In case you’ve been on a desert island, there are two Democrats vying for the somewhat decorative office of California Superintendent of Education. Incumbent Tom Torlakson was a teacher in Contra Costa County for 10 years before spending about 20 years in the State Assembly and State Senate. Challenger Marshall Tuck, age 40, was an investment banker at Solomon for a couple of years, before entering education. He volunteered in Africa and later ran Green Dot Charters forming a working relationship with the Superintendent of Los Angeles Unified.
Apparently challenger Marshall Tuck California really has a shot at it. A public poll shows 31% for Tuck, 28% for Torlakson with a whopping 41% undecided (or maybe just do not care or don’t know). So that uncertainty/ opportunity has unleashed vigorous campaigning.
Campaign Mailers: Reading the Tea Leaves – negative ads = desperation
I just surveyed the mailers I’ve received over the past month about the race. All of these mailers are FOR Torlakson. (Apparently Tuck is spending mainly on radio ads and some TV Youtube videos. I have received zero mailers FOR Tuck. I don’t watch TV.) The Torlakson mailers are labeled as paid for by the California Teachers Association union and also the AFL-CIO union (and California Faculty Association).
I observe that the incumbent’s mailer ads have transitioned from a month ago being 100% positive ads promoting Torlakson the man, to 2 weeks ago, being mailers with maybe 25% negative anti-Tuck smear messaging, to this past week being mailers that were 100% negative anti-Tuck smear messaging. I guess the Torlakson campaign is running scared to turn on this volume of negativity. News reports observe that Governor Brown has not endorsed either candidate – he is standing clear on the sidelines.
Conclusion: there is a real chance for change. Your vote matters.
Should local LASD parents care about the Vegara case? No
Well, if you are “into” social justice, yes, do care about Vegara teacher tenure case. [Both candidates support the Local Control Funding Formula which tilts the funding more toward disadvantaged districts and away from our LASD]
But that lower court ruling – which found that California teacher tenure LAWS violate the rights of the most disadvantaged students – doesn’t matter much to our affluent District. It said that “first in, first out,” seniority based layoffs hurt poor kids. During an economic contraction, the principal can’t retain the best teachers, but by Ed Code law, only the most senior teachers. The system causes inferior teachers to tend to filter down and out to poor districts.
Our affluent District makes offers to only the most promising freshly minted teachers, who overwhelmingly accept them because our District has affluent, involved parents and well-prepared kids. Why worry locally about Vegara and Ed Code reform?
We have the best District principals and supervisors who can quickly detect if a newly hired teacher needs to be “released” at the end of the 1 1/2 year probationary period before tenure. In this way we don’t get stuck with inferior teachers the way the poor districts do. Why worry locally?
So then why care about Teacher Work Rules / Ed Code Reform?
There is more involved in California Teachers Association collective bargaining than pay and the short cakewalk to tenure. [ My husband’s university faculty probationary period was over 5 years. As an “at-will,” professional tech industry person, I wasn’t even aware that a k-12 teacher could GET TENURE ever. I’m still shocked.]
There are teacher work rules that are written into law: the length of the school day, the school calendar, who can do what job, what books and materials you use…etc. in public schools K-6 teachers are generalists and 7- 12 teachers are specialists, per Ed Code. It’s hard for the generalists to be really good at some of the subjects, like really getting math for example. It’s hard for the specialists to do blended learning, because they actually aren’t allow to practice a second skill/subject. Charter schools have freedoms from some of these strictures which do so impede innovation and teaching agility. Marshall Tuck wants District schools and their teachers to have more freedoms.
Marshall Tuck will grant “Waivers” to District Schools!
Marshall Tuck wants to start peeling back the kinds of work rules that impede innovation and experimentation in the public school classroom and that suck the creativity out of a teacher’s job. Yeah, there are pilots for this and that in district public schools, but those are for a few, rather than a way of life for all teachers and students.
Marshall Tuck wants to relax the work rules for DISTRICT SCHOOLS, so they can be more agile like charters. He wants to grant lots of waivers from rules, so that Districts can try new things.
Marshall is in favor of collective bargaining. He does want to expand the tenure probationary period from one and 1/2 years to maybe 3 to 5 years, which is the norm nationally. He will retain permanent tenure. He wants to pay teachers more, not less, but wants to tie that to “performance.” He includes testing as part of the performance evaluation process, but it’s not the only thing.
Marshall thinks Prop 2 – the Rainy Day Fund measure – was marred by putting a cap on reserves a school district can maintain at 10% of budget. LASD’s Randy Kenyon says our reserves are up at 14% now. These let us maintain staffing levels without layoffs in the event of a economic contraction. Marshall will work to get that cap undone, in the likely event that Prop 2 passes. With his right right, Govenor Brown & the state assembly granted more local control over district spending, but with the left hand the state assembly “taketh away.” In really “good” years, excess surplus reserves will have to be spent — on teacher salaries.
Marshall Tuck Youtube Video – All major newspapers endorse Tuck.
Both Sides Spending Heavily on their Campaigns
Both are spending oodles of money on a boring race which always used to go the Democrat, not the Republican, before the change to our new “top two” voting system for primaries. The story is that the two Democrats’ donation/spending amounts are within 10% of each other, with unions being the money bags donors to Tom Torlakson, while wealthy individual donors are behind Marshall Tuck – like Eli Broad, the wife of Steve Jobs, etc. Yet, the Torlakson side has about 1500 unique donors, while Tuck side has about 2,500 unique donors.
Tolakson’s campaign has argued that union contributions to the race, drawn from the dues of hundreds of thousands of teachers, could not be compared to a few wealthy individuals using their personal fortunes to influence the outcome.
Lalahpolitico: IMHO I think that money is money. Dues are collected from union members, 10 out of 11 in California who pay full dues. The union has a PAC committee to decide on advocacy positions. They take a teacher’s dues to “protect” her rights as a worker from the depredations of management.
A Torlakson TV ad
I like this breezy account of the State Superindent race written Hollywood style…
Official CA State Superintendent of Public Instruction Debate Sept. 17, 2014, Los Angeles. The most boring forum I have ever seen. But this Link Goes right to the question about what steps candidates would take to provide access to the arts...
Sacbee with some campaign spending info…
“The CTA recently bought almost $2 million worth of “issue ads” touting Torlakson’s achievements in his first term” more spending info…
There are many more articles on sacbee.com. Just google Marshall Tuck California.
Footnote: More on Work Rules…
SO WHAT IS AN AGILE SCHOOL?…
Lalahpolitco has shamelessly excerpted this report. Lately I have been sitting in the LASD Facilities Master Plan Committee meetings listening to the LASD architect extoll the virtues of flexible classroom configuration where kids can stand up and move around most of the time. Well, I can tell you that without changes in Education Code work rules – without flex work rules, flex classrooms won’t mean much.
With fewer Ed Code Work Rules…Breakthroughs in Time, Talent, and Technology…
Next generation school models need three broad types of autonomies that public charter schools can provide: they need freedom with respect to 1) scheduling, 2) instructor roles and career paths, and 3) how they can spend school funds.
This report explains TIME/Scheduling
Time: Rather than a set bell schedule, students rotate between personalized digital content and other learning experiences, such as one-on-one instruction with a teacher, small-group instruction guided by a tutor, and group or individual assignments. Because students spend age-appropriate portions of the school day engaged in self-directed learning activities. That frees time for teachers. Rather than teach in isolation, teachers can spend this freed time working together to review data on student progress and make decisions about upcoming instruction.
“Seat time” rules prescribe set amounts of time students must physically spend in a classroom in order to receive credit for a particular course. These rules can stand in the way of schools that want to allow students to zoom ahead at their own pace, moving along as they master each concept.
Rigid schedules often do not give teachers flexibility to work with several targeted student groups or individuals or allow them enough time to plan together as a team. These schedules also dictate when school must begin in the morning and end in the afternoon.
This report explains TALENT/ roles career paths
Next generation models need the flexibility to use talent differently than the roles and career paths that traditional school models typically prescribe. For example:
Traditional salary schedules determine the kinds of roles that teachers can have as well as the ways those roles are compensated. They do not support the range of instructional roles and advancement opportunities that next generation models offer—or support career advancement by providing opportunities for authentic teacher leadership. They do not allow next generation schools to pay great teachers more for taking on more responsibility.
“Line of sight” rules require that a certified teacher supervise students at all times. They prevent paraprofessionals from taking responsibility for students for limited periods during the school day so that teachers can deliver targeted instruction to small groups of students, analyze student data to plan for upcoming lessons, and make time for job-embedded professional learning.
Licensure restrictions mandate that teachers must be licensed, sometimes in specific disciplines. They make it challenging for schools that want to use teaching methods that cross the lines of traditional disciplines.
This report explains Funding / allocations
Next generation models need flexibility to determine the right combinations of teachers, other staff, and technology. However, school funding formulas for traditional schools are often designed to guide how school personnel are allowed to spend school funds and how much of their funds they can spend on certain items. For example:
Program-based funding allocations often require schools to follow certain staffing models, buy certain instructional materials, and limit technology purchases to very specific options. As a result, traditional schools typically do not have the flexibility to decide how to staff their schools or invest in hardware, software, or infrastructure such as high-speed internet connections. They also lack the autonomy to pilot emerging technology with students.
FREEDOM TO INNOVATE
Public charter schools offer another crucial autonomy: the freedom to innovate. Diane Tavenner of Summit Public Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area explained, “Because we are a charter, the charge is to be innovative. It’s in the law. So that is who we are, and it is important to what we’re doing.” For next generation models, which by definition are employing uses of time, talent, and technology that diverge from a traditional school model, the importance of innovation must be core to school culture.
If students, parents, teachers, and school leaders do not coalesce around the shared belief that experimenting with new ways of teaching and learning will lead to better results, next generation schools will not have the momentum to keep working through the challenges that new models can present.