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
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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
Student Achievement Webinar
How To Tackle The Biggest Hurdles To Effective Tutoring
Learn how districts overcome the three biggest challenges to implementing high-impact tutoring with fidelity: time, talent, and funding.
Content provided by Saga Education
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
Student Well-Being Webinar
Reframing Behavior: Neuroscience-Based Practices for Positive Support
Reframing Behavior helps teachers see the “why” of behavior through a neuroscience lens and provides practices that fit into a school day.
Content provided by Crisis Prevention Institute
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
Mathematics Webinar
Math for All: Strategies for Inclusive Instruction and Student Success
Looking for ways to make math matter for all your students? Gain strategies that help them make the connection as well as the grade.
Content provided by NMSI

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 Q&A A Principal's Advice on Using Trust to Quell Unruly Student Behavior
Educators have leverage on how students behave when they build connections with them.
5 min read
School & District Management Opinion 3 Steps for Culturally Competent Education Outside the Classroom
It’s not just all on teachers; the front office staff has a role to play in making schools more equitable.
Allyson Taylor
5 min read
Workflow, Teamwork, Education concept. Team, people, colleagues in company, organization, administrative community. Corporate work, partnership and study.
Paper Trident/iStock
School & District Management Opinion Why Schools Struggle With Implementation. And How They Can Do Better
Improvement efforts often sputter when the rubber hits the road. But do they have to?
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management How Principals Use the Lunch Hour to Target Student Apathy
School leaders want to trigger the connection between good food, fun, and rewards.
5 min read
Lunch hour at the St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West in Albertville, Minn.
Students share a laugh together during lunch hour at the St. Michael-Albertville Middle School West in Albertville, Minn.
Courtesy of Lynn Jennissen