State Superintendent of Public instruction
The California Afterschool Advocacy Alliance (CA3) sent these four questions to the two candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Assemblymember Tony Thurmond and Marshall Tuck. Here are their unedited responses.
1. How will you ensure equity and access to afterschool and summer programs, especially in high need communities?
Right now, we prioritize state afterschool grants for schools in low-income communities, and we must continue to do this. However, there are still too many kids without a place to be after school in kindergarten through high school. We must invest more to make sure all kids who need them have these programs, which provide safe, supportive learning environments after school and in the summertime. Over the past two years I have introduced legislation that would tax private prison companies to create new revenue for preschool and afterschool programs. In addition to fighting for state and federal funds, as Superintendent I will also use the bully pulpit to make sure our superintendents, principals and school board members understand the importance of these programs and that they require local support and investment.
I believe strongly that one of the key ways we can make progress on closing the achievement and opportunity gaps, is through extending learning and enrichment time for our children of greatest need. That’s a big part of why I support efforts to expand after-school programs, summer programs, and other opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. While we are working to expand the resources dedicated to this area, we need to prioritize the resources we have to serve the students with greatest need.
I led public schools in communities with some of the greatest needs, and we had tremendous success, improving graduation rates by 60%. A big part of that was because we actively pursued partnerships with a variety of service providers to extend learning time and to expand access to after-school programs and summer opportunities. In many cases we had to use philanthropic funding for these opportunities. As State Superintendent, I will work to facilitate these sorts of partnerships around the state and also work to expand state funding to provide our highest need students more access to quality after-school and summer school programs.
2. With significant budgetary challenges facing California schools, what actions will you take to ensure existing afterschool and summer programs get the resources they need to keep pace with the rising state minimum wage and cost of living?
At a minimum the legislature and next governor need to increase the daily rate for the After School Education and Safety Program to keep pace with the increased cost of living and minimum wage increases. I know how hard it is to attract, retain and train great staff, and our staff are the key to the relationship building that is the magic of these programs. My two daughters attend after school programs and I am grateful to the amazing staff who help them with their homework and give them enrichment opportunities that help them make new friends and learn new skills. As State Superintendent, I will be a strong champion for this effort. Having served in the legislature, I understand what it takes to get budget measures passed, and I have the relationships necessary to be a key advocate in partnership with the afterschool community.
I will work hard to advocate for full funding of our public schools. California can’t have the best schools in the nation if it continues to spend among the least in the nation on our students. We were once among the top 10 states in the nation in per-pupil funding and are now 41st, despite having the highest rate of childhood poverty, and the largest number of English Learners. To serve all these students well, we must be among the top states in the country in per-pupil funding. Of course, money alone is not the answer, and we need to pair additional dollars with smart spending on high-impact programs and services.
Like most of the important work in our public schools, getting to among the top states in funding will take some time, but we need to make the commitment, and take the necessary actions to get there. In addition to new dollars, we will need to use every dollar we currently have as wisely as we can, and bring transparency to education funding to demonstrate that we are being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
We know that cost structures for after-school and summer school programs have increased with the increases in the minimum wage but revenues have not increased at the same pace. I will advocate strongly to change this by pushing the state to move more dollars from the current budget to K-12 education and also to identify new revenue streams to better fund our schools.
A public education is an important value of our state; it is enshrined in the state’s constitution. But without adequate funding and support, that commitment rings hollow. This will be a critical focus, as we need to adequately fund our schools to carry out many of the strategies necessary for our schools to be the best.
3. Given the next State Superintendent will play an important role in shaping how Proposition 64 revenue is distributed, how will you ensure that proven youth substance use prevention strategies such as afterschool programs will be supported through this revenue?
Proposition 64 states that the California Department of Education work together with the Health Department to help decide how prevention and intervention funds from Proposition 64 will be spent. As State Superintendent I will proactively reach out the Secretary of Health and the Governor's team to ensure CDE has a strong voice in these decisions. I know that afterschool programs are an important strategy for keeping kids on the right track and we have a responsibility to make sure we invest Proposition 64 revenue in strategies that are evidence-based, and that are supported by parents and the public.
I have been very vocal on the campaign trail that I will fight to get every possible dollar raised through Proposition 64 into our public education system. The proposition requires much of the revenue to be spent on youth programs, including on education and prevention. Our public schools, including after-school and summer programs, are great vehicles for fulfilling that requirement of the initiative, and I will be a strong advocate for making sure those dollars reach our students. One of the reasons we need an educator as State Superintendent, and not just another politician, is we need someone who will always advocate for as much of the state’s budget as possible to go to public education.
4. What will you do to better coordinate and leverage multiple school-age programs administered by the state?
One of the first things I will do as State Superintendent is spend time assessing how CDE is organized and whether we are leveraging our resources as effectively as possible to serve to field. Our state and federal funding for child and youth development should be coordinated to the extent possible, so that we are maximizing every dollar for professional development and capacity building of our workforce. In this assessment, I will make sure we consult with field experts in addition to CDE staff to get advice on what's working and what's not. Right now, early learning, child development and youth development are too siloed, and this is a function both of legislative and budget directives, as well as implementation decisions at CDE. If there are barriers in law or regulation to better maximizing public resources, I will be proactive in solving those challenges with my colleagues in the legislature and in Congress.
When I led the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, we worked with a variety of state and nonprofit organizations to expand opportunities for our students. The state can play an important role in breaking down some of the barriers that exist between our public education system, and other public health and human services, as well as help to streamline the various state-administered programs to ensure they are working together and best meeting the needs of students.
The state can also help districts connect to these services more effectively by taking a number of actions, including: (1) providing more flexibility to schools to integrate outside service providers, (2) helping counties create online communities for service providers and districts to create partnerships, (3) sharing best practices and acting as a convener, bringing together the many private and public organizations to determine where there is alignment and opportunity for partnership.
I have extensive experience working across agencies, as the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools was a collaboration between the City of Los Angeles, the school district, community organizations, and the philanthropic community to turnaround the lowest performing schools. Effective collaboration across multiple entities is one of the reasons we were able to double graduation rates in our schools. I will bring that experience to Sacramento to ensure we are coordinating the programs across different departments and best supporting our children.
Learn more about the candidates from their official campaign websites:
For more about how the candidates would approach other education issues,
watch this debate hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).
These questions were sponsored by the following CA3 member organizations: