By Thomas Ultican / Tultican
ACSA endorsed a candidate for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction who actively works to privatize public schools. As a participant in the Destroy Public Education (DPE) movement, he supports initiatives undermining the teaching profession and good pedagogy.
Established in 1971 to advance the cause of public education, the ACSA has joined ranks with groups working to end taxpayer supported universal public education. The endorsement of Marshall Tuck over Tony Thurmond for Superintendent makes this clear.
Tuck and Thurmond are both Democrats. Thurmond is a progressive and Tuck is a neoliberal. The California Teachers Association (CTA) endorses Thurmond as do a long list of elected officials and organizations including Senator Kamala Harris.
Jenifer Berkshire’s article “How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party,” describes neoliberals:
“‘The solutions of the thirties will not solve the problems of the eighties,’ wrote Randall Rothenberg in his breathless 1984 paean to this new breed [of Democrats], whom he called simply ‘The Neoliberals.’ His list of luminaries included the likes of Paul Tsongas, Bill Bradley, Gary Hart and Al Gore …. …, the ascendancy of the neoliberals represented an economic repositioning of the Democratic Party…. The era of big, affirmative government demanding action—desegregate those schools, clean up those polluted rivers, enforce those civil rights and labor laws—was over.”
Tony Thurmond spoke at the CTA delegates meeting in October 2017. He won their endorsement. The CTA news release said:
“We won’t stand for vouchers and we will not allow the privatization of public schools in the great state of California,” Thurmond told cheering delegates. He declared that resolving the teacher shortage is key to closing student achievement gaps. “I don’t know how we close the achievement gaps without closing the teacher shortage in the state.”
When Marshall Tuck answered the ACSA’s questions about “school choice,” he wrote:
“I believe it is important to preserve and strategically expand high-quality public school options for parents, …. These public options can take many forms: some are magnet programs that focus on a particular academic discipline, some are charter schools that have flexibility to innovate with new practices, and some are specialty programs, like those that focus on the arts or sciences.”
Billionaires Support Marshall Tuck
Besides the ACSA, many mega-wealthy people support Marshall Tuck. During his close loss for the same office in 2014, Tuck raised unprecedented amounts of money. Near the conclusion of that race, Tim Murphy of Mother Jones reported:
“The most expensive race in California this year isn’t the governor’s race, … it’s the race for state education superintendent, where incumbent Tom Torlakson and challenger Marshall Tuck have combined to spend nearly $30 million. Tuck, who has received big bucks from Walmart heir Alice Walton and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, is pledging to rein in the powerful California Teachers Association, ….”
Under California campaign rules, a candidate seeking state office can accept no more than $7300 a year from a single entity. Because we’ve entered a new year, it is possible for individuals to have given as much as $14,600. The following table is from data reported to California Secretary of State as of 1/22/2018. Billionaires love Tuck!
|Carrie (Walton) & Gregory Penner||$14,600|
|Edith and Eli Broad||$29,200|
|Laurene Powell Jobs||$7,300|
|Elizabeth Stroud Fisher||$7,300|
|John and Regina Scully||$29,200|
A Biographical Sketch of Marshall Tuck
Tuck was raised on the peninsula just south of San Francisco in the upper-middle class community of Burlingame, California. It is a mixed race community with about a 68% white, 20% Asian, 13% Hispanic and 1% black population. The median home price is more than $1,000,000.
There is no data on siblings or his parents. Tuck’s campaign cyber presence does say he is “The son of a teacher … and [he] attended parochial elementary school and public middle and high schools.”
After high school he attended UCLA, where he was a 1995 graduate with a BA in political science. In 2000, he gained an MBA from Harvard Business.
During Tuck’s 2014 race the Sacramento Bee reported, “After graduating from UCLA, he worked for two years in mergers and acquisitions at Salomon Brothers in Los Angeles.”
Tuck’s 2005 bio for the Green Dot charter schools says, “He also spent time as a consultant at Bain & Co., an investment analyst at the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone….” The bio also stated:
“Marshall Tuck joined Green Dot Public Schools in July 2002 as Chief Operating Officer in charge of both operations and finance. Prior to joining Green Dot, Marshall was the General Manager of the Strategic Accounts group at Model N (an enterprise software company), where he led a division focused on opening new markets for the company.”
Steve Barr a politically connected operative from the neoliberal wing of the Democratic party founded Green Dot Public Schools in 1999. He called the schools, public schools, but that is marketing. Green Dot is a private company which has a charter to run a school.
Barr has been active in politics throughout his professional career serving on the national campaigns of President Clinton, Senator Gary Hart and Governor Michael Dukakis and as a finance chair for the Democratic Party.
In 2007, a frustrated Antonio Villaraigosa, LA’s lusty mayor, had just failed to gain control over the Los Angeles Unified School District. He joined with some wealthy supporters to form a non-profit in collaboration with the district, targeting struggling schools in low-income communities for intervention. If school staff voted to opt in, the Partnership offered an alternative approach to improving student achievement, promising a collaborative role in shaping curriculum and running their schools.
The Sacramento Bee reported, “Tuck’s four years at Green Dot caught the attention of Villaraigosa, who selected him to lead the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.”
There is not much detail available about why Tuck and the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools separated. In 2014 the blog School Matters stated, “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.”
Most recently, Tuck worked as an Educator-in-Residence at the New Teacher Center (NTC), a nonprofit organization working with school districts. It is notable that the Gates foundation has granted this Santa Cruz based organization a total of $18,305,252 since 2009.
Tuck’s Claims of Proven Leadership Success Are Baseless
At Green Dot he worked in finance and operations. It is unlikely that he had much impact on pedagogy. It is unreasonable to either credit or blame him for testing results. In addition, it is a well-known fact that standardized testing results do not measure teaching or school quality.
However, if one uses testing outcomes at Green Dot to bolster claims of proven leadership, then that data becomes relevant. When an LA Times report about charter schools says, “The lowest-performing, based on test scores, is the large Green Dot chain …,” bragging seems more like lying.
The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools suffered many failures during Tuck’s leadership. Teachers and parents revolted against what they called a top-down autocratic leadership after originally voting to join the Partnership.
“… the Partnership also was marked at times by conflict with the local teachers’ union over recession-driven layoffs and tensions with teachers at the schools who felt their input was not being considered. Teachers passed a vote of no confidence at nine of the schools at the end of the first year, leading to independent mediation.”
The Bee gave voice to several teachers in the report.
‘“As teachers and parents and students, we just wanted to have an agency for what we thought would benefit our school community and benefit learning,’ Baranwal said. ‘And time and time again, they would come in and make the decision.’
‘“It all just came back down to test scores,’ Baranwal said. ‘It’s not allowing space for people to be looked at holistically. Teachers are not just a test score, students are not just a test score.’
“Gillian Russom, a high school history and geography teacher whose campus ultimately spun off from the Partnership, echoed those concerns: ‘Again and again, we felt that he decided what he wanted to do and pushed it through in a very managerial style,’ she said.”
The Bee article also noted that test scores were not so good:
“While Partnership campuses have improved by an average of almost 72 points on the state’s 1,000-point Academic Performance Index, …, the district as a whole rose almost as much during the same period.”
“That same year, the majority of Partnership campuses performed below average compared with California schools with a similar student demographic.”
Why – with all the extra resources the Partnership was given and their focus on testing – did schools test so poorly? The Partnership’s tax records reveal more than $9,000,000 a year in philanthropic donations to less than 20 schools. Additionally, the Wasserman foundation was providing many free services.
Tucks embrace of Teach for America (TFA) harmed the academic program. TFA teachers are youthful college graduates with no education training or experience outside of a five-week summer institute. A 2015 announcement from TFA shows that they were supplying more than 150 teachers to the Partnership.
The Partnership has less than 15,000 of LA Unified School District’s 700,000 students. Assuming that teachers average 20 students each, the Partnership would have about 750 teachers. That means that more than 20% of the teachers in the Partnership were untrained TFA candidates.
Tuck Opposes Workplace Protection for Teachers
John Fensterwald reporting on a Torlakson versus Tuck debate for Ed Source wrote:
“As he has done throughout his campaign, Tuck condemned Torlakson’s appeal of a Superior Court judge’s ruling in Vergara v. the State of California, overturning laws creating tenure in two years, governing dismissals and requiring layoffs by seniority.”
Tenure is defined as “status granted to an employee, usually after a probationary period, indicating that the position or employment is permanent.” Tenure insures K-12 teachers certain rights such as seniority protection and due process. It protects teachers from unjust attacks by powerful community members. It does not preclude firing for cause. I have witnesses several tenured teachers being fired for relatively benign reasons.
Since Socrates time, teachers have always been vulnerable to unjust social attacks.
When Tuck says he had to lay off more effective teachers than ones with seniority, I wonder how he measured that? Teaching is very difficult to evaluate. The seniority system works well; it is not perfect but it stops the firing of more expensive older teachers and diminishes favoritism. Which are both common problems at educational institutions.
Talk to any experienced teacher and they will tell you how much better at teaching they were after ten years than they were after five. Experience combined with training is the only certain path forward.
Assembly Women Shirly Weber of San Diego authored a bill (AB 1220) that would extend the teacher probationary period to three years and end seniority rights. Tuck told the ACSA, “It was disappointing that last-minute politicking was able to stall those efforts; that my opponent in this race was a primary obstacle to AB 1220’s passage, ….” (emphasis added)
Assemblyman Tony Thurmond offered a counter bill (AB 1164) that also extended the probationary period to three years but did not end seniority rights.
Thurmond’s bill also reinvigorates the peer review and evaluation or PAR process. The legislative analyst noted research showing, “PAR is a rigorous alternative to traditional forms of teacher evaluation and development, with research showing that peer review is far superior to principals’ evaluations in terms of rigor and comprehensiveness.”
Both Thurmond and Tuck agree that we have a teacher shortage in California. It does not make much sense – at least at present – to make the profession less attractive by removing legal protections.
Some Background on Tony Thurmond
Unlike his opponent, Thurmond could never be accused of “being born on third-base and thinking he hit a triple.” His mother was an immigrant from Panama. He was born at Fort Ord in Monterey, California, where his father, a native of Detroit, was training for Viet Nam service. Tony’s father abandoned the family of four children and it was not until Tony was 39 years-old that he saw his father again.
The family moved with their mother to San Jose, California where she was employed as a teacher. Tragedy soon struck when the six years-old Tony’s mother succumbed to cancer. He and a brother moved to Philadelphia where they were raised by a cousin.
Tony went to Temple University where he earned a BA in psychology and became the student body president.
He did his graduate work at Bryn Maw College (Bryn Mawr, PA) receiving a dual Masters Degrees in Law and Social Policy and Social Work.
Tony returned to the Bay Area with his wife Kristen in 1998. He soon had two daughters, Maya and Jayden.
For the 20 years preceding his election to the California State Assembly, Thurmond served in various positions at non-profit social service agencies.
His elective offices held are:
- 2005-2008 Served on the Richmond City Council.
- 2008-2012 Member of West Contra County School Board.
- 2014-present Member of the California State Assembly
This is not the first time the ACSA has embraced billionaire education “reform.” In 2014, they refused to endorse Tom Torlakson over Marshall Tuck for Superintendent. On the ACSA webpage, teacher-basher, Katie Haycock’s Edtrust is championed as a partner. Now, this endorsement shows the ACSA to be a willing pawn in the DPE movement.
It is time for school administrators who believe in public education to act with good conscious and resign from the ACSA.