School & District Management

Charter School Backers Spent Millions on California Races in 2018. They Still Lost Twice

Charter Advocates Dealt Loss In California Chief’s Election
By Sophia Bollag, The Sacramento Bee (Calif.) — November 19, 2018 2 min read

When former charter school executive Marshall Tuck called Assemblyman Tony Thurmond to concede over the weekend, it marked another defeat for charter-school advocates in California.

Thurmond was elected California’s top education official in the wave that led more liberal-leaning voters to cast ballots. Although both are Democrats, Thurmond had the party’s endorsement.

He also was backed by teachers’ unions, who were outspent more than two-to-one.

Independent groups supporting Tuck spent more than $36 million this cycle. Prominent education reform supporters, including frequent political donor Bill Bloomfield, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and philanthropist Eli Broad were among the biggest contributors to those efforts. Tuck’s official campaign raised another $5 million.

“The group of people who have provided significant funding to candidates that are associated with a charter-friendly agenda have proven that they don’t have the ability to capture statewide offices,” said John Rogers, an education policy expert at UCLA.

It’s only the latest big loss the pro-charter school movement has suffered in California.

In June, many of the same donors were disappointed when their chosen candidate for California governor Antonio Villaraigosa didn’t make it out of the primary despite their more-than $20 million effort to bolster him.

Tuck also ran for schools chief unsuccessfully in 2014, when incumbent Tom Torlakson beat him—again with support from the teachers’ unions.

The California Teachers Association provided most of the more-than $16 million independent effort supporting Thurmond. His campaign raised more than $3 million. Labor unions and the California Democratic Party were among the biggest donors for both Thurmond’s campaign and the independent efforts supporting him.

The state superintendent of public instruction oversees the California Department of Education and chairs the State Board of Education. The office doesn’t have much direct control over education policy in California, although it’s seen as an influential position.

In his campaign, Thurmond, who represented Richmond in the state Assembly, opposed diverting money from traditional public schools into public charter schools.

“I intend to be a champion of public schools,” Thurmond said in a statement announcing his victory. “All students, no matter their background and no matter their challenges, can succeed with a great public education.”

Tuck, meanwhile, emphasized giving parents more choices in where to send their children, including nonprofit charter schools. He also advocated for directing more money to teachers in schools with high populations of low-income students, English-learners, and children in foster care.

Both candidates opposed for-profit charter schools.

Despite the job’s limited power, the race attracted more than $50 million in outside spending. It was the most expensive state superintendent contest in U.S. history, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.

The millions poured into the campaign illustrate tensions between factions of the Democratic Party more aligned with labor unions and others more aligned with business, especially in Silicon Valley, Rogers said.

“Those who were engaging in this funding wanted to communicate a message about their importance and the weight that they carried in statewide politics,” he said. “You would never expect an election for state superintendent of public instruction to get this much attention.”

Copyright (c) 2018, The Sacramento Bee. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion Leaders, Your Communication Plan Needs to Start With Your Staff
Staff members are the point of contact for thousands of interactions with the public each day. They can’t be the last to know of changes.
Gladys I. Cruz
2 min read
A staff meeting around a table.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management L.A. Unified to Require Testing of Students, Staff Regardless of Vaccination Status
The policy change in the nation's second-largest school district comes amid rising coronavirus cases, largely blamed on the Delta variant.
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
4 min read
L.A. schools interim Sup Megan K. Reilly visits Fairfax High School's "Field Day" event to launch the Ready Set volunteer recruitment campaign to highlight the nationwide need for mentors and tutors, to prepare the country's public education students for the upcoming school year. The event coincides with National Summer Learning Week, where U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is highlighting the importance of re-engaging students and building excitement around returning to in-person learning this fall. high school, with interim LAUSD superintendent and others. Fairfax High School on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA.
In this July 14, 2021, photo, Los Angeles Unified School District interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly speaks at an event at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. Reilly announced a new district policy Thursday requiring all students and employees of the Los Angeles school district to take weekly coronavirus tests regardless of their vaccination status.
Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via TNS
School & District Management Why School Boards Are Now Hot Spots for Nasty Politics
Nationalized politics, shifts in local news coverage, and the rise of social media are turning school board meetings into slug fests.
11 min read
Collage of people yelling, praying, and masked in a board room.
Collage by Gina Tomko/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion The Six Leadership Lessons I Learned From the Pandemic
These guiding principles can help leaders prepare for another challenging year—and any future crises to come.
David Vroonland
3 min read
A hand about to touch a phone.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images