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In the 2018-19 school year, when voters elected Tony Thurmond as state superintendent of public instruction, California’s K-12 schools entered his fifth year. Slow but steady Improving student performance.
Even then, only half were on grade level in English skills, and only 40% were meeting math standards. And the state was making no progress in closing its vast racial and economic achievement gaps.
Then the pandemic struck. To protect their health and that of their teachers and parents, the students found themselves isolated at home taking classes on Zoom. It was a difficult time for all of us, especially the children. And their performance suffered. Test scores dropped.and the racial achievement gap widened.
Now we have to rebuild. The question for voters in the Nov. 8 schools superintendent election is whether to stick with Thurmond, who has spent much of his first term battling the pandemic, or shift leadership sharply to the political right. .
While we have our differences with Thurmond, particularly over his lockstep alignment with the state’s most powerful teachers union, and did not support him in 2018, his opponent this year, Lance Christensen, has Will be a disruptive force when school administrators, teachers and students are in dire need of stability.
Consequently, voters should re-elect Thurmond. Realistically, he won’t make much of the desired improvement in the state’s student performance. This work does not allow him to exert significant influence. But he won’t use the Post’s bully pulpit to turn our public schools into hotbeds of culture wars.
And that’s more than can be said for Christensen, who revealed in his interview with us, the liars Claims that face masks in schools do not reduce the spread of COVID, focuses on conservative propaganda about critical race theory, calls for ridding school libraries of objectionable books, and teachers Calls for the abolition of unions.
Consider Thurmond’s no-harm proposal. Our children have suffered a lot. They should not be used as political pawns.
In the June primary, Thurmond, a former city councilman, local school board trustee and state assemblyman from Richmond, won 46% of the vote, short of the majority needed. To avoid run-off.
Christensen, who worked for Republican state lawmakers before becoming vice president of education policy at the conservative California Policy Center, finished second with just 12 percent of the vote, trailing the other two candidates in the runoff.
While Thurmond is the best choice, he needs to up his game, to show that he’s not just using the office as a political stepping stone. And it needs to fix the toxic and politicized environment in the Department of Education that, As Politico reported.has forced senior staff to flee.
Superintendent’s job. Mainly administrativeOverseeing a state education bureaucracy of about 2,500 employees designed primarily to collect data and support local school districts. With pandemic restrictions easing, Thurmond needs to make sure schools, students and parents have the support and information they need. And, with record funding for California schools, Thurmond needs to do more to ensure districts are spending the money as intended and needed.
Meanwhile, it’s time for a serious debate in California about whether to eliminate the position of superintendent of elective schools, which has been enshrined in the state constitution since 1849.
The lines of authority on education are sharply divided. The governor appoints and the Legislature confirms 11 members of the State Board of Education, which sets educational standards and accountability measures. California has a separate commission on teacher credentialing. And voters also elect county superintendents to oversee the finances of local districts.
Then again, with the Legislature and Governor passing the laws that govern our schools and provide most of the funding to operate them, do we really need a separately elected state superintendent? In most statesThe responsibility of running the education department rests with the governorate administration.
It would be refreshing to have a vocational education administrator in charge instead of a former legislator seeking another elected office in California, as we have. Since 1995. But for now, this is the system we have, so voters should carefully consider who is in office.
This year, the best option is Thurmond.