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JUSTIN SALTERS: Tuck has a plan to fix California schools

Several weeks ago, I was on a flight from South Dakota to Denver. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Mount Rushmore State for work these days and was headed home from another brief visit. I struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me. Her name was Nancy.

Nancy was heading home from a visit to Mount Rushmore with her grown children, and home was Fresno. When I shared that I, too, was headed home — to Bakersfield — she perked up. It wasn’t actually Fresno that she was headed to, but Dinuba.

We had a great conversation for the next 90 minutes aboard that United Express flight. Nancy asked what I did for work. I shared that information and, adding a dose of self-deprecating humor, apologized for the onslaught of campaign ads that were then on the cusp of launching back in California. Then Nancy shared bits of her life.

Nancy is a retired educator. After years of teaching, she traded the classroom for the dais, serving as a public school trustee for several years.

As she shared anecdotes from her decades of experience, Nancy offered an astute observation: Over the years, the regulatory burden placed on local school boards, administrators and teachers has strangled classroom creativity. The education bureaucracy leeches away resources and energy that could and should be put to better use — positively impacting student academic outcomes.

Nancy isn’t the first person to have a poor opinion of the state’s public education bureaucracy. Many share her frustration toward a system that embraces rigidity and resists reform. Reform that is much needed.

For nearly three decades, California’s students have tested at the lowest levels, performing significantly poorer than the national average for public school students. California’s fourth-graders have ranked 48th in reading and 49th in math in the nation. This is unacceptable.

I asked Nancy if she had given much thought to the upcoming election for state superintendent of public instruction. She hadn’t. Maybe you haven’t either.

But you should.

In just three weeks, we have the opportunity to elect a new state superintendent and send an individual to that office who will work tirelessly to renew the promise of public education for all of California’s students.

That individual is Marshall Tuck.

Tuck understands firsthand that our public schools need big changes if we want to ensure all students have access to the education they deserve and opportunity to succeed. Tuck isn’t a career politician; he’s a proven leader who has spent the past 15 years turning around underperforming schools and improving educational outcomes.

As president of the Green Dot Public Schools, Tuck helped create 10 public charter high schools in some of Los Angeles’ poorest neighborhoods. All of them outperformed their local schools, and eight were ranked among the top high schools in America by U.S. News & World Report.

After his success at Green Dot, Tuck was tapped by then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to lead the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, where Tuck led the turnaround efforts for L.A.’s struggling public schools. Graduation rates increased by more than 60 percent, and the schools reported the biggest academic improvement of any large school system in California.

Tuck’s plan for our schools has four major pillars: 1) investing in teachers and principals; 2) developing modern, 21st-century schools; 3) ensuring a system that works for all kids; and 4) fully funding our classrooms.

Tuck is the only candidate for state superintendent with experience delivering real results for California students.

I’m a product of our public schools, and I’m an advocate for them. As a parent, I hope that when we register my now 4-month-old daughter for kindergarten, we will have the option of quality, public schools. But without reform, the odds of this look increasingly unlikely.

We need a state superintendent who will champion reform and devote himself to ensuring that California’s public education system works for California’s students. If there is any hope for reviving the California Dream, it must include revitalized and thriving public schools.

I had the opportunity to meet Marshall Tuck about a year ago. Since then, we’ve traded emails and shared conversations about his vision for the future of California’s public schools. I have absolute confidence that he is the leader our schools need today.

Vote-by-mail ballots began arriving last week, and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. Please join me and vote for Marshall Tuck for state superintendent of public instruction.

Want to learn more about Marshall Tuck? Tune in at 2 p.m. Tuesday to “The Richard Beene Show” on KERN-AM 1180/FM 96.1, when Marshall Tuck and I will be on air discussing his campaign for state superintendent, or visit www.MarshallTuck.com.

By Justin Salters for the Bakersfield Californian.