An inner split within the Democratic Party has gone public, as the race for the post of California state superintendent of public instruction is pitting labor groups, notably the nations’ teachers’ unions, against education-reform supporters.
Tom Torlakson, the current superintendent, opposes the Vergara decision that ruled California’s teacher tenure and seniority laws as unconstitutional, thus eliciting support from the California Teachers Association and its union friends nationwide. The CTA has spent almost $7 million supporting Torlakson.
Marshall Tuck, Torlakson’s opponent, a former charter school executive, supports the Vergara decision, and is backed by civil rights organizations, parents’ groups and hi-tech Silicon Valley supporters. Parents and Teachers for Tuck for State Superintendent 2014 offered Tuck the most support; other contributors include real estate developer William Bloomfield Jr., Broad Foundation founder Eli Broad, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The amount of money spent on the race has been staggering, according to Reuters; a total of $30 million, roughly triple what has been spent in the state’s gubernatorial election. The intraparty battle between labor and hi-tech does not bode well for the Democratic party in 2016, even though the post itself does not carry any real political power.
What concerns the teachers’ unions is that the ripple effect of the race could affect teachers’ unions around the country. After the Vergara decision was handed down, eight New York families filed a lawsuit (Wright v. New York) that wanted to reduce the scope of tenure for teachers, and other lawsuits started popping up in other states.
Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown, as expected, opposed Vergara, while his GOP opponent, Neel Kashkari, championed it.
Latest polls show Tuck and Torlakson tied, with support from 28% of likely voters. 44% of voters still were undecided.