two. Two is too much. State didn’t accept that waiver when it first started. So I want the state to give much more flexibility to school districts. We shouldn’t be over-testing. Smart testing on key subjects to see where kids are at is important, and then also looking at other metrics around graduation rates, around attendance, around absenteeism, we got to look across the board. Most importantly, are we actually preparing our kids for quality future — and right now we’re not doing it for all kids.
THURMOND: Question, Mr. Tuck, you correctly point out our achievement gap in how African-American students and English learners and other students are challenged around test scores. What would you do? What’s your vision for how to actually change that in the right direction? You know, I’m talking about things that we are trying including the last example that you just gave, this year in the Legislature we are giving districts the ability to use the SAT as the standardized test in the 11th grade. But what would you do? You describe the problem, which I agree with you. But what’s your vision for actually changing it in a positive direction?
TUCK: The good news is I’m not a career politician. I’ve been an educator and done the work in schools. And if you look at the Partnership Schools, which was 15,000 kids, 18 schools in L.A., in the lowest performing neighborhoods. We had the highest improvement on state test scores of any school system with more than ten thousand kids during my leadership. And that was with, all of our kids were high poverty and Latino and African-American. Vast majority Latino, and some African American, and we did the stuff we know works in schools. We actually got phenomenal principals and teachers to come to our schools by paying them more and supporting them better. We invested a ton in teacher professional development. We actually got wraparound services. We had a couple of high schools where we brought health clinics onto our campuses. So we’re really integrating in addressing academic needs plus mental health needs and other health needs. We got our parents more involved. Launched a parent college on Saturdays 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. where our parents came to learn how to get more involved in their kids’ education. We did it all and our kids soared. And it started with not accepting the way things were but actually driving real change and that’s what I plan to bring to the Legislature.
FREEDBERG: What’s the answer to your own question? What would you do?
THURMOND: As I said you, know I would continue to support districts directly to provide them with more resources for better professional development. That’s where this all starts: The best way to close the achievement gap is strong professional development for educators. Prior to that you do prevention programs, more early education. We have to address the achievement gap before it starts. The achievement gap starts before kindergarten. And we have to have a universal preschool system in this state. And I will work with the next governor to create a universal preschool system in this state. And I’m already starting on that work. This year I’ve introduced a bill that taxes private prisons to generate revenue for preschool and afterschool programs. One of the things that I think that you’ll learn, Mr. Tuck, is that the state budget doesn’t allow the superintendent to create a new program unless you generate new revenue. And that’s why I asked you a question about, what’s your vision for creating the revenue needed for creating the work because you wouldn’t be the superintendent of any individual district. We’ve got to be in a position to support hundreds of districts throughout the state and the 58 county superintendents. So my plan is to bring more resources to start preschool programs and to work with our governor and our legislature to have a universal preschool program and we’re starting with that right now by generating more money for early education in our state.
TUCK: So I think it’s appropriate for me to get a chance to respond. We talk about pre-k for all, and you talk about it a lot. And yet our state doesn’t have it. And it’s expensive, but it’s not that expensive. We have prioritized other things other than pre-k. Every educator, every parent knows that pre-k makes sense for kids, and yet we have not delivered on it. You’ve been a legislator for almost four years. It hasn’t gotten done. You talk about taxing private prisons. You voted for a substantial raise for correction officers, which is a much larger sum of money towards prisons than any tax on private prisons. If that money had actually been decided to be used for pre-k, we’d have pre-k for all high poverty kids. And so when you think about, running a budget is about prioritization. And we have prioritized increasing the costs in our prisons. Votes have been passed around compensation to do that. And we have not prioritized pre-k for all. And that actually is in the Legislature, and we need to change that dynamic and always prioritize our kids first.
FENSTERWALD: Ok. Thank you. Let’s move onto the next topic. And so there was another tragic shooting last week. And what could the state and state superintendent do help make schools safer? And also along the lines, what could you do to help students feel less frightened and apprehensive? I think Marshall it’s your turn to go first.
TUCK: Yeah we had we have a ton to do. Both as someone who’s led school systems and as a parent. Parents, when they think about school, they think first and foremost about safety of their child. Somebody who’s the parent of a 6-year-old child who goes to our local public school, when I drop Mason off at school, what’s the most important thing is I want him to be safe. And the bottom line right now is we have a lot of work to be done there. So you know our state has made real progress on gun control but we got to keep moving forward. There are still more decisions and we can make politically to ensure that guns are just not get in the hands of our kids and there’s progress to be made there. We have to address these issues well before they begin. Right now in this state, you not only have seen across this nation school shootings but suicides are up at the highest rate they’ve been up. And we’ve got to ask ourself this question:why are young people in such a state where they’re taking their own lives at the highest rate and they’re also having these mass shootings? And why aren’t we addressing these issues much earlier? And the fact that the state of California has one of the worst ratios of students to counsellors in the country. We have almost 800 kids for every counselor means we’re not keeping our young people mental health support and the social emotional needs to support them around that. So we’ve got to get serious about real deep additional psychologists on campuses, more support on social emotional, much lower ratio of counselor to kids, so we’re addressing these issues early. And then we certainly got to make sure our school buildings and our staff are trained to make sure kids are safe. I think the key is our kids are going through some tough times right now. And I think whether because of technology and the consistent bullying, we’ve got to figure out what that is, and it startswith getting a lot more social emotional support on campuses earlier for our young people.
FENSTERWALD: Thank you.
THURMOND: I’d like to start with this, you know, the president has called for arming all of our teachers with guns. That’s exactly the wrong thing to do. Our teachers don’t need guns they need resources to educate our kids. They need elected officials who will support real gun-control policies to keep guns out of our schools. Just recently we voted to make a stronger restraining order a program that makes it possible for educators to report someone who they think might be at risk for bringing a gun into a school.
I’ve supported legislation that would expand community resource officers and school resource officers to be in our schools keep our schools safe because as a parent of a public school student, I’ve been called on my child who says there’s a gun on campus or someone is retaliating because of something that occurred in the community. And when that happens you want there to be a trained school resource officer who can work to keep your school safe. I have legislation this year that will provide more counselors in our schools, more nurses, more psychologists, more social workers, to address direct mental health needs in our schools. We have to address the stigma around mental health and provide more resources for our students and their families. And I’ve been working for the last year to bring violence prevention trainings into our school districts that help our districts prepare for, to identify risk situations and what to do in those situations. Clearly we have a lot more to do. But this is the work that is already under way that I’m already working on and will continue to make sure that our teachers have the resources they need to educate kids, that we provide the mental health resources to support our students, and make sure our districts get training on what to do and how to prevent potentially tragic situations.
FREEDBERG: I wanted to move on to some of the financial backing that both of you are getting. I think this race, and interestingly the gubernatorial race, similar issues are be raised, as kind of pro-charter and anti-charter kind of discussion, it’s more complicated than that. Marshall Tuck you’ve been endorsed by the California Charter Schools Association. Millions of dollars of pro-charter money going into independent expenditure committees. Tony Thurmond, you’ve been endorsed by the California Teachers Association, which has a vigorous campaign – Kids Not Profits – raising issues about all the money from billionaires going into charter schools. I guess we’ll start with you. What do you think will be expected of you from your supporters, the California Teachers Association? And will you be independent of those forces? Why are they putting all this money to support you?
THURMOND: Well let me just start with the last part of your question. Yes, I’ll be independent and that’s what I have demonstrated in 11 years of being elected. I’m glad to have support from teachers and I’m also supported by a broad array of groups, including 21 county superintendents. But I always tell people support doesn’t mean that you’re going to vote for everything that any group has asked. And if you look at my record you’ll see that I have differed on major policy issues from the teachers union. I am not a candidate who fits in anyone’s box. My only job is to do what’s in the best interests of all of our kids. Quite frankly, all this money that’s being spent by outside groups, I wish they put it all towards helping our kids. If you look at how much was spent in the last superintendent race, four years ago, by outside groups, it’s a huge amount of money that could have supported any one of the challenges that we’ve talked about here today.
I’ve made this a campaign that’s focused on issues and focused on helping our kids. Every decision that I make will be focused on a lens of what is best for our kids. I’m glad to build partnerships. I will work with everyone, groups that support me, groups that don’t. We’ll bring together the Education Coalition to talk about all the big challenges that we need to address. Dealing with pension reform. Closing our achievement gap. Closing our teacher shortage. Working with parents and educators to figure out how we strengthen our accountability measures so that they’re more usable for our families. We’ll build a strong coalition. And at the end of the day, I’m going to be independent as I’ve demonstrated in my career, and I’ll do what’s best for kids.
FREEDBERG: Marshall Tuck, a lot of money coming from people who really believe very strongly in charter schools. What are they expecting from you, and will you be independent as Superintendent of Public Instruction?
TUCK: Yes. So for our campaign in terms of independence, I mean I believe I’m the first candidate for state superintendent, potentially ever, who is taking no money from PACs of corporations.
FREEDBERG: That is in direct contributions to your campaign.
TUCK: Absolutely. So only taking money from individuals and we have over, I think about 2,500 supporters. And you mentioned the California Charter Schools Association has endorsed our campaign and we have some supporters who support nonprofit charter schools, also ACSA, the Association of California School Administrators — the group that represents all of the principals and superintendents and administrators in traditional public schools in the state — has endorsed our campaign. We have a lot of Democrats that support our campaign. We’ve got Republicans. We have independents and libertarians. The one common bond between our supporters: they know we need real change in our public schools. They know that the status quo is not working, and they look at my track record as somebody who’s actually delivered real results for kids in our schools, the majority of that time in district public schools, some of that time in nonprofit charters. They know that our kids deserve better in the state of California, and I want as wide of a tent as possible. People from all income levels, all backgrounds to get behind what is essential, which is our kids’ future, and get this state on the right track where it is truly prioritizing all kids.
FREEDBERG: John, you want to follow up on issues of charter schools. Let’s just talk a little bit about some of the issues that are on the table right now regarding charter schools.
FENSTERWALD: Yeah, Marshall go first. What’s your overall assessment of charter schools — their effectiveness and performance? And some of those who are giving to an independent expenditure committee would like to see majority of students in charter schools. So what’s your view? And you can keep it concise because we’ve got to several questions on charters.
TUCK: So I think that too often this question comes up like charter versus district public school and I think the right question for policymakers is how do we deliver a quality public school for all kids whether it’s a traditional district school, a magnet school, or a charter school. I’ve worked in nonprofit charter schools. I’ve worked for a longer period of time in district public schools. The vast majority of kids in our public schools go to district public schools. That’s where the focus needs to be. I don’t believe that charter school should be a majority of kids in public schools. I think that nonprofit charter schools, particularly in high-poverty areas where the system has failed our kids year after year, I think having another public school option is a good thing. Wealthier families have always had the option to go to a different public school. They’ve never been stuck in failing schools like a lot of kids I work with in Inglewood and Watts, and South L.A. So the idea of having an alternative option as long as it’s doing well, is good.
Now I’ve worked in both charters and district schools, so I think the ability to answer the question about like, hey what policies make the most sense to have charter schools be a part of a public education system but not the majority of it — charter schools that aren’t doing well should be shut down. Charter school law was passed in 1992. It’s time to actually look at it and change it because we’ve got some schools aren’t working and those ones should be shut down. We certainly should ban for-profit charter schools in the state of California. The fact is it hasn’t been banned yet shows you just some of the failures in Sacramento because the majority of people actually agree it makes sense not to have them. So we’ve got to get focused, but I think we always had to come back to the first question what does a parent of a child care about? They want a quality public school that is safe and the governance structure is not their top priority. They want to help their kids get better.
FENSTERWALD: Tony, your overall assessment of charter schools.
THURMOND: My overall assessment and the data suggests that charter school experience is by and large similar to traditional public school experiences, they are about the same. There are some examples that are different and there are some real bad actors. And I would agree that we should be banning charter schools for-profit charter schools, and I’m supporting legislation this year that will ban for-profit charter schools. There had been some that have had just egregious actions and have profited and have not served students well. At the same time, there are some charter schools that have done things that are really good and innovative that we should be looking to replicate in traditional public schools. You know, I had a chance to visit a number of schools this year and I would shout out a couple: Fortune charter schools, which supports African-American students and has come up with some great innovations. Making Waves Academy — had a chance to visit with some great students from my district. And Leadership Public Schools in Richmond where we actually built a state-of-the-art high school to support that charter school and a traditional public high school on the same campus. I think that many of the schools have demonstrated some innovations that should be replicated. But I think overall the experience of charter schools has been one where it is about the same as our traditional public schools.
FENSTERWALD: So it’s possible that the next Legislature may choose to amend the current charter law based on some of the issues being raised this year. So we are wondering if you could take just 30 seconds as I go through several possibilities and tell me whether you favor it or not. Tony, would you favor a moratorium on charter schools – if so on what grounds?
THURMOND: I haven’t called for a moratorium on charter schools. I do think that there is a challenge around the resource question. I have been very public in saying I don’t think that we should open any new schools without providing new resources to support that school. I think the way things are now, and the data shows this, that for every school that opens without new resources, there is an impact on the schools in the district that that charter will be will be based in. And so I think that we should be having a different conversation. Maybe the conversation is more of a pause than a moratorium. Give us a chance to figure out how we can open new schools and provide the resources for that school in a way that don’t necessarily have to impact or undermine another school.
FENSTERWALD: Thank you. Marshall? Moratorium?
TUCK: I don’t support a blanket moratorium on charter schools because that would be taking an important tool out of the toolkit to deliver on what is our responsibility to parents, which is a quality public school for all our kids. I live in Los Angeles. KIPP Los Angeles: their elementary school serving all high-poverty kids outperformed 93 percent of elementary schools in the state of California, and they’re serving almost all high-poverty kids. If they want to open a couple of schools, let’s let that happen because I’m pretty confident parents would want to go to that school. Now, that being said, there are unintended consequences that we ought to look at and make some adjustments in the charter policy to ensure that we’re only actually growing quality charter schools and the ones that aren’t effective should be shut down, but a blanket moratorium doesn’t make sense for parents.
FENSTERWALD: Should school boards be permitted to cite what they judge to be a negative financial impact on their district as a reason to deny a charter? And that bill will likely come up next year and Tony, what do you think?
THURMOND: Well that is not the law. The law says that a charter has to be approved based on the program that they offer for students. And I was a school board member — I’ve authorized charters, renewed charters. And, you know, when there is a strong program you have to follow the law. I do think that the real issue that those proponents who brought forward that legislation are saying is: you do have to look at the undeniable impact that the opening of new schools without resources has had on many traditional public schools. If you look at the Oakland School District which has 40 charter schools, it was recently reported some figure upwards of $50 million is lost just from the opening of those schools. These issues do have to be addressed.
FENSTERWALD: And I appreciate it’s not the law now. But if you can give a yes or no. If there is a bill next year to say, ‘Yeah let’s make fiscal impact one of the criteria for denying or approving a charter, is that a good idea?
THURMOND: I’m going to say that I would support legislation that changes the narrative to say, ‘Let’s not open any new schools without providing resources for those schools.’ Because there’s no question that opening schools without new resources has had huge impacts on our traditional public schools.
TUCK: Yeah I don’t think a school district should be able to reject a charter school. A quality charter school application particularly from someone whose proven deliverable results basically because it t may have some negative financial impact on the district, I don’t think that’s a good policy for kids and parents. I do think we ought to look at other policies. Places like L.A. or Oakland where they’ve had large number of charter schools grow maybe extend the hold-harmless policy where you give the districts additional resources to make some adjustments on the cost structure if it is losing kids in terms of enrollment. Extend that for a couple of years to make that transition for districts and, most importantly, for kids, more effectively. But I think straight allowing districts to just say financial impact no to a quality charter I think it’s not the right thing for the parents and kids who we serve. And the question always comes back to: what are we doing to give every kid a quality education. And I don’t think that moves us forward on answering that question.
FREEDBERG: Just to clarify, you said perhaps there should be a pause. Should there be or shouldn’t there be?
THURMOND: You know I’ve often asked this question to leaders at the Charter School Association. What is the tipping point of how many schools you can open? Meaning you can’t open enough schools to serve all of the students who have need. And if opening new schools without new resources to go with them
FREEDBERG: Charter schools?
THURMOND: Correct. Without providing the resources — it does have an impact on traditional public schools. And I think it is worth asking the question: How do we address these issues? How do we give parents choices without undermining the impact of the experiences of students who won’t have the chance to attend that charter school? I could support a pause conversation to look at resources but I’m not going to blanket say that there should be no more new charters. If someone is open to charter school serve African-American students or a science school for girls in places where we’ve had inequities, there may be compelling reasons for why to do that. But we have got to answer the question of how we will address the resources. And I don’t support opening new schools without providing resources for those schools and just taking away resources from the schools that they will be based near by.
FREEDBERG: I wanted to move to another topic. We have this new system in California — California School Dashboard. I’m sure many of you out there have seen it. Color-coded, multiple measures. Do you think this, do you think the Dashboard is working? Do you think this actually is telling parents and other people to want to know what’s going on in the schools, how things are going?
THURMOND: I do. I like the Dashboard. I think it recognizes that our students are more than a test score. It gives parents a way to understand the full performance of a school by looking at things like school climate, and how English learners do, and how we engage parents. I also understand that there are some who feel it has made it harder, that the Dashboard makes it harder, for a parent to really know how a school performs. And I think, if that’s the case, I think that there’s an opportunity to adjust the Dashboard to make some changes that will make it easier for parents to compare one school to another. I don’t think that the Dashboard should be a way to hide how a school is really doing. And I think the best way for us to strengthen the Dashboard is to get input from the most important end user, parents and families. And as superintendent I would invite our parent clubs, and our PTAs, and parent groups across the state to work with us to get feedback on ways to make the Dashboard more user-friendly.
FREEDBERG: Marshall Tuck. California’s School Dashboard.
TUCK: I mean I think, we all know schools work better when parents are involved and it’s better for our kids. And that’s why, in the school systems I’ve led, we’ve really embraced engaging parents. That’s why my wife and I try to, when we have time, to engage with our son’s school. And so when we think about a school Dashboard, which is really information for both parents and also for educators, the question is, is it helping us to engage parents more? And I think that there’s real improvements to be made with the Dashboard because it’s not extremely user-friendly for parents. You know I’ve gone on to the website and looked at the Dashboard from my son’s school and I’m pretty knowledgeable in education, and it’s just not the easiest user-friendly tool in terms of really getting a sense of what’s going on at the school. I think that the move on the Dashboard to what’s called multiple measures — where we’re looking at not just test scores but also looking at rates of redesignation for English learners, where we’re looking at chronic absenteeism — moving to multiple measures is a good thing for the state. We did that in our schools for a long period of time. But we have to remember that if it doesn’t work well for parents then it’s going to not have them be as involved, and so I think there’s real work to be done to improve the Dashboard from where it is, so it’s much more user-friendly for parents and also actually improve it so it’s better for teachers and principals to be able to see how are their schools performing compared to other schools. They can learn from other quality practices in our public schools. We need information but it’s got to work for those that are most important to our kids’ success, which is our parents and our teachers and our principals.
FENSTERWALD: So, Marshall, how would you strike the balance between the desire of many student and parent advocacy groups to switch to less punitive approaches to school discipline, like restorative justice, with the view of some teachers and parents that classrooms are becoming more disruptive? Do you believe in restorative justice?
TUCK: Yes. So I am a strong supporter of restorative justice and that’s the idea that let’s actually when we have incidents arise on campuses, let’s actually deal with the root issues of what’s going on rather than just punish our kids. We have to address the academic needs of our students. We have to address the social-emotional needs of our students. We have to understand where our kids are coming from in terms of their communities and cultures, and we have to do all that to best educate our kids. In our schools in L.A. — and I’m really proud of Joan Sullivan who’s now running the Partnership Schools — we’re a leader on restorative justice in terms of what we put into place in our schools. We actually have restorative justice coordinators in many of our schools and recognized in LA as leaders in that area. And what you see is our kids have more success. When we’re actually bringing kids together to resolve conflict, when we’re actually giving kids space to talk about where they’re coming from to start their day, and what’s going on in their lives, they feel better and it prepares them more effectively to do their work. And it really reinforces their desire not to engage in destructive or inappropriate behavior going forward. You certainly have to have a balance in terms of you know some accountability and discipline. But our balance has been way too far on accountability and discipline for our kids and not enough on really addressing the social emotional needs, really understanding what’s going on and why are conflicts happening. And the more we teach our kids that when they’re younger, then you’re going to see more and more understanding behavior and less and less conflict and acting out-behavior. And that’s what our young people need.
THURMOND: I believe in restorative justice, and as school-board member, I led an effort to reduce suspensions using restorative justice and we reduced our suspensions by 27 percent in one year. That meant that all teachers had to get training in restorative justice. I think it’s a mistake to ever say, you know, we’re going to do this without providing the actual training in how restorative justice works. My bill AB 1014 gave $25 million to 30 school districts last year, and said that one of the things that they could use those dollars for is restorative justice. And so I believe in it. I think that we can continue to grow it.
I think the key is many of our schools don’t have a strong program for how to manage student discipline and the mistake that some schools have made is to use school resource officers as the dean or the disciplinarian, and that is a misuse of that position. It is a position that criminalizes kids instead of recognizing that kids are kids and they’re going to do things and that we have to have structures and programs that do that. And sometimes it’s as simple as having an assistant principal or someone who’s designated to meet those functions because teachers cannot be teacher and the disciplinarian at the school. And I will work with our districts to expand restorative justice through the funding and AB 1014 and other programs, and work with our students. Our students have great ideas on how to make our schools safer. They often are part of conflict mediation programs. I passed a bill that the governor signed that allows a student to be on a school board, a voting school board member, in every district in our state. We should listen to our student leaders, we should work with them and allow them to help us make our campuses safer.
FREEDBERG: We are running out of time. I did want to get in one more question, then you’re going to have a chance to ask your opponent a question. But I just want to get back to this funding issue because the way things are shaping up is likely that you guys will actually be running after the June 5th primary and that there are going to be many months of debates. But there’s also going to be a lot of money going to your campaigns and to these independent expenditure committees, which is vastly exceeding the money that are going to direct contributions to your campaign. And you could see how voters would be confused if all these so-called special interests are supporting you, and you are claiming you are independent. So how do you feel about these independent expenditure committees, which are not supposed to coordinate with your campaign at all but they are interest groups. I want to ask you also Marshall about that because this is a fundamental part of our election system here.
THURMOND: We need election reform. I support publicly funded campaigns. As someone who doesn’t have any money, you know who doesn’t come from any money, who’s not connected to any political family, every campaign I’ve ever run and won was a grassroots campaign, knocking on doors and talking to voters and those are the kind of things that I love to do and I’m honored that the voters have allowed me to serve them for over 11 years in that way. I think we should get rid of independent expenditure committees, and I have supported legislation that has passed that creates more accountability of independent expenditure committees, so that we know where the sources are coming from and who these individuals are. And as I’ve said if you look at the $20 plus million that they spent in this election four years ago, that money should have been put towards supporting our students, supporting our educators and supporting our schools. I have routinely campaigned to create a publicly financed election system so that there are no dollars in campaigns. But I’ve also been really clear that I will not accept any money from tobacco or from the oil industry or any of these industries that have had negative impacts on our community. I’ve accepted that pledge to be a progressive campaigner. I have 100 percent voting record with the Sierra Club, which has endorsed me, and I’m honored that the Courage Campaign and other groups have recognized my efforts to try and get money out of politics.
FREEDBERG: Marshall Tuck?
TUCK: Yeah I think we’re aligned. Campaign finance is broken and special interests have way, way too much influence over our campaigns and we need to completely reform campaign finance and there really shouldn’t be independent expenditures that can go in and run their own campaigns. I mean think about, you know, my wife and I our our son, we’ve made a lot of sacrifices to run for office – my wife’s incredible, and we’re not independently wealthy. We’re running nonstop. And all of a sudden outside interests who aren’t connected to the campaign can just run ads and send messages and spread the word. Those are the rules that are set in the state and this country. They need to be changed. I think we have to really look at public financing of our campaigns because having limits for candidates and having outside groups that can just do whatever they want. It’s just not good for voters, and it really gives special interests, you know, too much for toehold. But I also think about, that I can’t control —what I can control as a candidate is, I’m taking no money from companies or PACS, we’re taking money from individuals, to kind of really push an independence. What I can control is making sure that when we communicate with voters, we talk about what they care about: how we can change the lives of our kids and drive real change. We have real work to do on changing campaign finance in this state and in this country. It’s probably going to require a Supreme Court change, but at a minimum let’s people voting for Congress and making sure we have the right leadership nationally, and the right leadership statewide that has the power to make some changes. Because I think you know Tony and I probably both agree, I think as a candidate, we’re putting our heart and soul in these campaigns and it doesn’t make sense that the other folks can kind of drive a lot of the destiny.
FENSTERWALD: Yeah, the two of you have not been shy in asking each other questions this morning, we appreciate that. But I wanted to give you one last opportunity to ask the other a question on a topic that we haven’t covered, or something about their campaign that you’re curious about. So, Tony, why don’t you start?
THURMOND: Well, I’ll stick with the same theme you just talked about. Mr. Tuck, you have, you and I have both said that we would campaign against President Trump and Secretary DeVos and their desire to take money away from California’s public education system. But you have received money from individuals who support the president and who have campaigned against gay marriage. You have appeared on mailers, you know, next to Donald Trump’s major supporters, and I don’t see any evidence of you disavowing, you know, those folks. Like John Cox who has been endorsed by Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich and others who, you know, have espoused the type of idealism that would really hurt California education. I guess I’d ask, when will you disavow these interests from the Republican Party and other places that you have seen support from. If you are still opposed to Secretary DeVos and Trump, say so. And if not, are you aligned with them, or are you just going to accept tacit support from them without speaking out against the mean-spirited actions that they’re bringing against California’s students?
TUCK: So, I think this is a perfect example of a politician doing politics as usual. And I think, frankly, that’s also one of the problems in our society right now, where using misinformation and trying to infuse doubt into people’s thinking by throwing things that you know are inaccurate is a tactic to have been used way too much in D.C. and certainly shouldn’t be used on this campaign. And the fact that you’re talking about Trump and using similar tactics of misinformation and misguided information. The fact is here’s the record. I actually pushed very hard for Hillary Clinton to be successful both in terms of donating and actually helping to raise money. I’ve been very clear: my agenda is strongly against Trump/DeVos agenda and you don’t have to take my word for it, President Obama’s Education of Secretary, Arnie Duncan, has endorsed our campaign, and he endorsed our campaign because our agenda is very aligned with the agenda of President Obama. Former congressional member George Miller, a Democratic congressional member who was the chair of the Education Labor Committee for a long time, has endorsed our campaign. Dr. Shirley Webber, deep advocate in this city for civil rights for our kids, all of us are very aligned in our opposition to the current administration and their agenda in education. There is tons of evidence of that. And yet again another political trick from a politician using misinformation to sow doubt. So I just encourage people to not listen to what the status quo says which is let’s not focus on the real issues which are the fact that our kids are not getting the job done, that our politicians haven’t done the job done and let’s focus on misinformation. Let’s, actually, let’s all focus on the real facts, which is we need do a lot better for young people. And that’s what I’ll be doing.
FENSTERWALD: Marshall, ask a question.
TUCK: Yes. So, for Assemblymember Thurmond, you’ve been on the record saying that the Local Control Funding Formula, that you support the dollars need to follow the kids, and yet you’ve introduced no legislation to actually change that. And I think it’s really one of the biggest problems when that law right now is that the interpretation was made by the current state superintendent to allow that money to be used for across-the-board raises irrespective if someone actually teaches high poverty kids or not. You’ve said publicly that you aren’t in support of that, but a simple piece of legislation could actually change that interpretation. So how can you be supportive of money going to the highest poverty kids, which is essential to educate all kids, but not doing anything about it?
THURMOND: Thanks for the question, that actually gives me the opportunity to talk about two important pieces of legislation that I am authoring that would actually make sure that the money follows the highest poverty kids, and I hope that you’ll support it. The first is a bill of I’m a co-author, with Assemblymember Weber, it says that we create a framework within LCFF to make sure that dollars go to the lowest performing students in our state. Secondly, I’m supporting legislation, I’m also an author of this legislation, that would increase the base for education in our state. And so much to your question, I actually have introduced legislation that will support more funding going to kids who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and our highest poverty kids in our highest poverty districts. And I hope that you will support it. I hope that those who are viewing today will support it and I hope that the governor will sign it and to give us more resources for it.
TUCK: Did you support overhauling Torlakson’s interpretation?
THURMOND: I’ve been very clear that I think that LCFF dollars should be used for English learners and disadvantaged students. I’ve made that public and I’ll continue to say so.
FENSTERWALD: Thank you. I wish we had more time. Time has gone quickly. So I wanted to give each of you 30 seconds to just sort of sum up why it is voters should vote for you. Marshall, go first.
TUCK: What’s exciting for someone who’s worked in schools for 16 years is I’m just inspired every day by what’s possible for young people. Now I’ve just seen our kids from some of the most challenging circumstances in the thousands step up when we support them, so we need to support them. And the bottom line is our state has not prioritized them for a long time. I think that the decision this election is very clear in the San Jose Mercury News said it very clearly when they endorsed our campaign. They said it had a choice between the status quo candidate in Tony Thurmond, or a change advocate in Marshall Tuck. That’s what they actually pushed out there, and so I think if you want real change for our public schools, I hope you will be a part of our campaign that’s gonna truly do what our kids deserve, which is to give them all a phenomenal education.
THURMOND: Thank you for today. I refuse to accept that we cannot provide a great education for all of our kids. I’m told on a regular basis that we should just select the kids who show promise and focus on them. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be here supporting school programs, teaching life skills and career training, teaching kids who are in the juvenile justice system and having real results of increasing graduation rates, increasing test scores, and providing millions of dollars to support our education. We can make California’s education number one. I hope you’ll check out my web page TonyThurmond.com. Together let’s serve all of our 6 million students in the state of California.
FREEDBERG: Well thank you so much. As we suspected we didn’t get to many of the questions that those of you out there sent to us but we will pass them on to the candidates so they can hear what’s on their minds. I want to thank Marshall Tuck and Tony Thurmond for appearing in what will be their last joint public appearance before the June 5th primary. If neither of you gets an outright majority, we will invite you back before the November runoff.
TUCK: Let’s let June 5th happen. Don’t jinx us.
THURMOND: There are two other candidates.
TUCK: We’ve got real work to do to get through June 5th, so let’s not go crazy. (Laughter)
FREEDBERG: What I was going to say is next time, we’re going to let you guys just talk. It’s actually refreshing to see the candidates actually communicating with each other and have real dialogue. So we appreciate that.
For more news on this race and the campaign for governor where some of these same issues are being discussed, please come back to EdSource, To make it easy to keep up on education news in California from kindergarten through college, subscribe to our daily news digest and our weekly podcast, This Week in California Education. I’m Louis Freedberg with John Fensterwald. For everyone at EdSource, thank you for joining us.