Four years ago, the 11 newspapers making up the now-Southern California News Group backed Marshall Tuck for state superintendent of public instruction due to a shared recognition that California’s broken education system needed new ideas. While he came up short that election, Tuck remains the best suited to shake up the education system.
Tuck, who holds an MBA from Harvard and formerly worked in the financial industry, offers a wealth of experience and perspective.
Having served for four years as president of Los Angeles’ Green Dot charter schools and six years as CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, Tuck understands that innovation and public education can in fact go hand-in-hand.
It’s a perspective the California education system could use. In 2016, just 49 percent of California’s students met or exceeded state standards in English language, while just 38 percent met or exceeded standards in mathematics.
Those are not the sort of results the education system of the fifth-largest economy in the world should produce.
To turn things around, the state could use someone such as Tuck to use the bully pulpit of the position of state superintendent of public instruction to advocate for needed reforms, if only to spur needed critical self-assessment in the education establishment.
This time around, Tuck is running against Tony Thurmond, a member of the state Assembly, to succeed two-term state superintendent Tom Torlakson.
As with other races, this is a contest between two Democrats who genuinely care about the state of California’s public education system.
Where they disagree, ultimately, is on the correct approach moving forward.
One area of disagreement is with regard to charter schools.
While both have been critical of for-profit charter schools, which have recently been prohibited under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, Thurmond proposes a “pause” on new charter schools moving forward, while Tuck disputes the need for such a drastic move.
Charter schools, which are public schools freed from some of the restrictions of traditional public schools, have swelled in popularity over the past decade. Why? Because in many districts, they offer a viable alternative to traditional public schools.
Teachers unions and school districts often complain that charters siphon money away from traditional public schools, hence calls for a moratorium. But to hold up what’s in demand simply because they aren’t convenient to districts that aren’t offering the sort of opportunities parents flock to charters for would be an abuse of power.
Tuck’s practical approach of not wanting to sacrifice the benefits of charter schools will be critical to protecting school choice in California.
Further, while Tuck is willing to talk about reform to teacher tenure laws, Thurmond is more reluctant to talk about reform, instead focusing on pushing for further resources to the state education system.
While we commend Thurmond for his teaching background and his commitment to pushing for more resources for disadvantaged school districts, Thurmond is unfortunately too closely connected to the same establishment that has failed far too many students in California.
It is time for California to pursue a different course.
With Marshall Tuck as state superintendent of public instruction, we believe California will be in much better position to finally have the difficult conversations necessary to turn things around.