NARRATOR: On a Saturday in August at University of California, Davis’ Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, participants of the Youth Power Summit filed into the auditorium. They were there to watch the candidates for California Superintendent of Public Instruction, whom advanced from the primaries in June, take part in a forum lead by youth, many of whom are system-impacted.
Randy Villegas, a graduate student in politics at University of California, Santa Cruz, moderated the the event that had both candidates, Marshall Tuck and Tony Thurmond, present.
RANDY VILLEGAS: Our questions were all come up by our youth advisory committee. So it was basically a committee formed of youth and youth-serving organization that helped come up with these questions, and it was truly an amazing process, because, as you heard, each one of these individuals not only asks a question, but most of them also had a very personal story to share, and a way in which they had been affected by this question.
Tuck is formerly the CEO of Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, which creates a public-private partnership between Los Angeles Unified School District and the Partnership to help struggling schools succeed, and formerly the president of Green Dot Public Schools, a chain of charter schools. Tuck remains on the board of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, according to their website. After the forum, he remarked that the public school system isn’t working.
MARSHALL TUCK: Our public school system isn’t working, and the youth just give you a really strong energy and inspiration to say, we all gotta keep fighting harder and harder, because these stories are unacceptable.
The stories Tuck mentions are the ones that accompanied the questions asked by the youth advisory committee, as Villegas mentioned before.
Thurmond is a social worker of 20 years who has worked in education, along with positions on the Richmond City Council, West Contra Costa County School Board, and now the California State Assembly, where he represents the 15th District, which includes parts of Alameda County and Contra Costa County. As an Assemblymember, Thurmond is member of the education committee and the human services committee.
TONY THURMOND: What I appreciate is that they added the student perspective, and I think that, if you’re serving students you should be listening to students, and so I’ll be really just working with some of the student groups who were here today to make sure that we implement policies in a more student friendly way. […] I think that young people are showing us that they have ideas and leadership that can be helpful. […] I’ll invite as many of these groups that will be willing to meet with me to help us shape policy and what we talk about on the campaign. We’re happy to expand our coalition to work with many of the groups that were here today.
As of Nov. 2, Tuck’s website does not have a clear policy for “Supporting Our Most Vulnerable Students,” naming different marginalized groups that public schools need to support. “Addressing these inequities must be a top priority for California,” the page reads, “LCFF has been a good start but there is a lot more to do. We need focused, differentiated strategies to serve our most vulnerable and lowest performing student groups including differentiated funding, targeted professional development for educators, expanded social and emotional support and, when relevant, expanded learning time.” Though the page outlines Tuck’s goals, it does not address how those goals will be achieved.
Thurmond’s website, which calls a similar policy directive as “Keeping Kids In Schools and Out of Prisons,” outlines his assembly bill history, including Assembly Bill 1488, which was written with input from incarcerated youth. The page also states, “As Superintendent, I will: Work tirelessly to end the school-to-prison pipeline [and] divert funds from our criminal justice system to support programs to address chronic absenteeism (truancy), reform school disciplinary practices to reduce suspensions, and provide universal preschool and after-school programs.”
The California general election takes place on Nov. 6.