Dueling views offered by Marshall Tuck and Tom Torlakson in their bid for State Superintendent of Public Instruction will give voters a stark choice — in what has become a surprisingly close race leading to the Nov. 4 election.
Torlakson, the incumbent, a former teacher and state legislator, has the backing of the Democratic establishment and the teachers unions. Tuck, a relative unknown statewide, was a charter school administrator and has the backing of reform groups and editorial boards throughout the state.
The two men share vastly different backgrounds and overall educational beliefs, leading the LA Weekly to characterize the election as a reform vs. union battle for the heart of the Democratic Party and the Los Angeles Times to call it “a prime example of the strange rift in education, in which liberal Democrats are sharply divided on such issues as charter schools, job protections for teachers, the authority of the federal government in schools and the value of standardized test scores.”
Much of the media focus is often on the black and white contrast of the candidates’ background and supporters. Equally important are the actual issues at hand and where the candidates stand on them.
LA School Report has picked five major issues, with a breakdown of each candidate’s position:
The landmark case in which in which a court found the state’s laws regarding teacher tenure, firings and layoffs are unconstitutional has become a litmus test for public officials.
Torlakson: As the top education official in the state, Torlakson was a defendant in the lawsuit and led the charge on behalf of the state to appeal the ruling with a statement that the judge’s decision is “not supported by the facts or the law.”
Tuck: A big supporter of the ruling, he has been endorsed by the student plaintiffs in the case. He also publicly urged Torlakson and the state not to appeal and has said he would withdraw support for the appeal on his first day on the job.