Torlakson Tied in the Polls, Comes to Davis to Inspire the Troops, Warns of Threat to Public Education

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If Tom Torlakson was jolted by the news earlier in the day that he was in a dead heat with challenger Marshall Tuck for the State Superintendent of Public Instruction position that he has held since 2010, he had to be inspired by what he saw in Davis – a dozen or so, mainly young, volunteers feverishly working the phone lines on behalf of him and other Democratic candidates, including Congressman John Garamendi, at the Democratic Headquarters Office off of Third Street in Davis.

The Field Poll shows Governor Jerry Brown maintaining a 21 point lead, but the State Superintendent’s Race was showing a dead heat. Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo, in a press release, stated that the contest between two Democrats “is really up for grabs,” and “it looks like it will be competitive right to election day.”

The poll finds the two tied at 28 percent apiece, with a stunning 44 percent of likely voters still undecided.

“This is the only race on the ballot where the candidates don’t have a letter after their names,” Mr. DiCamillo said. “That forces voters to find out what their differences are without the benefit of party labels.”

Democratic Central Committee Chair Bob Schelen, in introducing Mr. Torlakson, stated, “Even though his registration says that he’s a Democrat, I’m convinced and I think you guys need to convince people, his opponent actually… wants to destroy public education. (He) wants to make education private and for profit.”

He added that they are using campaign reform “as a guise to destroy public education.” He distinguished the Charter School movement from local Charter Schools like Da Vinci, stating, “Da Vinci is a public charter school, it’s not for profit by these creepy powers of outside influence.”

Tom Torlakson said he was heartened by the number of young people in the room, stating, “The forces that want to – I think – destroy public education, take us backwards, want to privatize, they’re expecting you all to not be here, they’re expecting voters to stay home.”

Mr. Torlakson talked about his after-school program, safe times between 3 and 6 pm, “communities that don’t have these kinds of after-school enriching programs…you see crime triple between 3 and 6 o’clock until the parents get home.”

He also has an initiative called “no child left offline…which is our goal of getting one-to-one connectivity across the school day and at home to close the digital divide, so that all students have the opportunity for these rich learning programs.”

Tom Torlakson noted that, during the recession, 30,000 teachers were laid off, and investment in equipment and the classrooms dropped. “So I fought hard and we worked with the Governor to pass Prop. 30 and we’re investing $6 billion more a year because of that. We’re starting to see a big turn-around because of that. “

He said, “Graduation rates have now been raised to the highest rate in the history of California – it’s 80 percent.” But he added, “I’m not satisfied with 80 percent,” and noted that, for Latino and African-American students, it’s lower than that.

The Field Poll finds that Mr. Torlakson, who began his career as a teacher and a legislator in Contra Costa County, holds a strong 37-23 percent lead in the Bay Area, whereas Mr. Tuck, a Los Angeles charter school executive, holds a 33-23 percent lead in Los Angeles County.

Mr. Torlakson has strong support from the California Teachers Association, rank and file Democratic groups, union households, and Democratic voters who identify themselves as liberal.

On the other hand, Mr. Tuck has backing from Republicans and conservatives, but also holds a lead among non-white groups, including a 33-20 percent margin among Latinos.

“The opposition is clear,” Mr. Torlakson told the volunteers. “My opponent is a former Wall Street banker. I’m a teacher, he’s a banker. Different mindset, different goals.”

“He’s been funded by Walmart, one million bucks,” he continued. “(He’s a) Texas Enron trader who wants to end public pensions, Sort of take away what many of our hard working families have earned, paying into their public pension system.”

“We’re seeing that the Walmart folks are for vouchers.” Mr. Torlakson explained this as a way to take public dollars and put them toward private schools. He said this “weakens the schools that are remaining in the neighborhood and community.”

Mr. Torlakson cited a donation of $2.7 million against him, saying that “you’re seeing this trend of big corporate money coming in. My interpretation is clear: they want to take over public education. They want to privatize it. They see schools as profit centers, I see them as learning centers.”

He acknowledged that he is tied in the polls, despite the fact that “those in the education community know I’ve done great work in the last four years, turning things around, stabilizing funding, and heading us in the right direction.”

He concluded, stating, “If Democrats turn out we win.” If Democrats sit this one out, he won’t win. He warned, “There’s a little complacency going on.”

The following is a video of his remarks:

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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43 thoughts on “Torlakson Tied in the Polls, Comes to Davis to Inspire the Troops, Warns of Threat to Public Education”

  1. Frankly

    He concluded stating, “If Democrats turn out we win.” If Democrats sit this one out, he won’t. He warned, “there’s a little complacency going on.”

    Both candidates are Democrats.   Does he mean “if liberal Democrats sit this one out?”  Because if the Democrats get the voter turnout similar to the last two Presidential elections, that demographic will include a lot of minority voters.  And if the minority voters are informed, they should vote for Tuck.

    But the real absurdity to this statement by Torlakson is the claim of complacency.   If he loses this election, and I hope for California’s more vulnerable students he does, he will have lost exactly because of his complacency accepting the status quo siding with the old union-controlled education establishment.  He will have lost specifically because he failed to implement the education reforms that this state requires.

    1. Davis Progressive

      if you read the analysis on the field poll, it shows you that the bulk of tuck’s support is not from democrats, registration be damned.

      “But the real absurdity to this statement by Torlakson is the claim of complacency.”

      democrats aren’t voting in this election which is why republicans will win in 2014 and then lose in 2016.

       

      1. Barack Palin

        democrats aren’t voting in this election which is why republicans will win in 2014 and then lose in 2016.

        With Hillary making ignorant statements like “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs” I wouldn’t be counting my chickens just yet.

        1. Davis Progressive

          as an unaligned voter, i can gladly say, they’re not my chickens.  that said, it will largely come down to demographics and turnout.  the republican problem is that they haven’t fixed what was wrong in 2012, the voter demographics are fundamentally different this year which will mask their overall deficiencies.  this is 1968 to 1992 in reverse right now.

        2. Barack Palin

          as an unaligned voter

          Now that’s really funny.  I have friends who are staunch Republicans who register as Independent, but they’re hardly unaligned.

        3. Davis Progressive

          not sure why it’s so funny.  used to have a bumpersticker that said, don’t blame me, i voted for nader.  that got me a lot of love during the bush years in davis.

  2. Sam

    He added that they are using campaign reform “as a guise to destroy public education.”

    With the current system in place producing such poorly educated children why wouldn’t you want to make changes? Oh, that’s right, the unions that gave you or spent for you $10,000,000+ to get you re-elected don’t want to make changes. Keep “helping” the little people by keeping this failed education system the way it is so the checks keep rolling in!

  3. Tia Will

    Frankly

    I have no idea what Torlakson meant with the use of the word “Democrat”, but I can tell you what I ( still undecided on my vote) see as the central issue. We as a society are in the process of abandoning our promise of public education in favor of privatization. I do not see this as a benefit unless every student were guaranteed a spot ( without charge to the family ) in a charter school. Obviously this is not the case. I am not happy with the current state of education in our country. But I am certainly not happy with the path of privatization for profit. I object to it philosophically, and I did not find it beneficial on the personal level. This is a tough call and I don’t think it should be reduced to the “good entrepreneur” vs the “evil union”.

    1. Davis Progressive

      really tia?  you’re undecided?  tuck is backed by all the people who want to privatize education, this should be a no-brainer for someone like you.  if you’re undecided, torlakson really is screwed.

      1. Tia Will

        DP and Frankly

         

        Well, I just got back from the tutoring program that my daughter is coordinating in Sacramento. We could be providing much better assistance if we would compensate teachers and program coordinators for the work that they actually do instead of giving them stipends that keeps them below the poverty line.  But we won’t because we have chosen not to support public education. I don’t pretend to know what the best way our of this mess is.

        But I thank you both for your thoughts about how I “must be thinking” about this issue.

  4. Davis Progressive

    so while i’m voting for torlakson mainly because tuck would be a disaster, i hope this serves as a wake up call for the educational establishment.

    1. Mark West

      In a world where a one vote win can be spun into a ‘mandate,’ the only ‘wake up call’ that politicians take note of is losing.  The Education Establishment is no different.  Continue re-electing the politicians they support and there is no reason for change.  The only way that this election will be viewed as a wake up call is if Torlakson loses.

        1. Frankly

          D.P.  Sorry my friend, but you are a major part of the problem.  Your vote for Torlakson is only a vote for the status quo.  You can’t break out of your ideological paradigm and so it is with a lot of voters in this state and so another batch of kids get their lives damaged beyond repair.

          So sad.

           

           

           

        2. Frankly

          Tuck hasn’t advocated for that.  He has advocated for charter schools to replace all the crappy schools.  Your comment is telling of a level of hyperbole… the same that we hear from the establishment protectors.

  5. Gunrocik

    Let’s face it, all of us insiders take a close look at races like this — but then there is the rest of our electorate — the electorate that gave Leland Yee 10 percent of the vote in the primary.  Those are the ones who will decide this race–and given that many of them will decide based on shallow sound bytes over the next five days — not sure any outcome will be a mandate.

    Even here in the world’s most educated city, I will bet you that over half the people you would stop at 2nd & G would have no clue who is running for Superintendent–I will wager that 20% of them don’t even know it is a statewide office.

      1. Gunrocik

        Ignorance is not controlled by either party.  I would argue that both parties are working very hard to recruit loyalists who don’t want to think.  Makes it much easier to be an independent these days — the politics on both sides is very intellectually insulting.

        1. South of Davis

          Gunrocik wrote:

          > Ignorance is not controlled by either party.  

          As one of the small number of people who has been an active member of of campaign staffs working to get multiple Republicans as well as multiple Democrats (and one Libertarian and one Green) elected I’m happy to see that every year more and more people are registering as independents and more and more people are beginning to realize that both mainstream (and every minor) party has its problems.  It is amazing how many right wingers think that every Democrat has a IQ of 80 and would not know what to do if someone put a single use plastic bag over their head while many left wingers think that every Republican has an IQ even lower and has a photo of GW in their home (between the gun rack and photo of Jesus)…

  6. Alan Miller

    “Even though his registration says that he’s a Democrat, I’m convinced and I think you guys need to convince people, his opponent actually… wants to destroy public education. (He) wants to make education private and for profit.”

    Tuck must appreciate the party having his back #snarkasm#.  Isn’t Prop. 14 wonderful?  #snarkasm#.

    1. Frankly

      Proof again that the Democrat Party Machine is about the most noninclusive in history.  Step out of line from the Party demands and get branded as an outsider and opponent.  There really isn’t much progressiveness in the grand old party of the left.  In fact, I reject that label.

      1. Alan Miller

        “Step out of line from the Party demands and get branded as an outsider and opponent.”

        And get a little, teenie office at the Capitol building with no windows and a janitorial sink.

  7. Frankly

    Torlakson’s ONLY material solution for making significant improvements to California schools is to spend more money.

    The U.S. spent $12,608 per student in 2010—more than double the figure, in inflation-adjusted dollars, spent in 1970—and spending on public elementary and secondary schools has surpassed $600 billion. How’s that working out? Adjusted state SAT scores have declined on average 3% since the 1970s, as the Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson found in a March report.

    No better news in the international rankings: The Program for International Student Assessment reports that in 2012 American 15-year-olds placed in the middle of the pack, alongside peers from Slovakia—which shells out half as much money as the U.S. per student.

    There is absolutely zero correlation between spending more and better education outcomes.

    Historically, about 40 percent of the state budget has gone toward education.  That figure has not materially changed from since before prop-13 (pre-1979) and today.

    What has happened is that the economy has rocketed forward demanding better educated workers while the public education system stayed stuck in centuries-old methods that stopped being effective enough 30-40 years ago.   And it just hasn’t stagnated… it has grown crappier.

    From a spending comparison perspective, what has changed is that the state once an economic powerhouse has become comparatively poorer.

    The spending per pupil as a share of the economy gap between California and the US average has remained materially consistent through 2008.  Then the Great Recession combined with economic growth-killing government policies of Democrats and the Obama and Brown administrations… and California per capita GDP and family income is still in the toilet.

    But the inflation-adjusted per student spending today is actually greater than it was when prop-13 passed.  This fact is well hidden by the education establishment that can only demand more money.  We are spending more today per student than we did in 1978.  Yet arts and industrial arts class choices, and sports programs have been cut?  Where has the money gone that should be going to the students?  Where will most of any increase in spending go?  The money goes to the union employees and to more highly compensated administrators… not to benefit the students.

    1. South of Davis

      Frankly wrote:

      > We are spending more today per student than we did in 1978. 

      > Yet arts and industrial arts class choices, and sports programs

      > have been cut?  Where has the money gone 

      It has gone to hire people like “Green Coordinators” and “Diversity Consultants”

      Things were so bad years ago with so much money going toward teaching kids to read and write and schools didn’t have $1,000 recycling stations that we had Indians crying on TV about the environment (and even liberal Democrats were calling them ‘Indians” not “Indigenous People who’s land was stolen by the Evil White Man”)…

      1. Frankly

        There are more administrative employees, teachers make more money, and they all have more expensive benefits… again adjusted for inflation.

        California state government total spending per capita is about middle of the pack compared to all other states.  But the percentage of the state’s budget that goes to education is at the bottom of the pack.  The reason is that California Democrats controlling the state have loaded up on public sector employees and cranked up their pay and retirement benefits so that California is at the top of the list of state government employee costs per capita.

        So when you hear a Governor Brown teammate like Torkalson complain about a lack of funding going to education, he is really complaining about his own political party and his own boss.

        But it does not matter because even if the Democrats send more money to education, it will end up in the education establishment employees’ pockets and the kids will still be without.

        Tuck knows this.  Voters should too.

    2. wdf1

      Frankly: There is absolutely zero correlation between spending more and better education outcomes.

      And educational outcomes here means SAT scores, according to your citation.  SAT scores as an educational outcome are questionable, unless perhaps you use SAT scores as the principal indicator for whether you’d hire someone.

      I spent some time this evening looking at Coulson’s report, and it seems pretty limited as to what he adjusts for in SAT scores.  I don’t see where he adjusts for English as a second language status, special ed. status, or parents’ education level.  And those are just three that I came up with.  I wonder what a more experienced scholar of education would see.

      Also, his graphs suggest that a percent increase in spending on education is equivalent to a change in SAT score at the same scale.  SAT scores don’t scale to a linear rate of improvement with each point of increase.  Source

      This paper also doesn’t appear to have been peer-reviewed under traditional academic standards, meaning by an independent journal publication.

      If you want a source that will say, “There is absolutely zero correlation between spending more and better education outcomes, with some credible professional layout design, then that’s what this paper is for.  But whether that is justifiably true is questionable.

      1. Frankly

        Peer reviewed by members of the establishment?  Why no thanks.  I prefer my facts as facts, not whitewashed PR mascaraded as facts.

        Please show me creditble evidence that there is any material corelation between spending more and better education outcomes.  And while you are at it, please include those Northern European counties who’s education system you admire.

        1. Don Shor

          A newspaper crunches some numbers and finds a correlation between spending levels and graduation rates: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/jul/17/analysis-finds-correlation-between-high-education-/

          Of the top half of states that spend the most on schools, 15 states — or 60 percent — are also among the top half of states with the highest graduation rates.
          The following states spend the most on schools and have among the highest graduation rates: Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
          Two states in particular, Vermont and New Hampshire, are among the top 10 states in both per-pupil spending and the high school graduation rate.
          Of the bottom half of states that spend the least on education, 14 states — or 56 percent — are also among the bottom half of states with the lowest graduation rates.

        2. Don Shor

          Impact of school finance reforms (SFR’s) on long-term outcomes: http://www.nber.org/papers/w20118

          a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school for children from poor families leads to about 0.9 more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty; we find no effects for children from non-poor families.

        3. Frankly

          Don, from the articles you posted:

          From edweek which is an establishment organization:

          the United States spends more on education than any other industrialized country, yet ranks at or below average in the latest international math, science, and reading scores, compared with the world’s most-developed countries.

          By far, the most statistically robust finding in our analysis was the role of increased funding equity in student outcomes.

          Interestingly, our analysis suggests that an improvement in the equity of funding across a state can improve academic performance without any additional spending overall.

          From the Las Vegas Sun:

          Several states buck the trend.

          Eight states saw incredible return on investment for their education dollars.

          These states spend the least on education, but have among the highest graduation rates nationally: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

          In particular, the Lone Star State has the ninth-lowest per-pupil spending nationally but has the third-highest graduation rate in the country.

          There are also several states that saw an extremely poor return on investment for their school dollars.

          The following 10 states spent the most on education but have among the lowest graduation rates nationally: Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and West Virginia.

          In particular, Alaska spends $16,663 per student — the fourth-highest in the country — but has the fourth-lowest graduation in the country.

          From the National Bureau of Economic Research… by the way an organization that claims it is centrist and non-partisan, but has given 100% to Democrat political campaigns. 
          http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2011/03/03/think-tank-employees-tend-to-support-democrats

          We present several pieces of evidence to support a causal interpretation of the estimates.

          Then from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/09/does-spending-more-on-education-improve-academic-achievement

          Simply increasing government spending on education may no longer be a viable option for federal and state policymakers. Furthermore, as this paper demonstrates, simply increasing Education spending does not appear to improve American students’ academic achievement. To improve learning opportunities for American children, policymakers should refocus on allocating resources more efficiently and effectively.

          Many people believe that lack of funding is a problem in public education,[10] but historical trends show that American spending on public education is at an all-time high. Between 1994 and 2004, average per-pupil expenditures in American public schools have increased by 23.5 percent (adjusted for inflation). Between 1984 and 2004, real expenditures per pupil increased by 49 percent.[11] These increases follow the historical trend of ever-increasing real per-student expenditures in the nation’s public schools. In fact, the per-pupil expenditures in 1970-1971 ($4,060) were less than half of per-pupil expenditures in 2005-2006 ($9,266) after adjusting for inflation.[12]

          Appendix A presents the growth of per-pupil expenditures by state compared to the national average. Over the past decade, real expenditures per pupil have increased in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, increasing the most in Vermont (47.5 percent) and the least in Alaska(5.9 percent).

          The data does not correlate with the amount of funding, it correlates with how the money is spent.

          1. Don Shor

            Shifting the goal posts? You said:

            Please show me creditble evidence that there is any material corelation between spending more and better education outcomes.

            I gave you:

            a 20 percent increase in per-pupil spending each year for all 12 years of public school for children from poor families leads to about 0.9 more completed years of education, 25 percent higher earnings, and a 20 percentage-point reduction in the annual incidence of adult poverty; we find no effects for children from non-poor families.

            More spending led to better outcomes for students from poor families.

            The data does not correlate with the amount of funding, it correlates with how the money is spent.

            Yes, and on whom it is spent.

          2. Don Shor

            Now I urge you to please prove the reverse: that reducing school spending would not impact educational outcomes. If there is a fixed ‘pie’ of school funds, and the decision is made to increase funding to one group (poorer students) or siphon off funds to students in private schools (vouchers for students who are already in private schools), can you demonstrate that those changes/reforms would not have an adverse effect on educational outcomes?

            On the other hand, if more revenues are flowing in to the state, and the governor and legislature have directed those increased revenues to education in a manner that benefits poorer students without decreasing the revenues flowing to other students — would that reform tend to improve educational outcomes?

            Thus a progressive use of greater tax revenues to the state would be to improve funding for poorer districts while keeping funding for other districts at least constant.

            Do you support that approach?

        4. wdf1

          Frankly:  Please show me credible evidence that there is any material correlation between spending more and better education outcomes.  

          Assume that your citation is factually true and there is no correlation between spending and educational outcomes.  Clearly you would agree then that it would be a waste to spend any more on education than we already do.  And I think you would be pleased to lower educational spending down to early 1970’s levels, because after all, it should not affect education outcomes.

          But if we’re spending at 1970’s levels with no affect on education outcomes, why not wipe out any spending on education at all?  Because after all it shouldn’t affect education outcomes.

        5. wdf1

          …my point being that spending zero on education and assuming that it will have no affect on education outcomes is as absurd as asserting that spending more on education will have no affect on education outcomes.

          Of course one can absolutely waste additional money on education and get no improvement in educational outcomes.  I think you’ll agree with me that this is what has happened.  For instance we spend all sorts of extra resources on preparation for standardized tests (like the SAT, for instance) because we assert that score is what proves learning is happening and that teachers are effective.  Then of course we get little to no improvement on test scores because students have existential crises over what the whole point of education is and become disengaged.

          And when you hire people, I doubt that you look at their SAT scores.

          Shall I go on about the absurdity of this CATO Institute study?

        6. wdf1

          Here is an example of extra spending on education that has measurable results:

          Tangelo Park Program

          It includes pre-school for all.  If that kind of pre-school program produces those kinds of results (improved graduation rates, improved college matriculation, lower crime rate), why not make that more widespread?

          But notice that they didn’t check SAT scores.

  8. Napoleon Pig IV

    Do you suppose, if asked, that Lovenburg and Roberson, highly esteemed leaders of the status quo in DJUSD, would support Torlakson or Tuck? Oink.

  9. wdf1

    My issue with Marshall Tuck is his apparent affinity for top-down reformism, and I disagree with that approach.  

    Marshall Tuck also criticized Torlakson for not implementing student test scores to evaluate teachers as a part of qualifying for Race to the Top funds.  I’m fine holding off for now on using student test scores in that way.  There have been embarrassing disasters and questionable decisions made elsewhere using student test scores to evaluate teachers.  And if student test scores were questionable for measuring student outcomes for NCLB, then why is it okay to weight them so heavily to judge teacher quality?

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