Former charter school executive Marshall Tuck said on Friday he
planned to unleash campaign ads and social media outreach next week
to unseat incumbent state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom
Torlakson, a former lawmaker and teacher who has the backing of
unions and the state party organization.
"We have 38 days until the primary," said Tuck, who has the backing
of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and funding from
billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad. "We want to make sure as many
people in the state as possible know about the importance of this
Tuck's campaign takes place as six states are set to elect new
superintendents of schools this year, and 13 more are electing
governors who are expected to appoint new superintendents when they
The contests are getting underway against a backdrop of questions
raised by education activists who want to roll back some union
protections for teachers, establish local control of curriculum and
spending decisions, and in some cases, use public funding to support
The suggestions have roiled teachers unions and many establishment
In Georgia, a Democratic candidate who supported charter schools
left the race for lack of support from the party. In California, the
Democratic party voted last month to endorse incumbent Torlakson.
Torlakson has raised just over $1 million for his campaign, not
counting a $60,000 independent expenditure reported earlier this
month by the California Federation of Teachers for a campaign
Challenger Tuck is running as a Democrat despite no party
endorsement and has hired Democratic operatives to work on his
campaign. Since announcing his candidacy last summer, he has raised
nearly $800,000, according to the state.
"He doesn't support school vouchers, he believes in separation of
church and state and he wants to keep the money in public schools,"
not privatize them, said his campaign manager Cynara Lilly.
Tuck said in an interview on Friday he supports teachers' right to
organize, but unions have "too big a seat at the table." He opposes
rules that require teachers with the least seniority to be the first
fired during layoffs, and is against granting teachers tenure after
just two years on the job.
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Policy experts in California say that increasingly, Democrats are
supporting elements of the reform agenda. At the national level, the
call to tie teacher evaluations to students' performance on
standardized tests has been championed by the Democratic Obama
administration, as well as leading Republicans.
The ranks of those interested in education reform are larger than in
the past, with interests that are more nuanced, said Ted Lempert,
president of the advocacy group Children Now, which has not taken a
position in the race.
"A lot of the initial interest did come out of Republicans and
conservatives but it's now really evolved to include people who are
really also on the left," said Mark Baldassare, president of the
Public Policy Institute of California.
Torlakson has supported such elements of the reform agenda as
stricter academic standards and a new plan by California Governor
Jerry Brown to give schools more control over the state money they
receive. But he is opposed to privatization or rolling back
teachers' job protections.
He questions Tuck's Democratic credentials, pointing to his
billionaire backer and a former job on Wall Street.
"It doesn't surprise me that he's trying to position himself in a
different way," said Paul Hefner, Torlakson's campaign manager. "He
is certainly not talking about the fact that he's a former Wall
Street investment banker."
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Michael Perry)
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