The Most Important Race on the Ballot is the One No One is Talking About
By Jim Miller
This fall in San Diego the Peters vs. DeMaio and Kim vs. Cate showdowns are getting all the attention, but my pick for the most important race on the ballot is one that nobody is taking note of at the statewide level—and that’s a problem. The race in question is for . . . (wait for it) . . . State Superintendent of Public Instruction!
O.K. I know, Superintendent of Public Instruction races don’t usually get peoples’ hearts pumping, but if you are dismayed by the full-court-press assault on teachers, public education, and democratic local control over schools, you should help re-elect Tom Torlakson, who has been steadfast in his support for quality public education in California.
Indeed if you care about the direction of education in California this is a crucial race because it will make a real difference. The contest between the incumbent, Torlakson, and his opponent, Marshall Tuck, is a battle royal over who owns the future of our schools: the public or corporate interests.
Torlakson has a master’s degree in education and has taught at the high school and community college levels. He knows education from the inside out and has been a strong supporter of excellent public schools both as a legislator and in his current position as Superintendent.
What Tuck does offer is the same old stale union bashing that serves as cover for a robust privatization agenda.
Of central importance, Torlakson also understands the need to increase school funding and was an active advocate for Proposition 30 that helped save our state’s schools from certain devastation. He has not joined the “blame the teachers” chorus sponsored by the corporate sector, preferring instead to work with educators to improve our schools for our kids.
Torlakson is also a strong believer in lifelong learning, from early childhood to higher education, and has worked to increase career and technical options for California’s students as well. At a time when we see destructive, pitched battles over education in places like Illinois, New Jersey, and elsewhere around the country, Torlakson has offered an alternative model of cooperation and collaboration that is far more likely to get results than the slash and burn tactics favored by his opponent.
Torlakson’s opponent, Marshall Tuck, is a former Wall Street investment banker who now works as a CEO for a charter school company and has no classroom teaching experience or any expertise whatsoever with regard to education. What Tuck does offer is the same old stale union bashing that serves as cover for a robust privatization agenda.
Tuck failed to support Proposition 30 and his major backer, Eli Broad, donated $500,000 to try to defeat 30 and pass Proposition 32. Although he is running as a Democrat, Tuck is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Indeed, as the LA Progressive noted back during the primary:
Many of us hoped that when right-wing business banker Marshall Tuck was ignominiously forced to step down as the “CEO” of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS), that we might have heard the last of Tuck altogether. Tragically, the Eli Broad-trained neoliberal operative was preparing for a run for California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction seat. Despite never having taught a day in his life, nor having any background in pedagogy or child development, Tuck entered the race knowing that he could count on mountains of cash from the corporate education plutocracy aiming to — in the words of Tuck’s fellow arch-reactionary Grover Norquist — “drown [public education] in the bathtub”.
That’s why Tuck’s big backers opposed Proposition 30 because in their estimation, fostering austerity and budget cuts in the state’s education system is an effective way to open public education in California to “disruption” and piecemeal privatization.
So really Tuck’s agenda is not a particularly popular one in California or even in the nation at large, as the most recent opinion survey on education shows an overwhelming majority of people supporting both public schools and teachers. But the “D” next to Tuck’s name and the millionaires and billionaires behind his candidacy make him dangerous. In fact, current polling shows Tuck and Torlakson neck and neck with a huge number of undecided voters.
In deeply blue California, one would think Tuck would be having trouble, but in an off-year election, really bad things can happen particularly if rich folks are spending lots of money to ensure their desired outcomes.
But we should not allow apathy and/or ignorance to win the day when it comes to how we educate our kids and whether our public schools stay genuinely public. So let’s keep a strong advocate for public schools in office and not get fooled by a Manchurian candidate. Please tell your friends, family, and neighbors to re-elect Tom Torlakson. It really matters.
And don’t forget Betty Yee—another under-the-radar progressive champion.
And don’t forget Betty Yee—another under-the-radar progressive champion. Betty Yee is running for State Controller, and she is precisely the kind of Democrat we should be supporting as the Democratic Party is increasingly being colonized by corporate interests (and Manchurian candidates like Marshall Tuck).
As she noted recently:
You see, Democrats, we are just as guilty of getting sucked into the influence of money and power about which we criticize Republicans. It is time we have politics shaped by our values, rather than our values shaped by politics. If not, I believe Democrats will continue to lose ground with respect to the electorate. … Democrats, when are we going to recognize and rise up against being bullied by the system that equates power with money? When are we going to rise up to redefine power as the ability to deliver results to the people? [We] need to redefine our values so everyone has a seat at the table, not just those with the biggest bankroll.
Right on. Yee recently beat John Perez’s insider primary candidacy and would bring a real independent, populist voice to a statewide office where she would not just manage the state’s checkbook but influence economic, environmental, educational, and labor policy. We need more people like her in California politics. Vote for Betty Yee.