Carl Cohn is one of the most respected educators in California. He has been a teacher, principal, and superintendent. He led Long Beach, where he earned a reputation as a calm problem solver. I got to know him when he was superintendent in San Diego, and I was researching the first district to embrace and impose top-down Corporate Reform. After voters booted out the Reformers, Carl was brought in to restore calm and trust. When Carl Cohn speaks, I listen.

In this article, he tells the public what is at stake in the contest for Superintendent of Public Instruction in California. This race is likely to be even more expensive than the governor’s race, where Gavin Newsom has a large lead over his

On one side is Tony Thurmond, social worker and legislator. On the other is Marshall Tuck, the chosen favorite of the charter-loving billionaires. The money is pouting in for Tuck. Just last week, another $4 million arrived from his super-rich allies.

He writes:

Why will so much money be spent on this race? The reason lies with a small group of billionaires who have no education experience but because of their outsized pocketbooks wield huge influence in education politics across the nation. Billionaires like the Waltons (of Walmart fortune), Eli Broad, and President Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have made it their priority to fight for the charter school industry, school vouchers, and high-stakes testing.

The billionaires are supporting candidate Marshall Tuck, a former charter schools executive with a mixed record of success and reputation for fighting not fixing – because they know they can count on him to support the charter school industry.

His opponent is Democratic state legislator and public school parent Tony Thurmond. Tony is a social worker by training who has spent 20 years working inside and outside of schools with some of the most high-need children in California.

Tony’s passion for education stems from his own life experience.

Like many California students, Tony Thurmond comes from humble beginnings. Tony’s mother emigrated from Panama to San Jose to become a teacher. His father was a Vietnam veteran who, suffering from PTSD, did not return to the family. When Tony was 6, his mother lost her battle to cancer. He and his brother were sent to live with a distant cousin.

Tony grew up on public assistance and college was never a sure thing – but he succeeded because he was able to attend a great public school where his teachers encouraged him to apply. At Temple University in Philadelphia, Tony became student body president.

After graduation, Tony became a social worker to give back, serving foster youth, children with incarcerated parents, folks with disabilities, immigrants, first-generation college students, and families living in deep poverty. He went on to lead nonprofits and run school-based mental health programs. Tony has taught civics, life skills, and career training courses.

Tony Thurmond believes, as I do, that public education can save lives.

For me, it’s a belief that stems from 50 years working in education, first as a teacher and counselor in the Compton public schools, then as a superintendent in the Long Beach and San Diego school districts. Most recently, as executive director of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, it’s been my job to get the right kind of help to schools, districts, charters and county offices of education.

With Trump and DeVos leading the federal education agenda, it is imperative that California elect a strong, effective advocate for public education who will stand up to the billionaires and their charter school industry. Tony Thurmond is that advocate.

While Secretary DeVos was proposing to eliminate the federal Office for English-Language Learners, Tony was passing legislation to expand bilingual education. One in five California students is an English Learner.

While Trump and DeVos were shortchanging STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education funding on the national level, Tony was fighting for $200 million here in California — an appropriate investment for California, the fifth largest economy in the world and innovation capital of the world.
Tony Thurmond is the only Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate who Californians can trust to fight for our public schools and to fight back against the billionaires and their pro-charter school industry agenda. That’s because Tony believes to his core that we must create a public education system where every child, no matter their circumstances, graduates prepared for success in the 21st century economy.