Tuck: Less money for prisons, more for schools

Marshall Tuck Tuesday smacked at his opponent in the race to become California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction for his vote in the state Assembly last month to grant pay raises to correctional officers.

Remind me: Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, a Richmond Democrat running for superintendent, voted with 102 other legislators to approve a 5 percent pay raise and other benefits for correctional officers. Eight lawmakers voted against it and seven ducked the vote.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association may not be as influential as it once was, but remains a significant player, spending $3.5 million on state campaigns since 2013. Like other public employee unions, CCPOA donated to Thurmond in the primary, albeit modestly at $2,250.

Tuck, a Democrat and charter public school advocate, questioned why starting correctional officers should earn more than many teachers, and said the vote approving the contract was an example of what’s wrong with “politics as usual.”

Tuck: “(Thurmond) should be fighting to spend less on corrections and more on teachers. Our priority should be our kids, not doubling down on prisons.”

Thurmond: “It’s a cheap political attack. … Until we have figured out how to continue to reduce our prisons, we still have to have trained individuals who can work in the prisons. It is a public safety issue.”

Analysis: The two-year cost of the pay hike will be $338 million.  Since 2001, correctional officers’ pay has increased 67 percent. The Legislative Analyst did not recommend voting against the pay package, but pointed out that there is “no evidence of recruitment or retention issues to justify the large pay increase.”

CCPOA spokeswoman Nichol Gomez: “We believe the contract is a fair and equitable agreement for the state and correctional officers.”

By Dan Morain