The Globe recently broke the news that Lance Christensen announced he is running for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction against current office holder Tony Thurmond.
Since last month, Christensen’s campaign has been a whirlwind of activity around the state. And he’s been very open about his campaign platform including plans to: reclassify an existing executive advisor within the Superintendent’s office as the Chief Parent Advocate; assemble a Red Team Task Force to recommend substantive changes to the Education Code through a public process; invite every school board trustee and district superintendent in the state to a town hall in Sacramento within the first month of his administration to discuss respective constitutional authorities and responsibilities.
There are 944 school districts in the state; some are huge and some are tiny. “You cannot centralize education,” Christensen said. “It has to be localized.”
As the father of five school-aged kids in high school down to early elementary school, Christensen’s family is a mixture of public school and home schooling. Christensen starts his platform discussion with: “What would a kids-first audit of the education code look like?”
“Our founders said the purpose of an education is to create civic beings,” Christensen told the Globe. “We don’t have that now.”
That’s quite a contrast to the current Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, hand chosen by the California Teachers Association labor union.
Christensen also notes that Thurmond has been missing-in-action for the last couple of years during COVID. “Where was Tony Thurmond during the shutdowns?” Christensen asked. “He should have been fighting the governor every day. I would have been in front of the press daily, pushing back and encouraging individual School District Superintendents to push back on the shutdowns.”
As Christensen recently asked in an op ed:
- What has the current Superintendent of Public Instruction actually accomplished in the last 3 and a half years that has improved the education of our children?
- Why have so many staffers left the Superintendent’s office in the last few years? Is there a lack of leadership, vision or management style? Could the culture of the office be improved and focused on the needs of the children, rather than the political future of its leader?
In a Globe interview Wednesday, Christensen said another disturbing issue with Thurmond is that the current Schools Superintendent has “ripped off” Christensen’s campaign platform and is using the positions as his own.
“The last three to four major proposals by Thurmond are lifted from my campaign website,” Christensen said. “I’m flattered that these ideas are so popular that he has to take them as his own. But I’ve been listening to parents all along.”
One of the most blatant issues Christensen said Thurmond borrowed, is he announced that the California Department of Education is going to launch a Parent Advisory Council – one of Christensen’s platform issues. “But these parent ‘volunteers’ will be paid,” Christensen said. “A ‘paid’ parent advisory council of ‘volunteers…'”
“The goal is for a council of diverse parents that will directly work with policymakers and educational partners to provide equitable change to California’s education system through authentic parent voices. Are these ‘educational partners’ the teachers’ unions that have imperiled our children’s educational outcomes?” Christensen asked.
“Parents can apply for this 2-year position and may be compensated as a “volunteer” with taxpayer dollars. In some places, this is called ‘vote-buying.’ In California, it’s just another weekday. If you, as a pro-parent advocate, apply and are selected, it is likely that you will be outnumbered by those with a political and a pro-union agenda,” he added.
“Tony Thurmond announces a state task force to combat declining student enrollment. They are going to look at population, birth rates, and housing costs, specifically in urban areas,” Christensen said. “However, if Thurmond had decided to watch or attend any of the hundreds of school board meetings throughout the state, at any given week, he would have quickly understood why parents are pulling their kids out of public schools. He would have also seen parents who were concerned with the closing of schools, frustrated over Zoom instruction, angry about the lack of IEP services, apprehensive about the learning loss, panicked over the mental health challenges many kids faced without their social network, upset about lost scholarship opportunities and so much more.”
“Thurmond is inviting over 1,000 school districts and charter schools to a meeting on May 20th, ‘to discuss statewide and school-wide efforts to ensure all students learn to read by third grade.’ On the one hand, Thurmond has been incrementally dismantling charter schools as district public schools produce poorer results in the same neighborhoods. Now, he wants to invite charters to discuss literacy. It shows just how backward his agenda is,” Christensen said.
“Tony Thurmond made a campaign promise in 2018 to heavily regulate Charter Schools,” for the CTA, Christensen said. “He’s made good on that promise.”
Christensen also said that some major media outlets have flat-out ignored his candidacy. He’s received 12 endorsements total so far; 11 from the Southern California News Group and one from the Bakersfield Californian, but can’t get several of the other major news organizations to return his calls or emails.
“Voters know that a parent-focused elected official for this position could alleviate many of the challenges they face on a local level,” Christensen said. “Yet back in Thurmond’s office, what was he doing while parents were not being heard, or rallying on the steps of the capitol? He was marching to the heavy beat of the union drums, a beat that impeded the sounds he should have been listening to all along — parents.”