Sunday, January 25, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

California schools race features competing visions

By
From page A5 | May 31, 2014 |

SAN FRANCISCO — The race for state schools chief in California is typically a sleepy affair. With the authority to set education policy vested in the Legislature and a state board of education appointed by the governor, the superintendent’s job has served primarily as a pulpit with no real power.

This year is different. The nonpartisan election has become a multi-million dollar proxy fight for the growing tensions between California’s teachers unions and reformers seeking more accountability, parent choice and dramatic improvements in the state that educates 13 out of every 100 public school students in the U.S.

In an unusual twist, the leading candidates are both Democrats. Incumbent Tom Torlakson, 64, a former state lawmaker and high school science teacher, is supported by the unions, the California Democratic Party and many county education leaders.

His main challenger, Marshall Tuck, 40, is a former charter school executive who has never held elected office yet has the backing of most of California’s major newspapers and reform-minded Democrats. They include former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the former NBA All-Star who started a charter high school in his hometown.

California’s new primary system, in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of party, means Tuck and Torlakson could face off again in the fall.

“The message of this race is that many of us who have been working with parents and teachers to improve our schools think that our children can no longer wait for the high-quality, world-class schools they deserve,” said Villaraigosa, who unsuccessfully tried as mayor to gain control of the city’s public schools and then hired Tuck to lead a nonprofit that took over 17 of them.

The philosophical battle has become one of the surprising flashpoints of Tuesday’s primary election and reflects the frustration over California’s slide from an education power as recently as the 1980s to a state that ranks near the bottom nationally in per-pupil spending and on many measures of school success.

The state is one of only 14 with elected school superintendents, half of which have incumbents seeking re-election or have open seats to fill this year.

Both Tuck and Torlakson support the Common Core State Standards and a new California school funding formula that directs more money to schools with large numbers of low-income children and students who are learning English, but they are ideologically opposed on heated issues such as teacher retention, evaluation and dismissal.

Tuck has made clear that if elected he would lobby the Legislature to reform the rules that award teachers tenure after two years and base layoffs on seniority.

He also wants to make student test scores a factor in teacher evaluations and merit pay, and has criticized Torlakson for not taking a position two years ago on a bill that would have made it easier for districts to fire teachers accused of serious misconduct.

The legislation, which the teachers union opposed, was introduced after a Los Angeles Unified elementary school teacher was arrested for blindfolding his pupils and feeding them his semen on cookies and by spoon in what he called “tasting games.”

“There is no question there are a lot of people who are part of the status quo who are supporting Torlakson, and that’s a clear distinction,” Tuck said. “If people are comfortable where our public schools are today, they should support him.”

For his part, Torlakson makes no apologies about his allegiance to teachers. He credits his collaborative approach, along with his comfortable relationship with Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democratic-controlled Legislature, with helping keep the state’s students on track during the recession and securing additional money for implementing Common Core and other reforms.

“I think we are leading the nation in many respects. We don’t have the dissension that other states are experiencing,” he said.

School employee unions have spent at least $2.5 million so far this year on mailers, polling, political consultants and ads supporting him and opposing Tuck. That comes on top of the $1.3 million Torlakson has raised on his own, much of it from organized labor.

Keeping the reliable Torlakson in office “is a very, very high priority for the teachers of California,” California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel said.

“When someone like Marshall Tuck says we are just not moving fast enough, well that is how everyone else is getting in trouble – by moving too fast,” Vogel said.

Tuck has amassed about $1 million in campaign contributions with help from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, philanthropists such as KB Home co-founder Eli Broad and executives from finance and real estate.

Sacramento mayor Johnson, who is married to former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, said independence and even impatience is what California needs to reverse the decline that led the state from “from first to worst.”

“I like Tom Torlakson. I think he is a good guy and he has done some good things,” Johnson said. “But if there is more we can do and have a bigger impact and create a trajectory for our children that can be at a faster clip and a stronger rate, we should be doing it.”

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Nursing students take next step in higher education

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: C1 | Gallery

 
Friend seeks justice for 1982 Vacaville homicide victim

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Solano GOP welcomes address from King niece

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Scientists think Earth doomed: I disagree

By Brad Stanhope | From Page: A2

 
Biggest Little Car Show returns for 31st year

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Solano Safety Net Summit set in Fairfield downtown

By Kevin W. Green | From Page: A3

Wine, chocolate pairing comes to downtown Benicia

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Local gas prices dip below $2 a gallon

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Be heart smart all year long

By Gerald Bourne, MD | From Page: C4

Kindergarten Readiness Roundup enlightens parents

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Weather for Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B4

Crews respond to residential fire

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
CHP seeks witnesses to I-80 crash

By Bill Hicks | From Page: A5

Saudi monarchy transition a real economic concern

By Bud Stevenson | From Page: B7

 
City seeks input on downtown plan

By Brian Miller and Karl Dumas | From Page: B7

Suisun City police log: Jan. 23, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Suisun City police log: Jan. 22, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Privatized housing tenants to feel BAH pinch

By Tom Philpott | From Page: B10

 
Fairfield police log: Jan. 23, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Airman with Fairfield tie completes training

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B10

 
.

US / World

Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
It’s a hoot hanging out with owls at this Tokyo cafe

By The Associated Press | From Page: C2 | Gallery

School: Sea otter conceived in wild is 1st born in captivity

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Man searching by plane finds body of missing son off Mexico

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Kia recalling nearly 87,000 Fortes because of fire risk

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Elon Musk’s SpaceX drops lawsuit against Air Force

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

California’s public-worker payroll increased post-recession

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Avian flu confirmed in commercial turkey flock in California

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Boy, 13, arrested in fatal stabbing near Los Angeles school

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Abortion opponents express renewed hope at SF rally

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Company seeks rights to names of iconic Grand Canyon lodges

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Police: Man shot his family, killing 3, then killed himself

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Tens of thousands protest after president resigns in Yemen

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Thousands march against socialist president in Venezuela

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Expert says King Tut mask can be restored after epoxy used

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
Obama to cut short India trip to pay call on Saudi Arabia

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

 
1st attempt to lift fuselage of crashed AirAsia plane fails

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
.

Opinion

Plea for return of stolen statue

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Not all police are bad

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Editorial Cartoon: Jan. 25, 2015

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Here’s the case for improved downtown

By Gary Walker | From Page: A8

Sound off for Jan. 25, 2015

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
 
.

Living

Today in History: Jan. 25, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Jan. 25, 2015

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

The gift of a new beginning

By Dalia Adams | From Page: C3

 
Mennonite group to build houses in tornado-damaged town

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

Yearbooks bring Jewish, Catholic groups together

By The Associated Press | From Page: C3

 
Horoscope Jan. 25, 2015

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: C4

My dad can’t get over the bad first impression of my boyfriend

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: C4

 
.

Entertainment

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY BEST-SELLERS

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
Mariel Hemingway working on memoir and young adult novel

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

Jonathan Franzen to appear at BookExpo America

By The Associated Press | From Page: C6

 
TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

.

Sports

2 Williams sisters, 2 Madisons into 4th round at Aussie Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
Hall of Famer Ernie Banks mourned in sports world and beyond

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Thompson’s record 3rd quarter leads Warriors past Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Belichick on deflated balls: ‘We try to do everything right’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

25 years of trying to get it right

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sharapova, Bouchard into quarterfinals at Australian Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

Abdullah leads North to 34-13 win over South in Senior Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
As Brady, Gronk know, pre-Super Bowl injury talk always big

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

AP Interview: Selig says MLB could expand internationally

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Could Super Bowl be Lynch’s finale in Seattle?

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Sherman, Seahawks take the trash-talk lead over Patriots

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki’s surgically repaired hip on mend

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Buckeyes celebrate their title at Ohio Stadium

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Carroll, Belichick excelled after failing the first time

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Luck-led Team Carter vs. Romo-lead Team Irvin in Pro Bowl

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
AP Explains: The Pro Bowl, unlike any other All-Star game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Matt Kuchar stumbles in, gives away Humana Challenge lead

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
For streaking Atlanta Hawks, it’s all about the balance

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Upstart wins $400,000 Holy Bull at Gulfstream

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Mischief Clem wins California Cup Derby in photo finish

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

World Cup of Hockey tournament set for 2016

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Hometown report: Bowling

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B3

Ashley Wagner wins 3rd US title with record-setting scores

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery

 
Weber’s 108.5-mph blast gives him hardest shot at NHL skills

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Jimenez, Mediate share lead in Champions Tour opener

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Grace wins Qatar Masters by 1 stroke

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Sports on TV for Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B5

 
This date in sports history for Jan. 25, 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

.

Business

Anheuser-Busch to buy craft beer company

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Higher standard deduction, other breaks for older taxpayers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

Booking a trip to the ER on your smartphone? It’s a breeze

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Recalls this week: cleaners, fitness machines

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Tiny Cokes: Less guilt means more money for makers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
First Look: Apple’s HomeKit could help smarten up your home

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

.

Obituaries

Thomas Clark

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Sheila Margery (Smith) Luxenberg

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

Don Johnson

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics