"https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/carlpetersen/pages/2659/attachments/original/1541002914/Thurmond_for_SPI_Northridge_Indivisible_Questionnaire.pdf?1541002914">I believe that it's time to make our public education system in California among the greatest in the nation, and I have a plan to take us there."
- Tony Thurmond
Like a lot of other politicians who have been labeled "anti-charter school," Tony Thurmond has not called for the end of these publicly funded private schools. In fact, he directly states that he "will support students in all schools, public and charter". What he has supported is "legislation to increase accountability and transparency in charter schools, and to ensure charter schools do not cherry-pick students and push out students with special needs." The charter school industry does not want to be held accountable for the public funds that they receive. They have, therefore, unleashed $5.2 million is spending to oppose Thurmond, often in unethical ways.
The charter industry's massive spending is meant to obscure Thurmond's motivating life story. Like so many other Americans, including my Dad, he found that public "education has been the great equalizer that allowed [him] to overcome humble beginnings." His family was a casualty of war and cancer, and "given [his] upbringing, [he] could have easily ended up in California state prison. Instead, [he] ended up in the California State Assembly." Thurmond has spent his career focused on public education, including running after-school programs and serving as an elected local school board member. He is running for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction to ensure that others have the same opportunities that he had.
While the State Democratic party describes his opponent as a "Republican too scared to actually admit it", Thurmond represents true progressive values. When Betsy DeVos refused to investigate civil rights complaints from transgender students, he used his position to call attention to the injustice. He introduced legislation this year to provide training to educators to better serve LGBTQ students. As Superintendent he pledges to advocate for comprehensive sex-education curriculum, better access to school-based health services, stronger Title IX protections, and access to childcare for public school employees.
Most importantly, Thurmond knows that we cannot improve our public education system if California remains 43rd in per-pupil spending. While his opponent is supported by those want to limit this funding, Thurmond's "top priority is to take California's public education system to number one in the nation in per-pupil spending."
With Trump and DeVos pushing the unregulated privatization of public education at the federal level and the California Charter School Association buying local school boards, public school students need an advocate in Sacramento, someone who plans to have an open door and invites them to hold him accountable. The charter industry has given us politicians like Arne Duncan, John Deasy, Austin Beutner and Ref Rodriguez. They have done everything possible to hasten the decline of public education. Our students need someone who not only believes in public education, they need someone who has lived it.
On Tuesday, I will be voting for Tony Thurmond.
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.