Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (left) and Marshall Tuck.
Marshall Tuck and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, the two leading candidates for state superintendent of Public Instruction, held a forum to discuss education issues on Saturday at Holy Names University, Oakland. The forum was sponsored by California Black Media, Sistallect and Black Women Organized for Political Action and moderated by Kimberly Ellis.
Both candidates discussed a variety of education issues such as the black-white education gap, how to turn around failing schools, and the importance of early childhood education.
Tuck is the former CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools and former president of Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school network. He approaches solving education problems from a more a results-oriented stance.
He cited the work he had done turning around a failing middle school in Los Angeles. His organization had tackled the problem by holding teachers accountable, retraining teachers and offering incentives.
“We gave a bonus to people teaching at Watts and in East L.A.,” he said.
He added that the California education system has some structural flaws. For example, the law says that if a school has to do layoffs, they are done by seniority, not performance. Tuck said that he would also like to see an incentive-based pay system, where teachers are paid higher salaries to teach at struggling schools.
“If you have to work at a struggling school, you should get paid more,” said Tuck.
Thurmond, a former school board member and social worker, is a big believer in using social programs to close the black-white achievement gap. If elected state superintendent, he said he would institute a reading program to help black children develop a love for education.
“When you don’t learn to read by third grade, you’re more likely to drop out,” said Thurmond.
Both candidates agreed with Ellis when she pointed out that although California is a liberal state, it ranks 41st in education spending.
Thurmond said he would like to redirect money from the corrections budget to education. In fact, he has proposed levying taxes on private prison companies to pay for early childhood education programs.
Tuck said he would like to increase the education budget by implementing an online sales tax.
Jumoke Hinton Hodge, an Oakland school board member, said this was the first time she had attended a state superintendent candidates’ forum. She said the forum was informative and she learned a lot. She was also grateful for the coalition that organized the event and called attention to the Black achievement gap.