Candidate for state superintendent of public instruction Tony Thurmond spoke before nearly 1,400 enthusiastic educators at CTA’s Good Teaching Conference March 17 in Garden Grove. Thurmond, who received the recommendation of CTA’s State Council of Education in October, has served in the California Assembly for the past four years and has also served as a member of the West Contra County School Board and as a Richmond City Council member.
Thurmond inspired the conference audience by sharing his own story of growing up without a father, of losing his mother, a teacher, to cancer at the age of 6, and how the cousin he went to live with made sure he got a quality public education that he says “literally saved my life. I had teachers who set the bar high, and when I struggled, they supported me, they were there for me, they coached me, they believed in me.”
During his remarks he reviewed some of the legislation he’s worked on during his tenure in the Assembly, as well as other ideas he has to continue supporting students and teachers. He also made it clear he had little patience for those who scapegoat educators: “I know you work in a climate where people are constantly blaming teachers even though you aren’t given the resources to do what you need to do.” He went on to emphasize that California students deserve better than being 46th in the nation in per-pupil funding.
Thurmond also stressed the need for quality preschool and for affordable college access for all Californians, and to reform a prison industry that profits from the incarceration of young men and women (he recently introduced legislation that would tax private prisons and use the proceeds to fund preschool programs). He recognized the housing crisis facing many educators who are often priced out of the ability to live in, near, or even within reasonable commuting distance of the communities they work in, telling the crowd he had introduced new legislation that would provide funds to school districts to build teacher housing, and that he was soliciting ideas to further assist teachers struggling with affordable housing. He announced he would be hosting a March 21 town hall on the issue in Sacramento that would also allow educators to call in and listen or participate.
The candidate went on to say he would continue to push back hard against efforts to arm classroom teachers with guns. “You don’t need guns in your classrooms, you need a politician with backbone who will make sure you get the resources you need,” he said, going on to tout legislation he introduced in February to provide more mental health services and other emotional, social and physical support for students in the school setting.
Thurmond concluded his remarks by thanking educators for their support, saying he believes that with the backing of the education community he will be the next state superintendent. His main opponent for the office, Marshall Tuck, ran unsuccessfully for the office four years ago in the most expensive SPI race in the state’s history. Tuck, who supports weakening due process rights for teachers and expanding the number of charter schools, received most of his support and financing from the charter school industry and school privatization backers, among them multimillionaires and billionaires such as Howard Ahmanson Jr. and Eli Broad.