Capitol Alert

Marshall Tuck running again for California schools chief: ‘We’ve settled for mediocrity’

Marshall Tuck speaks to the Sacramento Press Club on Sept. 25, 2014.
Marshall Tuck speaks to the Sacramento Press Club on Sept. 25, 2014. The Sacramento Bee file

Marshall Tuck, who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent schools chief Tom Torlakson in a contentious 2014 race that became a proxy fight over a lawsuit on teacher job protections, will run again for state superintendent of public instruction.

The former Los Angeles schools executive on Monday announced his candidacy for the 2018 election, citing a desire to bring “big change” to a public education system that has “settled for mediocrity.”

“We’ve chosen to be the best on the environment in the nation. We’ve chosen to lead on the Affordable Care Act,” Tuck said in an interview. “But we haven’t chosen to make the big changes on our schools.”

Tuck said his campaign will focus on ensuring that Gov. Jerry Brown’s new school funding formula – which provides additional money to districts with large numbers of poor children, English learners and foster youth – is really funneling money to the neediest students and that its accountability measures are more understandable for parents and the public.

He also said California’s efforts to address its teacher shortage “so far have been way too small.” He would consider raising compensation and changing training programs to get more potential teachers into the profession.

The 2014 race for state superintendent, a largely symbolic position overseeing public schools, was the most expensive of any elected office in California that year. Amid a controversial lawsuit charging that the state’s teacher tenure and dismissal laws were depriving students of their constitutional right to a quality education, billionaire philanthropists seeking to overhaul public education and powerful teachers unions poured more than $20 million into television attack ads and nasty mailers.

Tuck, who supported the lawsuit and was heavily opposed by the teachers’ unions, said he still believes the state needs “more rational policies around tenure and seniority-based layoffs,” but those would not be his first priorities were he to win.

Since losing his first bid for state superintendent, Tuck has been in residency with the New Teacher Center, an organization that works with big urban school districts to improve teacher mentoring.

Despite the rough tenor of the last election, he said, he’s making his return to politics because California is “this phenomenal state that’s just not making progress on our schools” and “that’s not going to change unless there’s new leadership.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff