Charters’ choice for SPI gets endorsement lift

Charters’ choice for SPI gets endorsement lift

(Calif.) Four Democratic lawmakers announced Monday their support for Marshall Tuck, a charter loyalist, for state schools chief in advance of next year’s election.

The endorsement came from state Senators Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, and Steve Glazer, D-Orinda; along with Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, D-West Covina, and Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park.

It follows Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s announcement earlier this month that she is also supporting Tuck.

The affirmations come at the expense of Tony Thurmond, a Democrat and current member of the state Assembly representing the Richmond area.

It is notable that the state’s majority party has split over the candidates running for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and that lawmakers feel compelled to make public their choice. Yet, that is the nature of the ongoing political war being waged between supporters of the charter movement and those behind traditional public schools.

Tuck, who was an early employee of Green Dot charter schools and later served former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as administrator of city charters, lost a hard-fought campaign for state schools chief three years ago to Tom Torlakson.

The race between Tuck and Thurmond is likely to be run on most of the same issues, but especially regarding how much more of the public school system should be under charter leadership. The question has become more prominent in recent years as the California Charter Schools Association has grown stronger and more willing to take on the powerful school employee unions—particularly, the California Teachers’ Association.

Thurmond, who will be termed out of his Assembly seat at the end of 2018, served on the Richmond City Council and the West Contra Costa USD board before running for the Legislature. Perhaps his most prominent endorsement came from U.S. Senator Kamala Harris.

Both candidates have been busy raising money and both have about $1 million in their war chests.

Although conflict between charters and traditional schools dates back to 1992 when lawmakers approved the first alternative public schools, there has been growing conflict between the two sides.

The charter schools association had for many years shied away from big confrontations with the CTA. Just in the last year, however, the charter association has become much more aggressive in pushing its agenda statewide, especially in Sacramento.

Charter supporters have also won some key school board elections, particularly in winning two seats and board majority in May for control of the Los Angeles Unified School District.