By Mary Severance
In November, Californians will elect a new superintendent of public education. Education is by far the largest state spending area, and California’s public K–12 system—which educates more than 6 million children—is critical to the state’s future. What are the top priorities of the two candidates and what are their visions for California’s schools? PPIC president Mark Baldassare talked to Tony Thurmond, a member of the state assembly, and Marshall Tuck, a school improvement director, about how they would approach the job.
The candidates largely agreed on the need to increase state education funding and the importance of improving outcomes for low-income students, English Learners, and foster youth. Both are strong advocates for universal preschool. And both stressed the need to prepare all students not just for college and careers but also for civic engagement.
After noting that California currently ranks near the bottom among all states in per pupil funding, Tony Thurmond promised to prioritize moving the state into the top ten within his first four years—and to “take us to number one within eight years.” To help close achievement gaps, he would expand successful local approaches. He cited the Freedom School, an Afro-centric literacy program, and Footsteps to Brilliance, which focuses on immigrant families, as models.