Thursday, May 29, 2014

Vote for Torlakson - Important to vote on Tues.

From the LA Times.
In the June 3  contest to lead the state's public schools, the two front-runners represent opposing forces within education over how best to improve student achievement.
Tom Torlakson, the Democratic incumbent, champions teachers and their unions, which dislike the nation's growing reliance on standardized tests, call for more funding and fight against eroding job protections.
Marshall Tuck, the favorite of a core of philanthropists and activists, wants more limited job security for instructors as a way to weed out weak performers and improve the teaching corps. Also a Democrat, he talks of shaking up a system that has settled for gradual improvement in test scores and graduation rates. Before raising new revenue, he said, he would spend existing dollars more effectively.

"I try to channel my energy on things that can make a big difference. I'm focused on the big picture," says state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)
The nonpartisan race for the state superintendent of public instruction has become a window into differing, and influential, visions for public schools.
"These fights are very much playing out in the states, between the union wing and the education-reform wing," said Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.
"This is probably the highest-profile referendum that we're going to see this year," said Hess, who generally sides with the union critics he regards as reformers. See video ad below. 

A third candidate, veteran teacher Lydia Gutierrez, a Republican with unconventional views, has been unable to attract comparable funding. She supports current job protections for instructors, much like Torlakson. But unlike Torlakson and Tuck, she would undo state learning goals, called the Common Core, adopted by California and 43 other states.

The education department has an annual budget of $65 million to oversee $70 billion in education funding. The superintendent interprets and enforces the vast number of education laws, oversees standardized testing and, more recently, has helped school districts adapt to the new learning goals.
The office also can choose to buttress, oppose or shape policies put forward by the governor, the state Legislature and the federal Department of Education.
Torlakson, a resident of Contra Costa County, is seeking a second and final four-year term. Since 1980, he's been a full-time elected official. Before that, he taught full time for about seven years.
The 64-year-old incumbent lines up philosophically with Gov. Jerry Brown and other top state Democrats in siding with unions, which have opposed key education policies of the Obama administration.

"We're the wealthiest state in the nation, and our schools rank 44th in math and 45th in reading," Marshall Tuck says. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)
In conjunction with Brown, for example, Torlakson refused to establish new rules linking a teacher's evaluation partly to test scores. The state's resistance was a factor in the loss of a lucrative federal grant during the recent recession.
Torlakson insists that the cost of complying with federal guidelines would have offset the benefit. As for the emphasis on test scores, "I didn't agree with that and the governor didn't agree with that."
California later resisted federal pressure to administer additional standardized tests. Students already were scheduled this year to try out a new, computer-based test linked to the new learning goals. Federal officials also wanted to continue the older tests, so that schools and teachers could be evaluated during the transition.
After threatening to withhold funding, the Obama administration accepted California's plan to administer only the new exam. The new test, given across several states, was beset with time-consuming technical problems.
Torlakson is hard-pressed to identify a major issue on which he disagreed with the unions since taking office.
From LA Times.
To view a debate between the major candidates go here.

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