Recently, when the San Francisco Chronicle endorsed Marshall Tuck for Superintendent of Public Instruction, they did so because, according to their editorial board, he has “the skills and vision to bring about needed change” and would stand up to “the status quo” (read: teachers’ unions).
While it has become quite common for mainstream corporate media outlets to blindly parrot the rhetoric of corporate education reformers, in this case, it is an exercise in doublethink of Trumpian proportions. Far from being a populist outsider fighting the establishment, Tuck is the pure product of the billionaire class.
A few weeks back, I wrote about how Tuck’s bid for Superintendent of Public Instruction should not be allowed to slide under the radar because his effort to defeat his opponent, stalwart progressive Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, was a case study of the ways right-wing money is trying to infiltrate Democratic politics. More specifically, I noted that “it’s not just the usual California members of the billionaire boys club that are backing Tuck this time.
Now, in the era of Trump and DeVos, he has some new, more disturbing allies.” As that column goes on to reveal, Tuck, “the pure embodiment of the reckless, unaccountable arrogance of corporate education reform,” was linked not just to the usual suspects but to Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson, Jr., a notorious reactionary right-wing activist.
Ahmanson is, as Karen Wolf reported in the LA Progressive, “part of a Dominionist cabal, using extreme wealth to reorient American government toward extremist Christian doctrine. They regularly attend The Gathering, a ‘shadowy, powerful network’ of hard-right Christian funders, according to an investigation published in the Daily Beast.”
These kinds of connections are, I noted in that piece, “an anathema to voters here on the Left Coast,” but Tuck’s moneyed friends are hoping that they will go unnoticed by enough California voters that they’ll be able to buy the upcoming election.
Unfortunately, the bad news about Tuck doesn’t end with Ahmanson.
Another key player in this story is Tuck’s biggest supporter, David Crane, a former special advisor to Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Crane now runs the Govern for California PAC, which is largely funded by hedge fund managers and venture capitalists, and (of course) other pro-charter school backers including members of the Walton family (think Walmart money). Crane himself has maxed out to Tuck’s campaign and his PAC has funneled around $175,000 to it as well.
Why does this matter?
For those who might be persuaded into believing that Marshall Tuck is just another Democrat with progressive values who cares about public schools, it might be disturbing to learn not just that his central backer, Crane, is conservative but that he has actively opposed funding schools. More specifically, Crane publically advocated against Proposition 30 (which taxed the rich to fund education) because it did not slash teacher benefits at the same time. Crane, who has repeatedly attacked Governor Brown on education, wants to assail teachers and pave the way for more privatization and the unregulated expansion of charter schools.
With key allies like this, it is no surprise that Tuck himself was persona non-grata when it came time to advocate for the crucial funding that Proposition 30 brought to California schools, and he was also missing in action when it was time to extend that funding with Proposition 55. The truth is that the corporate wrecking crew providing the big money for Tuck doesn’t want to help public education because they would prefer to starve it, so they can step in, “disrupt” the system, and push their agenda.
Perhaps the best evidence of this is that many of the individual donors to the Govern for California PAC were previously implicated in a dark money scheme to defeat Proposition 30. In fact, Govern for California funders were responsible for moving millions of dollars through an Arizona-based dark money group linked to California Republican fundraiser Tony Russo.
So if you want to know who will be pulling the levers if Marshall Tuck wins the race for California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, follow the money. And, if you believe in public education, send Tuck packing and vote for Tony Thurmond instead.