In March, in a Globe exclusive, Lance Christensen announced his candidacy for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “What would a kids-first audit of the education code look like?” he asked.
Indeed. That is his priority.
Lance Christensen, father of five, policy wonk and Vice President of the California Policy Center think tank, has seen two decades of California education and budgetary policy experience, thus making him eminently qualified for the role as state schools superintendent.
Christensen’s priorities are simple: put all students first and give parents a bigger voice.
Yet the Sacramento Bee editorial board, which specifies the need for a policy wonk in the role, in a recent quasi-endorsement of the incumbent, says Christensen isn’t qualified because he’s a “conservative activist.”
The Bee editors berate incumbent Tony Thurmond throughout their post editorial meeting op ed, and then strangely endorse him.
The Bee lambastes Thurmond’s management and policy skills, scold him for the record turnover in his “toxic workplace” office, and blister his “hiring” decisions including his “Superintendent of Equity” Daniel Lee, who was forced to resign his $180,000-per-year job, while working in Pennsylvania.
The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board said:
“Consequently, Thurmond has presided over an exodus of experienced policy leadership from the California Department of Education, which he oversees. He’s been accused of creating a “toxic workplace” and generated media exposés littered with critics who found his management and policy credentials wanting. Thurmond has also shown terrible judgment in hiring. He recruited an old friend to fill a deputy superintendent post that paid nearly $180,000, for example — even though his pal was living in Pennsylvania.”
As the Globe reported in December 2021, Thurmond foolishly defended Daniel Lee’s hiring saying he was the best person for the job, never explaining why someone from Philadelphia was working for California’s schools, or why Lee’s position was never publicly posted, or how someone who already had a business in another state could serve as California’s full-time “Superintendent of Equity.”
Christensen told the Globe he was in 7 California counties last week meeting with parent groups and campaigning. He’s been to 27 counties for in-person events. “We really have serious, irate parents out there, and their school districts have cast them aside,” Christensen said in a Globe interview. He said the parents he’s meeting with have moved well beyond frustrated with their school districts and school boards, and now want and need a State Schools Superintendent who will listen to them.
Christensen said he’s been accused of “pushing slavery” because he says parents are in charge of and responsible for their children until they leave at age 18.
“I want my kids to be educated by intelligent teachers,” he said. But parents don’t want teachers raising their kids. And that is a distinction many in education don’t seem to understand.
Christensen said C.S. Lewis writes about a speech he once gave about teachers, which best sums up his own philosophy:
“Their intentions might be honorable. Even so, they are sadly misguided, for they have misunderstood the pressing educational need of the moment. They see the world around them swayed by emotional propaganda—they have learned from tradition that youth is sentimental—and they conclude that the best thing they can do is to fortify the minds of young people against emotion. My own experience as a teacher tells an opposite tale. For every one pupil who needs to be guarded from a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts.”
“The vast majority of teachers are really good, but are stuck in the soft bigotry of low expectations,” Christensen said. “And really bad teachers who abuse kids by indoctrinating them are protected by the teachers unions. Why?”
The SacBee editorial board is critical of Tony Thurmond, and says he has poor judgment, and then say the job cries out for a policy wonk.
Lance Christensen has 20 years of policy experience working in and out of the State Capitol, and Department of Finance, as well as a Masters Degree in Public Policy from Pepperdine University:
Lance taught 4th grade as an educational assistant in Aurora Public Schools in Colorado, and then went to Pepperdine for his Masters. Lance has over his 15 years as a legislative consultant in the State Senate. While a finance budget analyst for the Department of Finance, Lance oversaw the budget of the newly formed Department of Juvenile Justice and helped develop Proposition 98 education funding for schools in the various juvenile correctional facilities so that students could receive an education and not return to the criminal justice system.
The Bee editors acknowledge “the superintendent all but disappeared during the pandemic,” and then gift Thurmond the excuse, “partly because most of the authority in such a crisis falls to the governor and Legislature.”
There was no excuse for Thurmond’s silence during the nearly two years of school lockdowns, and ongoing cruel school mask and vaccine mandates. Tony Thurmond could have and should have fought the governor against the long term lockdowns, distance learning, zoom classes, and kids falling so far behind, education experts say California public school kids lost 20 IQ points, and it will take years to make this up.
Christensen warns that many people have lived in nostalgia for their public school education system too long, and are only now realizing that today’s version is a far cry from the public schools which once were the envy of the nation.
California ranks 50th in literacy. We are failing our children. “An educated populace is what the founders wanted,” Christensen said. “California is the worst state in literacy in the country. We read behind Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. How is this possible – we are the richest state in the richest country in the world, and we can’t teach our kids to read.”
Christensen says the literacy programs of the last 20 years haven’t worked and is especially critical of the whole language program, which is “junk science” that replaced phonics. Christensen says this is the reason parents have to be added back into the equation. “Our state universities need to revise what they are teaching future teachers,” he says. “Engaging parents has to be the first step, not the last.”
The Bee editorial board appeared desperate to criticize Lance Christensen for something, so they claim because Christensen told Thurmond he should apologize for public school closings during the pandemic, “That means he is either ignorant of the fact that the closures were up to other officials or he doesn’t care, neither of which is good. Christensen also seemed to have trouble justifiably criticizing excessive school closures without wrongly suggesting that pandemic precautions were broadly unnecessary.”
Apparently how dare a father of five school-aged kids criticize the State Schools Superintendent for closing schools for two years. But there is an important distinction to be made: it was teachers’ unions agitating for school closures, and the governor and state school officials, including the Superintendent, who kept the state’s public schools closed for two years.
Perhaps the strangest aspect to the Bee editorial board meeting is that it doesn’t even closely resemble their written version of the meeting. (You can watch the editorial meeting here). It’s really odd. Even Christensen said it was a really good editorial board meeting, but is not reflected in their written editorial.
As for the November 8th election, Christensen said California voters can make a difference for their kids and grandkids’ schools and to be sure to vote. This is one election where every vote matters. And if voters are uncomfortable with mailing in their ballot, take it to the nearest polling station or county voter registrations and elections office, which also has links to local polling stations. And take your neighbors’ ballots for them. Make sure everyone you know votes.
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