Saturday, May 31, 2014

Race for state superintendent heated despite agreement on two key issues | EdSource Today

Race for state superintendent heated despite agreement on two key issues | EdSource Today:

Race for state superintendent heated despite agreement on two key issues

But Tom Torlakson and Marshall Tuck, the two leading candidates, both Democrats, share similar views on the two biggest education initiatives – and challenges – of the decade in California. Torlakson, seeking his second four-year term, and Tuck, the former president and CEO of a group of charter schools in Los Angeles, fully support the state’s new school financing system, the Local Control Funding Formula. And both are firmly behind the Common Core State Standards, which have replaced California’s state standards in math and English language arts.
The candidates’ views on charter schools, teachers unions and education reform have turned the race for state superintendent of public instruction into an expensive proxy war between big labor and big donors.
“The Common Core is a massive shift for our schools and should be a top priority in terms of support for the next two years,” Tuck wrote on his campaign website.
“Embracing Common Core bodes well for the direction we are going,” Torlakson said in an interview this week.
The true contrarian in the race, at least on these issues, is a little-known veteran teacher from the Long Beach Unified School District who also ran in 2010. Lydia Gutierrez, a Republican, opposes both “high-stakes testing” and the Common Core standards, which she criticizes as untested and unproven.
What’s given the race unexpected visibility and bite is that Torlakson and Tuck are on opposite sides of a fault line of education reform – nationally and in California. Tuck believes that teachers unions are too powerful and that “parents should be the biggest voice in education and a threat” to the unions, he said in an interview. He favors curbing teacher tenure and seniority and using standardized scores to some degree for teacher evaluations. He backs the “parent trigger” law, which gives parents of students in low-performing schools the leverage  to demand structural changes, including switching to a charter school.
Until he resigned to run for state superintendent, Tuck ran the nonprofit Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a group of 17 low-performing schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District that then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took over in 2007. Before that, he opened up nine charter schools in Los Angeles as president of Green Dot Public Schools.
Torlakson, a former legislator, is a close ally of the state’s teachers unions and favors their workplace protections. He opposed the state pursuing a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law, which Tuck supports, in part because a condition required using student test scores for teacher evaluations. The California Teachers Association, in turn, has spent about $4 million on TV and radio ads praising Torlakson and criticizing Tuck. That’s about four times the $1 million and change that Tuck and Torlakson each have raised for their own campaigns. Gutierrez has raised about $30,000.
Major donors backing Tuck include William Bloomfield, a real estate developer from Manhattan Beach, who has spent $720,000 on mailers promoting Tuck. The California Senior Advocates League PAC, an independent expenditure group Race for state superintendent heated despite agreement on two key issues | EdSource Today: