Educators work to reelect Tom Torlakson
The Primary Election on June 3 includes a number of candidates, but no races are more important for educators than those for governor and superintendent of public instruction.
Gov. Brown partnered with CFT to pass Proposition 30 in November 2012, providing new resources for strapped schools and colleges after seven years of devastating cuts.
Tom Torlakson seeks reelection as the state superintendent. A former teacher and state legislator, he believes the state should collaborate with educators, not attack them. His record of supporting students, educators and public education, including Prop. 30, is praiseworthy. Torlakson has:
- Fought for and won a field test to implement the new Smarter Balance assessments, giving students a one-year hiatus from high-stakes testing;
- Stood with community college instructors, staff and students against the unfair practices of the Accrediting Commission of Community and Junior Colleges;
- Worked to expand early childhood education and career and technical education.
Despite his record of achievements, Torlakson faces a tough campaign from privatization interests making yet another attempt to take over the California Department of Education. The candidate of these special interests is former Green Dot CEO Marshall Tuck, backed by the millionaires who focus their attention on dismantling public schools.
Before recommending candidates, the CFT examines the records of incumbents and interviews challengers. Betty Yee, endorsed for the office of controller, is highly qualified to serve, having performed admirably on the State Board of Equalization. As secretary of state, Derek Cressman will make sure that every vote counts. He is a good-government reformer who led Common Cause for many years.
— By Kenneth Burt, CFT Political Director
When board members and unions are allied
Two school board members — Steve Zimmer from Los Angeles Unified and Lynda Johnson from ABC Unified — joined union leaders who helped elect them to talk about the importance of board members working with the union during a panel discussion at the CFT Convention.
The reelection of Zimmer last year was a particular triumph since outside money, including a million dollars from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, went into the campaign to defeat him. Zimmer was a teacher and counselor in Los Angeles Unified for 17 years before being elected to the board.
Betty Forester, AFT vice president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said the local counteracted the negative narrative of Zimmer as a “lap dog” for the unions by building relationships with people who lived in the district and worked in the schools. She called Zimmer a bridge builder.
“I just believe there’s absolutely no daylight between being an advocate for students and being an advocate for teachers and staff,” said Zimmer. “There’s a false divide, and I tried to expose that fiction.”
Ray Gaer, president of the ABC Federation of Teachers, said he learned the importance of communication between education unions and school board members during a successful nine-day strike in 1993.
“If you have a good relationship with the school board, you win,” he said. “It sets the stage to hire like-minded superintendents.”
Johnson says she reaches out to collaborate with teachers. “We have no hidden agenda,” she said. “There’s open communication, and I try to be available and approachable.”
Jim Miller, political director of the AFT Guild at San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community Colleges, said his union starts early to recruit candidates and all the trustees in his district have been supported by the union. Not stopping there, the local links the interests of the union to broader social justice issues, such as raising the minimum wage.
“We need to have a larger vision to survive and prosper,” Miller said. “Students who don’t make a living wage drop classes because they have to get a second job.”
— By Emily Wilson, CFT Reporter
Find the union’s local and statewide endorsements tailored to your local ballot simply by entering your home address into the online CFT voter guide. In just seconds, you will find a personalized list of pro-educator, pro-labor candidates in your area on any device that connects to the Internet.
Governor Jerry Brown
Lt. Governor Gavin Newson
Attorney General Kamala Harris
Secretary of State Derek Cressman
State Treasurer John Chiang
State Controller Betty Yee
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson
YES Proposition 41
Authorizes $600 million in general obligation bonds for affordable multi-family supportive housing to relieve homelessness, affordable transitional and rental housing, or related facilities for veterans and their families.
YES Proposition 42
Requires local government compliance with laws providing for public access to local government body meetings and records of government officials.