Strange Bedfellows: Prison Officers’ Union Bankrolls Schools Chief Candidate Tony Thurmond

  Strange Bedfellows: Prison Officers’ Union Bankrolls Schools Chief Candidate Tony Thurmond

Why would the state prison officers’ union invest significantly in the state schools chief race?

The group has no history of doing so in the past. Nevertheless, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association has endorsed State Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Tony Thurmond and committed $500,000 for TV ads supporting his race against Marshall Tuck. 

Thurmond, currently an assemblyman representing Richmond in Northern California, has been very good to the prison guard union. Earlier this year, he voted to approve the officers’ latest contract, which included a 5 percent wage increase at a two-year cost of nearly $340 million.

That means wages for union members have increased 67 percent since 2001. Meanwhile, Los Angeles teachers are threatening to strike because state funding for schools has LAUSD on the verge of insolvency, with class sizes that nearly everyone believes are too large.

The prison guard cash infusion has critics calling into question the “EDUCATE NOT INCARCERATE” claim on his District 15 website. California spends about five times as much per prisoner as per student, so perhaps the prison guard union wants to make sure the next state superintendent doesn’t challenge that status quo.

Tuck, who formerly ran the Partnership For Los Angeles Schools and is a parent of a child attending his local LAUSD school, has highlighted the discrepancy in funding for prisoners versus pupils in ads that began airing several weeks ago.

“Did you know that every year California spends $71,000 per prisoner but only $16,000 per student?” one ad opens. “It's no wonder our public schools rank 44th in the nation.”

News of the half million for Thurmond came shortly after those ads began airing.

“It’s ironic,” Tuck told CALmatters, “that Thurmond talks about moving money from prison to schools but has made votes to increase spending for prisons.”

Speak UP has not endorsed a candidate in the race for state superintendent, however, our organization strongly supports more state funding for education. And in the competition for dollars, we adopt the “schools not prisons” mantra.

“State economies would be much stronger over time if states invested more in education and other areas that can boost long-term economic growth and less in maintaining extremely high prison populations,” wrote Michael Mitchell, a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Directing more money to schools might actually diminish the need for so much spending on prisons. Increasing high school graduation rates, reduces crime rates and the costs of incarceration, according to a report from the Alliance for Excellent Education.

It’s shocking that such a progressive state as California would spend so much more per prisoner than per student. The power of the prison guard union may explain why. LAUSD Board Member Richard Vladovic ranted about the fact that the state won’t respond to a UTLA strike by giving schools more funding because “They gotta pay for prisons first,” he said. “They’re not gonna pay for children.”

Read More

Tuck Leads Thurmond In State Supe Race, Villaraigosa Concedes To Newsom, Cox For Governor

Tuck Leads Thurmond In State Supe Race, Villaraigosa Concedes To Newsom, Cox For Governor

Education reformer Marshall Tuck and union-backed candidate Tony Thurmond will face off in the fall in the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, while ed reform Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa placed third and was eliminated in the governor’s race, which will now be between Democrat Gavin Newsom and Republican John Cox in November. Tuck, an education reformer who led Los Angeles school turnaround efforts, was ahead with 37 percent to Thurmond’s 34 percent, with 97 percent of precincts reporting, according to LA School Report. Meanwhile, Villaraigosa conceded his race just before 11 p.m. Read more here.

Read More

EdSource Hosts Live Q&A With State Superintendent Candidates May 23

EdSource Hosts Live Q&A With State Superintendent Candidates May 23

EdSource is hosting an online conversation with Marshall Tuck and Tony Thurmond, leading candidates for state superintendent of public instruction on May 23 at 9:30 a.m. To view and participate click on this page at that time. 

EdSource’s John Fensterwald and Louis Freedberg will ask about their positions on critical issues and their visions for California’s public schools. The state superintendent leads the California Department of Education, which oversees the state’s nearly 1,000 school districts and more than 10,000 public schools.

The two candidates will answer questions on how they plan to raise student achievement and guide California’s schools in the era of local control. Email EdSource with your questions for the candidates at spatel@edsource.org.

The broadcast will go live May 23 at 9:30 am. The primary election is June 5.

Read More

State Superintendent Candidate Marshall Tuck Says Parents Can Be Strong 'Counterforce To The Status Quo'

State Superintendent Candidate Marshall Tuck Says Parents Can Be Strong 'Counterforce To The Status Quo'

Speak UP recently sat down with Marshall Tuck, a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, to discuss the state of education in CA, teacher tenure laws, ways to improve low-performing schools and the role parents play in education policy. This is part two of our two-part interview. Part one can be read here. The primary election is June 5.

Speak UP: Are you the only qualified candidate who's really deeply familiar with LAUSD?

Marshall: Definitely. I've been working in public schools in L.A since 2002, and so both as someone who's worked in charter schools and in L.A. Unified, who's led the Partnership, who's been very active with the leaders of L.A. Unified, with our school board members, and then who's also a parent in L.A Unified. As far as understanding public schools in Los Angeles, I think I have a very strong resume for that job. I worked in schools for a long time, but now having a lens as the father of Mason Tuck, it’s definitely broadened and expanded my perspective and understanding of public schools. There's so much love there, you want so much for your son to have a strong experience in school, and so it gives you a different lens.

Speak UP: Your son attends Beethoven, which is a traditional neighborhood LAUSD school. How did you choose this school for your son?  

Marshall: We're lucky where we live. I live in Mar Vista, and there are three schools that are all within a mile of our house. I knew L.A. Unified very well, but the process to be able to choose to go to one of those three was not easy. This was a little over two years when we started digging in, to figure out how to actually permit into [Beethoven]. It was very hard to actually find out the process to permit him to another school in L.A Unified. And this is from somebody who knows the district well. So I'm thrilled about the direction that the district is going in terms of a unified enrollment system.    

Beethoven is a smaller school. It's a really good school. We did what a lot of parents do. We went to greatschools.org, and we went to the California [Dashboard] website, which had not as much information as we’d have liked, to see how it was doing academically, talked to friends in the neighborhood. I talked to some educators I know in the neighborhood and just felt like it was the right fit for our son. It still was a lot of work for us to find out: What were the schools within our general neighborhood? What's the process to get into them, and what's different about the schools? It was a more time-intensive and rigorous process than I think it can be, and I'm excited and optimistic that there is some movement towards making that a better process for parents. And I'm very grateful for Speak UP for pushing hard to make that happen.


Read More

State Superintendent Candidate Marshall Tuck Says CA Has 'Accepted Mediocrity And Failure' For Too Long

State Superintendent Candidate Marshall Tuck Says CA Has 'Accepted Mediocrity And Failure' For Too Long

Speak UP recently sat down with Marshall Tuck, a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction to discuss the state of education in CA, teacher tenure laws, ways to improve low-performing schools and what role parents play in education policy. This is part one of our two-part interview. The primary election is June 5.

Speak UP: You're running for State Superintendent Public Instruction. Can you give us a brief explanation of what the job is and why parents should care about it?

Marshall Tuck: I'm a parent of a child in a public school. My son Mason is six, and he goes to Beethoven Elementary School in Los Angeles. When I think about his school, there's so many decisions that actually impact his classroom and his school that come from Sacramento, and very few parents actually know this. How much money we're going to spend on our children in public education is decided in Sacramento. What our kids are actually going to learn, what curriculum they can use, what flexibility the teachers and principals have, that comes from Sacramento.

We're the wealthiest state in the nation and yet we're 41st in per pupil funding. If you want that to change we actually have to elect people that are going to drive that change, and I think it should start with a State Superintendent, because the State Superintendent is the only elected official whose job is to wake up every day and fight for the 6.2 million kids that depend on public schools for their futures.

So this job [is] helping to create policy with the Governor and the Legislature, and also runs the California Department of Education, which is a 2500-person $350 million bureaucracy in Sacramento, whose job should be to be helping school districts best support kid, [but] far too often is creating kind of bureaucracy and regulation, which often can make it harder for teachers and principals at school sites to be creative.

Read More