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California School Fiscal Services

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How to follow Vergara v. California

Posted on February 23, 2016 at 4:30 PM Comments comments (814)

Oral arguments in the Vergara v. California appeal have been set for Thursday, Feb. 25.  If you aren't up to speed on this case, now is the time to catch up.  Here's a great overview of where we are at now:

------------------------

BY JUDY LIN

02.22.2016

This week, a state appellate court will be asked to overturn a closely watched legal decision that said poor and minority school students in California have been denied their right to a proper education because of laws that prevent the dismissal of bad teachers.

The case, Vergara v. California, was filed on behalf of nine students in 2012 by Students Matter, a non-profit organization founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch. The defendants include Gov. Jerry Brown and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. The state’s two largest teacher unions -- the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers -- intervened with the defendants.

In 2014, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu agreed with Students Matter and struck down five state laws regarding teacher tenure, dismissal and layoffs. He wrote in his decision that “grossly ineffective teachers” cause a significant harm to students. “The evidence is compelling. Indeed, it shocks the conscience,” he wrote.

The appeal by Attorney General Kamala Harris on behalf of the Brown and Torlakson was a major campaign issue in the 2014 election.

Oral arguments in the appeal have been set for Thursday, Feb. 25 before a three judge panel in California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles.

What is this fight about?

This fight is about whether ineffective teachers are allowed to continue to work in the classroom because state laws make it too difficult to dismiss them. Because most high quality teachers are attracted to the best schools, the lawsuit says that poor and minority students suffer most when ineffective teachers are not removed.

The fight is also about a high-stakes political confrontation between the powerful labor unions that represent teachers and a well-financed community of education reform advocates who are seeking to hold schools and teachers more accountable for academic outcomes.

Judge Treu’s decision said there is “no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.” There was also testimony about the value of teacher quality in a student’s education. Harvard University economics professor Raj Chetty testified for plaintiffs that replacing the bottom 5 percent of teachers with average teachers would increase a child’s lifetime earnings by $50,000.

Treu struck down five state teacher workplace laws saying they harm students’ right to an equal opportunity for education by making it too difficult to remove bad teachers. The five laws touch on three key areas:

Tenure: In California, newly -hired teachers are on probation for two years, during which time they cannot challenge any termination. After two years, they are granted tenure, which requires a process for dismissal that is being challenged in the lawsuit. Judge Treu agreed with plaintiffs that two years is insufficient time to judge whether a teacher should be granted tenure. Linda Darling-Hammond, a nationally recognized expert on education policy who teaches at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, testified for the defendants that the two-year probation period was long enough.

Dismissal: Once a teacher receives tenure, the lawsuit claims school district officials have to jump through cumbersome laws requiring extensive documentation and a drawn-out appeals process to remove a bad teacher. During trial, testimony for the plaintiffs said school districts in California brought 36 cases of unsatisfactory teacher performance between 2003 and 2013, with 22 leading to dismissal, for an average of 2.2 teachers per year out of the state’s nearly 300,000 teachers. Testimony also said that the Los Angeles Unified School District spent “between $250,000 and $450,000” to dismiss a single ineffective teacher with tenure. At trial, attorneys for the labor unions suggested it was poor management by school administrators, not the statues.

Layoff: The lawsuit takes issue with the state’s seniority-based layoff process, where a school district is required to release the newest teachers first even if they are considered more talented than a veteran teacher. Since experienced teachers are attracted to the best schools, the seniority-based layoffs are also concentrated on poor schools.

“Collectively, these statutes operate as a perfect storm in denying equal educational opportunities to low-income students and students of color,” The Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based group that advocates for raising academic achievement for poor and minority students, wrote in a friend of the court brief in support of Students Matter. “Together, they ensure that a glut of ineffective teachers will remain in California’s system, and they increase the likelihood that these ineffective teachers will be shuffled into classrooms with lower-income students and students of color who are most in need of effective teaching.”

Attorney General Harris wrote in her opening appeals brief that the current system is the most fair and efficient way to conduct layoffs “because it is objective and it positively correlates with effective teaching.” She says the Legislature made its decision in order to “help attract and retain qualified applicants to the teaching profession; protect them from arbitrary dismissal after a defined probationary period; and provide for using seniority in selecting which teachers to retain when economic layoffs are required.”

In his appeal filing, Gov. Brown argued that the judge in this case failed “to provide a detailed statement of the factual and legal bases for its ruling” and that a change of this magnitude requires appellate review.

What’s next?

The appeal to be heard on Thursday is before a three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles. After the hearing, the judges have 90 days to issue a ruling. The case could then be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

At issue before the appeals panel is whether the trial court erred in striking down the five teacher workplace laws. The state says the plaintiffs did not meet the criteria for an equal protection claim because they were unable to prove that the five statutes have caused real harm to a particular class of students. The state also argues it’s the Legislature’s job to construct such rules and it adopted the current policies. Students Matter says the policies deprive poor and minority students from accessing good teachers.

Treu stayed his decision, meaning there will be no impact until the appellate court makes a ruling. A final decision could influence teacher tenure and job protections across the nation. A month after Treu threw out California’s laws, a suit challenging teacher tenure in New York was filed on behalf of seven families by the Partnership for Education Justice, a group led by former news anchor Campbell Brown.



Pondering the future of CTA, Sacramento post-Friedrichs

Posted on February 3, 2016 at 5:45 AM Comments comments (339)
This is a very interesting article regarding the potential impact of the upcoming U.S Supreme Court decision on whether CTA can mandate their union dues.  While the potential impact is speculative at this point, this article does a great job of describing CTA's impact on the legislative process in the past.  Check it out!
------------------------------

FEBRUARY 01, 2016

by Tom Chorneau

(Calif.) For decades they have cast an imposing political shadow over the Capitol – dictating terms on budget deals, elevating supporters and isolating opponents while exercising a de facto veto power over many, if not most, legislative offerings.

 

Deserved or not, the California Teachers Association has a reputation as kingmaker in Sacramento – a status so solid that only a handful of other stakeholder groups in the country can match. But later this spring, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to deliver a life-threatening blow to them – as well as to all other public employee unions – by trimming their ability to raise money.

 

If so, there is broad consensus that party politics in the U.S. will be fundamentally changed and the labor movement severely wounded.

 

There’s less consensus, however, on the ruling’s impact in Sacramento and on the California political landscape.

 

“I’m not discounting how important this decision will be – it is a direct assault on public employee unions and the impact will be significant,” said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.

 

“Money is important to CTA and the CFT (California Federation of Teachers) but giving and spending money is not all that they do,” he explained. “They also do a lot of organizing, have a tremendously loyal membership and will still have the ability to affect close elections in state elections and also in settings that you might not always notice, such as school boards and some Assembly races. It’s not as if their capacity to be politically active will evaporate.”

 

At issue in Friedrichs v. CTA is a ruling made in the 1970s that upheld as constitutional state laws requiring government employees represented by a labor union to pay their share of collective bargaining activities whether they are members or not. California and 22 other states have such laws on the books and a reversal by the court would mean those unions wouldn’t be able to collect hundreds of millions of dollars, likely diminishing their overall effectiveness.

 

The plaintiffs have challenged the mandate on First Amendment grounds saying their dues help support a union that pushes a political agenda they do not agree with. Hostile questioning of CTA’s attorneys by the high court’s conservative majority at a hearing last month suggests that the justices will rule against the union when the opinions are made public probably in June.

 

CTA officials have been characteristically circumspect in most of their public statements. They have expressed hope that the court will maintain the status quo, but have also criticized the suit as “politically inspired” and a vehicle of “corporate interests.”

 

In a November seminar held in Sacramento, Teri Holoman, CTA’s political action manager, gave perhaps the most in-depth response when she insisted the ruling wouldn’t have as substantial an impact as many believe. She argued that the union leadership pays a lot of attention to the grass roots.

 

“CTA is an incredibly democratic organization,” she said. “In terms of how it functions, decisions they make, political campaigns they get involved with and candidates they back.”

 

As a result, she argued, even if the court takes away the mandated dues enough teachers will continue to contribute voluntarily allowing the union to carry on largely without missing a step.

 

That remains to be seen, said Jack Pitney, a veteran political observer and a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College.

 

“I think at first, everyone will regard this as a big setback for CTA and public employee unions in general,” he said. “The question becomes whether they can continue to collect the fees in the absence of the requirement; perhaps they can. But that’s an open question.”

 

Because of how ingrained the teachers have become with the Legislature’s Democratic majority, no one expects change to come quickly. Virtually everyone in statewide office today owes some sense of loyalty to CTA – from Gov. Jerry Brown on down – and in many cases the bond is absolute.

 

With a membership of close to 325,000 – each earning a salary well above statewide average – the CTA is uniquely positioned to raise and spend substantial amounts when needed.

 

The group has been the single biggest special-interest donor to California campaigns during the past five election cycles, contributing more than $118 million. They have often served as the counter balance to wealthy and big corporate fundraisers – never more so than in the 2005 special election when they helped match the formidable campaign funds raised by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a race that eventually cost a stunning $260 million.

 

The teachers union has also maintained a prominent role in the day-to-day activities at the Legislature. Weighing in on all education bills, the CTA has also traditionally been prominent in the discussion on almost every spending bill, especially the state budget. The organization routinely spends more than $3 million on lobbying during a two-year legislative session, ranking them among the top 10 influencers statewide.

 

If Friedrichs goes against the unions, Pitney said the notion that CTA won’t have a fall-off in revenue is folly.

 

“Much of their power derives from money,” he said. “Of course, they have people power and the ruling might not have as much impact there but then they may not be able to afford to do the phone banks and other activities.”

 

Still, some say CTA’s reputation as a power-broker is overblown.

 

“If CTA were so powerful we wouldn’t have dropped from fifth in per-pupil spending to 50th,” said Delaine Eastin, a former Democratic lawmaker and two-term state schools chief who generally had the support of CTA whenever she ran.

 

Eastin said her experience is that even the most powerful entities in the Capitol struggle to get new ideas or programs passed but many are far more successful when it comes to stopping them. She said Friedrichs isn’t likely to change that for CTA.


New debate over school reserve cap

Posted on August 21, 2015 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (91)
We've heard a lot about the reserve cap and as the stewards of fiscal solvency, we are likely all on the same page about the need to repel it.  In any debate, it's always helpful to try to understand the thinking that opposes our position.  This article has a couple of quotes that might help us to better understand the opposition’s position.  In turn, this could help inform us as to how to provide factual information about the relationship between a school district's reserve cap and the State's rainy day fund.  

----------------------------------

San Diego Union Tribune

By Maureen Magee | 5:18 p.m. Aug. 19, 2015

The debate over how much money school districts should be allowed to sock away has been resurrected in California as lawmakers reconvene in Sacramento over the next month to finish their work for the year.

 

School finance leaders and education officials from throughout the county and state have launched a last-ditch effort in recent days to persuade the Legislature to lift new limits on so-called “rainy day funds.”

 

The reserve cap was included in the state budget last year in a trailer bill. The restriction limits school districts to setting aside no more than 6 percent of their budgets in reserve accounts to prepare for economic downturns.

 

The cap goes into effect the year after the state makes any payment into a new rainy day fund for schools and community colleges under Proposition 2, approved by voters last year.

 

Administrators and school boards have argued that the cap puts districts at financial risk by preventing them from adequately preparing for a fiscal crisis — from a potential decline in state tax revenue once Proposition 30 expires, to troubles brought on by natural disaster.

 

But labor leaders and other groups say the cap would free up education funds from bloated reserve accounts, putting money on the table for student programs, teacher salaries and other immediate uses that should be decided publicly.

 

According to a report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, in the 2013-14 school year the state’s largest districts — those with more than 30,000 students — reported a median reserve of 15 percent of expenditures. The state’s smallest districts with fewer than 300 students reported a median reserve of 66 percent.

 

Reserves had been built up in recent years after districts weathered the recession and feared future fiscal uncertainties.

 

Dan McAllister, the county’s treasurer-tax collector, and Randy Ward, superintendent of the San Diego County Office of Education, have blanketed local legislators with letters sent this month urging a change to the cap.

 

“This makes a mockery of good fiscal behavior — and local control,” said McAllister, who is chairman of the San Diego Unified School District audit and finance committee. “Who other than local districts knows what their reserves should be?”

 

Claudia Briggs, spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association, said an argument for local control is an argument for keeping district reserve caps low.

 

“We had the rainiest of days during the recession and many of these districts sat on humongous reserves, which did nothing to mitigate drastic cuts,” Briggs said. Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Contra Costa and Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, were part of a group to announce legislation Tuesday that would raise the state’s reserve cap as high as 17 percent.

 

Glazer praised Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature for strengthening the state’s rainy day fund to better position California for weathering future economic downturns. But he criticized the law that was passed last year that restricts how much local districts can save.

 

 

“What we don’t want to do is exercise fiscal responsibility at the state level only to erode that same financial prudence on the local level,” said Glazer, a San Diego State University alum.

 

Chris Prokop, president of the Cajon Valley Teachers Association, said large reserves are unnecessary, especially since the state now has its own rainy day fund.

 

“Now that the governor has a rainy day fund, it’s somewhat redundant to have a backup fund for your backup fund,” said Prokop, who is also a member of the CTA political action committee for San Diego and Imperial counties.


Supreme Court to hear challenge to California Teachers Association union dues

Posted on July 1, 2015 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (87)

Here's one to watch....

Should union dues be mandatory?  That is the question

-------------------------------


BY MICHAEL DOYLE

[email protected]

WASHINGTON

A challenge to the California Teachers Association will now give conservative Supreme Court justices a chance to reconsider compulsory union dues.

 

Setting the stage for its next potential blockbuster, the court on Tuesday said it would hear the challenge from teachers opposed to their union’s mandatory dues. The case, to be heard sometime after the court’s new term starts in October, could shake up a lot of workplaces well beyond the California classrooms.

 

“This case is about the right of individuals to decide for themselves whether to join and pay dues to an organization that purports to speak on their behalf,” said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, adding that “we are seeking the end of compulsory union dues across the nation.”

 

The conservative organization is helping represent Rebecca Friedrichs, a longtime teacher in the Savanna School District in Anaheim, Calif. Like her legal allies including Harlan Elrich, a teacher in the Sanger Unified School District in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, and Irena Zavala, a teacher in coastal San Luis Obispo County, Friedrichs rejects paying teacher association dues.

 

Under a prior Supreme Court decision, certain compulsory dues may be asssessed even on employees who won’t belong to the union. The fee is meant to support activities related to the union’s collective bargaining work.

 

Conservatives and some business organizations have long chafed at the so-called “agency fee,” and the 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that concluded the fees did not violate the First Amendment.

 

Underscoring the high stakes in the new case, the leaders of the Service Employees International Union, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees joined in a common statement denouncing the court’s action.

 

“The Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities—decisions that have stood for more than 35 years—and that have allowed people to work together for better public services and vibrant communities

 

The case will be heard sometime after the court’s new term starts in October.

 

Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @MichaelDoyle10.

 

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article25832410.html#storylink=cpy

Proposition 2 beefs up California budget reserve, but its effect on education funding is dubious

Posted on November 3, 2014 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (280)
It's voting day tomorrow!  

Remember, that Proposition 2 is on the ballot.  Take a second a read this article regarding it.  My favorite (and absurd) line is noted in red.  I'm sure you will all agree with the CTA's characterization that we've all been "hording" money over the last several years.  :)

------------------------------------------


By Sharon [email protected]

One of the centerpieces of Gov. Jerry Brown's re-election campaign, Proposition 2, would pump billions of dollars into the state's neglected "rainy day fund," pay down huge debts and create a new reserve fund for K-12 schools and community colleges.

 

Dependent on taxes on income, sales and capital gains, California's budget has fluctuated wildly with the ups and downs of the economy. So Proposition 2 is an effort to even out revenues to avoid painful cuts when the economy slows -- and when state services are needed most.

 

"A strong budget reserve is a means to control the boom and bust that occurs in the California budget process," said Phil Ung of the nonpartisan reform group California Forward.

 

But the November ballot measure has drawn angry complaints from an unlikely group: local school officials.

 

They argue that the measure is too complex and will have a dubious effect on education funding. And they're furious about a bill linked to the measure that would trigger a cap on how much money school districts could keep in their reserve funds.

 

"The cap is fiscally irresponsible," said Josephine Lucey, president of the California School Boards Association. Many districts, especially small ones, need to maintain large reserves to weather the state's fluctuating funding and to handle unexpected expenses such as emergency repairs, she said.

 

School leaders allege that as the Legislature was hammering out the state budget, Brown and Democratic legislators slipped in the cap at the last minute at the urging of teachers unions, who believe it would make more money available for teachers' salaries.

 

The bill specified that if the state deposits even a penny into the education reserve that would be created by Proposition 2, the cap would be slapped on school districts' reserves. Surplus funds would have to be spent.

 

"A lot of districts in California were hoarding money," even when the economy improved, said Eric Heins, vice president of the California Teachers Association. "When they hold obscenely large reserves like that, it's affecting children's education. It's affecting our members."

 

Many Proposition 2 proponents acknowledge school officials' concerns but say they can be dealt with after the measure passes. Although Proposition 2 could only be changed at the ballot box, proponents point out, the Legislature can amend the cap because it's spelled out in a separate bill.

 

Besides, Proposition 2 advocates say, the merits of the proposal far outweigh its flaws.

 

The proposition has widespread support from businesses and both Democrats and Republicans -- it passed both houses of the Legislature on unanimous votes. And to ensure its passage, which Brown believes is key to his fiscal legacy, the governor has raised $4.3 million for Proposition 2 and his water bond measure in just the past three months.

 

Polls show more voters favor Proposition 2 than oppose it -- but nearly one-quarter are undecided.

 

The measure would amend the California Constitution to require the state to bolster its current rainy day fund for services such as health, welfare, prisons and parks. The state would set aside 1.5 percent of its general fund every year and would squirrel away even more in years when capital-gains tax revenues are robust.

 

For the first 15 years, half of those savings would pay down debts -- some to schools and local governments -- and pay unfunded pension obligations. The other half would go into a huge piggy bank that could be tapped only in a budget emergency. It would max out at 10 percent of the state general fund.

 

The separate education reserve fund -- which many legislators resisted but Brown insisted on -- would be fed only in prosperous years with a portion of capital-gains tax revenues. But because of four other hard-to-meet triggers -- including the requirement that the state pay back the remaining $4 billion of the $10 billion it grabbed from school districts during the Great Recession -- it will be years before the education reserve sees any money, according to the Legislative Analyst's Office.

 

Even after that, because of complex conditions spelled out in the proposition, deposits would be rare.

 

"The impact on overall funding for schools and community colleges would be negligible," said Scott Graves, research director for the California Budget Project, which produces independent fiscal and policy analysis.

 

Statewide school organizations of administrators and business officials oppose the measure. But as of Sept. 30 no funds had been raised to campaign against Proposition 2.

 

Faced with the popular governor's decision to stump for it -- and Proposition 2's likely passage -- opponents say they'll focus instead on overturning the cap.

 

That leaves the Oakland-based parent lobby Educate Our State, which wrote the ballot argument against the measure, as the most vocal organized opponent. One of its board members, Katherine Welch, has called Proposition 2 a "financial time bomb."

 

The state's existing rainy day fund was created by California voters in 2004. But that fund was depleted after two years, and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to stop contributing to it. Brown followed suit until resuming deposits this year.

 

Even though Proposition 2 doesn't set up a substantial reserve for education, proponents say that stabilizing the general budget with automatic deposits will no doubt benefit K-12 schools and community colleges, which get nearly half the general fund budget every year.

 

"This is major and historic," said Christopher Woods, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins' budget director, "and addresses the main problem we have -- revenue volatility."

 

What Proposition 2 would do

Automatically set aside each year 1.5 percent of the state's general fund revenues into an existing "rainy day fund." The kitty could grow to a maximum of 10 percent of the general fund. For the first 15 years, half those revenues would pay down state debts, including unfunded pension liabilities.

Set aside personal capital-gains tax revenues exceeding 8 percent of general fund revenues. Some of those revenues transfer to the rainy day fund.

Create a state education reserve fund with excess capital-gains tax revenues. Deposits into it, however, wouldn't be made unless several conditions are met -- for example, the state has to repay the remaining $4 billion it withheld from school districts during the Great Recession. The year after any deposits are made, local school districts' reserves would be capped at a varying rate, up to a maximum of 10 percent.

Sources: Legislative Analyst's Office, California Budget Project, state Department of Finance

 


Race for California Education's Top Spot Heats Up As Election Approaches

Posted on October 24, 2014 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (94)

Isn't it interesting that the major difference between these two candidates is that one supports teacher tenure and the other does not?  

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With the midterm elections less than two weeks away, an unlikely race is heating up — the one for the California Department of Education’s top spot.

Former president of Green Dot Public Charter School Marshall Tuck and incumbent Tom Torlakson are vying for the position of state superintendent of schools.

Both candidates are Democrats with strong backing behind them.

Torlakson has the support of mainstream Democratic Party officeholders and the California Teacher’s Association, which is spending heavily on TV and radio advertisements.

Decision 2014: Election Ballot Lookup

Tuck, meanwhile, is the renegade Democrat, who ran then-Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s partnership for L.A. schools to improve the most underperforming schools in the city’s poorest areas.

He’s drawn support from education reformers, high-tech executives and even Hollywood stars. Celebrities Joel McHale, Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell, for example, starred in a web ad with Tuck.

Campaign Ad Depicts Kashkari Rescuing "Drowning" Child

Tuck says he wants to evaluate teachers based on merit and rid the state of the seniority system.

"That’s a piece of policy that doesn’t make sense for kids," Tuck said.

Story provided by:  4 Southern California

Torlakson, on the other hand, supports the tenure system and touts accomplishment during his own tenure as state superintendent.

"Our graduation rate went up to 80 percent, the highest in the state’s history for our high schools," Torlakson said. "Our eighth grade reading scores in California are higher than reading scores in any other state in the nation."

And while the position doesn’t hold much power, the race for the state’s schools chief is being watched around the nation.

The most recent poll has Tuck leading 31 to 28.

Have You Been Paying Attention to this Race?

Posted on October 15, 2014 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (3101)
In case you've been busy getting ready for first interim, I wanted to make sure you were all aware of the very different candidates running for State Superintendent this November.  As of now, it looks to be a close race so be sure to get out to vote for your preferred candidate.  You can certainly see a very different approach and focus so this is an important vote for education.  
______________________

Schools chief race may be election’s tightest

SAN FRANCISCO >> The statewide election that could end up as one of the closest and most expensive in California this fall is for an office many voters probably have only the dimmest awareness of: state schools superintendent.

 

With Democrats’ current lock on Sacramento having removed much of the suspense from the governor’s race and the other contests, two Democrats are engaged in an unexpectedly close fight for the nominally nonpartisan job of superintendent of public instruction. The office oversees an area of government that accounts for more than $4 out of every $10 in state spending and carries out education policies set by the Legislature and a board appointed by the governor.

 

Incumbent Tom Torlakson, who spent eight years as a high school science teacher before entering politics full-time in 1980, is facing a vigorous challenge to his bid for a second term from Marshall Tuck, a former charter school executive and first-time candidate.

 

Polls conducted since the June primary have shown the two running neck-and-neck with large numbers of likely voters still undecided.

 

California is one of 13 states with an elected K-12 schools chief, and one of only four in which candidates for the post run without party affiliations.

 

The race has turned into a referendum on the state’s underachieving education system and a growing divide within the Democratic Party, both nationally and in California, over its traditional allegiance to organized labor and its plentiful campaign cash.

 

Tuck has criticized Torlakson for resisting the White House’s efforts to tie student test scores to teacher evaluations and merit pay. He also has made his support for a recent court decision that overturned California’s generous tenure laws and other job protections for teachers a major talking point of his campaign. He cites Torlakson’s decision to participate in an appeal as evidence that the incumbent lacks the independence needed to be an effective advocate.

 

 

“Challenger going against the strongest force in politics in California, and we are winning. And that’s because people want kids to have a better future and they’ve had enough,” Tuck, 41, said.

 

Torlakson, 65, is making the case for continuity at a time when the state’s schools are rebounding from the deep budget cuts of the recession and reaping the benefits of a new funding formula that gives districts more autonomy while directing more money to those with the neediest students.

 

He credits his collaborative approach, along with his comfortable relationship with Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature where he served 14 years, with helping keep the state’s students on track and securing additional money for implementing the Common Core State Standards.

 

“We are making real progress. This is no time to put that progress at risk,” he said during one of the three forums where he and Tuck have appeared together. “Blaming teachers isn’t the way to solve our problems. Investing in them, investing in our schools, that’s the way.”

 

The contest has attracted money and attention not usually lavished on a position that offers a visible perch from which to promote the state’s public schools but carries more managerial responsibility than power to fulfill a vision.

 

Torlakson has raised at least $2 million for his campaign, much of it from public employee unions representing education, health care, construction and public safety workers. Education unions led by the powerful California Teachers Association have pledged $3.1 million in independent expenditures so far to support the incumbent and oppose Tuck. He has been endorsed by the California Democratic Party, his two predecessors as state superintendent and 46 of California 58 county superintendents.

 

Tuck has secured endorsements from all of the state’s major newspapers and a handful of Democratic mayors, including Kevin Johnson of Sacramento and Chuck Reed of San Jose.

 

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who recruited Tuck as CEO of a Villaraigosa nonprofit that took control of 17 poorly performing L.A. schools, also gave his endorsement. Los Angeles’ current mayor, Eric Garcetti, is backing Torlakson.

 

Tuck has nearly matched Torlakson in campaign fundraising, with $1.9 million, while a Southern California businessman who often supports Republican candidates, William Bloomfield Jr., has independently picked up the tab for at least $900,000 worth of slate mailers and ads on his behalf.

 

Patricia Gandara, an education professor and co-director of the UCLA Civil Rights Project who served on Torlakson’s transition team four years ago, said an argument could be made that Torlakson has not used his bully pulpit as effectively as he might have. But Gandara also has doubts about “the big corporate money” that is backing Tuck and whether he would be any more effective in pushing change in a state where 43 percent of school children speak a language other than English at home.

 

“Historically, it hasn’t mattered that much because that has been a seat that has been under-utilized,” she said. “But there is potential there that is really untapped and particularly at a time when there is so much going on, and there is such a high profile around the inequalities our students are facing.”

A Closer Look at the Candidates: 

Name: Marshall Tuck

 

Age: 41. Born in Burlingame on July 28, 1973

 

Party: Democrat

 

Experience: 2007-2013, CEO of Partnership for LA Schools, a nonprofit that oversaw 17 urban public schools; 2002-2006, president, Green Dot Public Schools; 2000-2002, general manager, Model N Inc., a revenue-management software company.

 

Family: Wife, Mae Tuck, one son.

 

Website: www.marshalltuck.com

 

Priorities: Bring major change to California public schools to ensure that every child has access to quality education. Reduce bureaucracy and waste, and give parents more control.

___________________

 

Name: Tom Torlakson

 

Age: 65. Born in San Francisco July 19, 1949

 

Party: Democrat

 

Experience: State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 2010-present; state Assembly, 2008-2010, 1996-2000; state Senate, 2000-2008; Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, 1980-1996; Antioch City Council, 1978-1980; high school science teacher, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, 1972-1980; adjunct faculty member, Los Medanos College, 2007-2012.

 

Education: San Mateo Community College, 1968-1969; bachelor’s degree in history, University of California, Berkeley, 1971; master’s in education, UC Berkeley, 1977.

 

Family: Wife, Mae Torlakson; two adult daughters.

 

Website: www.TomTorlakson.com

 

Priorities: Allow schools, parents and teachers to decide for themselves how to spend education dollars. Restore quality child care programs and make pre-school available to every child. Improve student safety by protecting children from bullying and other crimes. Expand career and technical training so students graduate ready for a career as well as college.