Big Money Donors Lose Big in California State Superintendent Race

Torlakson Victory spells out an uncertain future for the Vergara case in California and across the nation



The recent race for California State Superintendent was a perfect example of the education policy battle going on across the country. The divide is not between Republicans and Democrats, it is within parties - both Torlakson and Tuck are Democrats. It is on issues such as charter schools, standardized testing and tenure. The Network for Public Education endorsed incumbent former educator Tom Torlakson against his challenger, 2006 Broad Residency Alumni Marshall Tuck.


Three times more money was spent in California's State Superintendent's race than in the race for Governor. EdSource reports that as of November 3rd well over $26 million was spent by outside groups.

We wrote in a previous post that the reason for the overwhelming outpouring of BIG money in the race was this year's Vergara decision, which declared teacher tenure in the state of California unconstitutional. The California Teachers Association has a very helpful guide to common myths about due process rights in California, including the myth that "tenure is a job for life."


The truth is that teachers have permanent status, not tenure. Within permanent status there is a procedure for dismissing teachers which guarantees due process and impartial consideration of the facts when disagreement about the facts exists. 


Not surprisingly, Torlakson and Tuck are on opposite sides of the ruling. Torlakson, as State Superintendent, appealed the ruling, while Tuck not only promised to uphold Vegara if elected, he praised the decision as "a major victory for California's students, and a repudiation of the failed Sacramento status quo."  


Tuck's Vergara position attracted millions in contributions from anti-tenure, pro-privatization forces from around the country.


Here at NPE, we decided to dig deep into the millions contributed to Tuck, and what we found was nothing short of astounding. 


It didn't take long to uncover that the top contributor in the race, William E. Bloomfield (AKA Bill), was no stranger to Vergara. Bloomfield, a California businessman, entrepreneur, and self proclaimed "education advocate," was a major supporter of the Vergara decision. He also supports Students Matter, the non profit group founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch, who is the driving force behind Vergara. Students Matter has spent untold sums of money, mostly Welch's, to bring the Vergara case to trial, and to spread cases like it across the nation. 




David Welch himself made a $6,000 contribution directly to Tuck's campaign, as did RALLY, the "issues advocacy firm" that "manages all communication, coalition building and strategy" for Welch's Students Matter. The Students Matter website states that the Rally campaign "leverages the lawsuit as a platform to reframe the debate around education reform."


Electing Tuck to the State Superintendent's position certainly would have helped in that effort.


Heavy hitters in the "education reform" movement, namely Broad, Walton and Fisher, really stepped up to the plate for Tuck by donating millions to multiple Independent Expenditure Committees, (AKA Super PACs) as well as smaller direct contributions to Tuck's campaign. The biggest Super PAC contributing to Tuck was the deceptively named "Parents and Teachers for Tuck for State Superintendent, 2014." The Super PAC's funding came from no less than a baker's

dozen of privatization focused billionaires, and assorted elites from the financial and technology sectors, with a net contribution of almost 10 million dollars. 


Parents and Teachers for Tuck also received contributions from a host of other Super PACs with names like Parents and Teachers for Putting Students First, Education Matters, EDVOICE, and Great Public Schools for Los Angeles. A closer look at these Super PACs tells us that they too are funded by essentially the same cast of characters behind Parents and Teachers for Tuck, with additional millions from the Broad, Fisher and Walton families lining the coffers of each of the Super PACs. 


But you'd be hard pressed to find a public school parent or teacher who contributed to any of the Super PACs for Tuck.


Follow the Money Behind Tuck

In all these billionaire backed PACs put an additional $300,000 back into the heavy hitting Parents and Teachers for Tuck PAC. 


One of the PACs, Education Matters, was entirely funded by $250,000 from California real estate developer Stephen Chamberlin and his wife Susan. Education Matters contributed $105,000 to Parents and Teachers for Tuck, and the Chamberlins contributed in excess of $125,000 total to Parents and Teachers for Tuck and directly to Tuck's campaign, for a grand total of almost a quarter of a million dollars.


Click here to see and download the full size graphic of some of the major contributors and you too can follow the millions that failed to elect Tuck!

Torlakson joins a growing list of examples of pro public education candidates, such as Bill de Blasio in New York City and Ras Baraka in Newark, whose education policies have inspired education reform forces nationwide to contribute millions to try to defeat them - and fail. 


Here at NPE we believe that Tuck's defeat is a major blow to the forces behind Vergara. The outcome of this election will make it infinitely harder for the decision to stand on appeal, and for the decision to gain momentum as similar cases spring up in other cities in other states. 


In the aftermath of the Citizens United decision it has become abundantly clear that corporate money has played a tremendous role in elections at all levels in all parts of the country. There seems to be something particularly sordid however about privatization leaning individuals with deep pockets attempting to buy school board candidates and state superintendents to implement reforms that meet their worldview, while hiding behind Super PACs with names that imply they represent the interests of parents, teachers and students.


What do you think? 


Should the super rich be allowed to contribute unheard of sums to the elected school official of their choice? Officials who are responsible for setting policy that effects the direction of the future of education for our children?

#GivingTuesday is one week away!

In recent years the days after Thanksgiving have been marked by an excessive focus on consumerism, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday dominating the nation's collective consciousness.

Now, thanks to #GivingTuesday, there is a way to provide balance, and to extend the time to give thanks and show gratitude. 

This December 2nd, #GivingTuesday is a day to show your support for those that give back. NPE will be launching a #GivingTuesday Thunderclap. As NPE President Diane Ravitch has said, NPE supporters rule social media because "we have thousands of passionate educators, students, parents and citizens across the country who care deeply about our schools."

We hope you will show your support for our mission to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system by participating in our Thunderclap and donating what you can. We look forward to bringing you our second annual National Conference in Chicago in April, and your contributions will help make that event possible.

On #GivingTuesday, please #Give2NPE, or if you prefer, you can make a donation now using the link below.

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