California’s superintendent of schools race is usually pro forma—but this year it’s anything but. For a contest in which the incumbent usually gets re-elected without much effort, let alone national attention, this year will be dramatically different, the LA Times reports:
This year’s contest…is one of the tightest and costliest on the statewide ballot, the reflection of an emerging fault line in the Democratic Party over education policy.Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is in the fight of his life against upstart challenger and fellow Democrat Marshall Tuck.The battle has drawn national attention, along with millions of dollars from traditionalist teachers unions on one side and from those who want to wholly overhaul the way schools are run on the other.The result could reverberate far beyond California.
Tuck the school reformer is facing off against Torlakson the veteran schoolteacher. Also on the ballot (by implication, that is) is California’s controversial teacher-tenure ruling of earlier this year, in which an LA superior court judge decided that tenure placed a disproportionate burden on minority students. The two contenders have taken up opposite sides of the issue, so the election fight has repercussions for the case’s appeal:
Tuck hailed the ruling as a victory for students in chronically underperforming schools, while Torlakson appealed the decision; state teachers unions also appealed. […]Tuck, for his part, vows that if elected his first act will be to withdraw the court appeal.“When we have students that have to file lawsuits to get a quality education, and the people who are elected to lead and fight for students are actually fighting against students in court, that’s when you know you need fundamental change,” Tuck said at a recent news conference, where he was flanked by some of the families that filed the lawsuit.
A victory for Tuck won’t end the challenge to this controversial ruling, but it will knock out one of its key opponents. Observers who hope to win a victory against teacher tenure in other states (notably New York) will be watching avidly.