The Superintendent of Public Instruction oversees the California Department of Education. The incumbent Tom Torlakson, is being challenged by fellow Democrat Marshal Tuck. Tuck ran a charter-school company in Los Angeles and worked with the city's public schools. He says if elected, he’d overhaul the state’s education code.
“I believe without giving principals and teachers and local communities to be really creative and do what they believe is best for their kids, we’ll never see the changes and the pace of innovation and that kid-first focus that we must have to get from 2.5 million kids that can’t read or write at grade-level to 200,000, 100,000, zero,” Tuck told the Sacramento Press Club today.
Additionally, Tuck says public schools need more flexibility over which teachers they hire or fire. He says if he wins in November he would immediately withdraw the state superintendent's appeal of a court decision that struck down teacher tenure laws and other job protections.
“People don’t want to go work in an industry or work in education when they can be great at their jobs and be fired in five years because they’re more junior to someone else. The work rules have to change,” he says.
However, Torlakson says teachers currently get a fair hearing if their jobs are on the line. And he says he worked with legislators this year to pass a law that makes it easier to fire some teachers. And Torlakson says Tuck hasn’t been paying attention to reforms that are already in place.
“My opponent claims that he’s going to institute best-practices, career education, STEM education. These are all really good ideas which we have already started working on years ago,” he says. “And during my term we have created a renaissance in STEM education. We have invested heavily. I went to the legislature and got $500 million for careers pathways.”
Despite his incumbent status, Torlakson is in a tight race. A Field Poll released earlier this month showed him trailing Tuck, 28 to 31 percent. However, 41 percent of "likely" voters were undecided.