SPI candidate woos teachers with higher pay proposal

SPI candidate woos teachers with higher pay proposal

(Calif.) Marshall Tuck, charter advocate and candidate for state schools chief, has called for an increase in beginning teacher salaries as well as no-interest loans to college students willing to commit to teaching in the public schools.

Tuck, who posed a serious challenge to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson four years ago, has also suggested that the public school system should be subjected to an “equity audit,” that would evaluate to what degree students everywhere have access to the same funding support, well-qualified teachers and curriculum opportunities.

In a series of policy papers released late last week, Tuck called on lawmakers to deliver more money to schools and a lowering of the threshold for passage of school taxes on the local level to 55 percent.

“Our state has made progress on some areas in our public schools, significant research has been done on everything from brain development to promising classroom practices, and there are good things happening in schools up-and-down our state every day,” Tuck said in a statement. “This plan seeks to build on that knowledge to present a vision for better public schools for all kids.”

Tuck gained prominence as the leader of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s turnaround of 17 low-performing urban schools beginning in 2007. Prior to that, Tuck served as the chief financial officer at Green Dot charter schools.

His primary opponent in the upcoming election is Tony Thurmond, currently a member of the state Assembly representing the northern east bay communities of Richmond, Berkeley and San Pablo, who is also the favorite of the state’s teacher and school employee unions.

Although Tuck ended up losing to Torlakson by almost 200,000 votes in 2014, the campaign itself attracted close to $30 million in spending—most of it from charter supporters of Tuck and labor groups supporting Torlakson.

There is little to suggest that the two sides won’t end up in another expensive battle in advance of the November election.

In the past year, the California Charter School Association has become much more aggressive in taking on the California Teachers Association, which traditionally has a far larger political presence statewide.

But the CTA has lost ground in some local school board races recently and awaits a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that could severely limit its fundraising abilities.

The case will determine if public sector workers can be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Given the high court’s conservative leanings, it is expected that the unions will lose the ruling.

If so, there is reason to believe the race for state school chief will once again prove critical to CTA and charter supporters even though the Superintendent of Public Instruction has little actual authority over education policy in the state.

The Legislature and the governor hold most of the power through the budget and legislative process.

Indeed, much of what Tuck proposed in his white papers would require support from lawmakers and the new administration. That is perhaps why his set of white papers, in general, advocates broad policy concepts rather than specific proposals.

His call for increasing pay for new teachers, for instance, points out that currently starting salaries range between $41,000 and $49,000.

Although Tuck notes that new prison guards earn up to $57,000, he doesn’t suggest new teachers should earn that amount.

He also has a goal to ‘fully’ fund schools without a clear definition.

Tuck notes that teacher pensions are a growing burden for local officials as districts will be required to shoulder 19 percent of the costs by 2020.

His solution is to advocate for change.

“There is clearly no easy solution to such an enormous problem, but it first requires that our elected leaders take ownership of it, and prioritize it,” he wrote. “We must quickly bring together political leaders, fiscal experts, labor leaders, education leaders, and others to develop a long-term solution to this issue.”