Tony Thurmond Tony Thurmond

Tony Thurmond stands with CSEA to fight for our students and protect our schools


In this November's election for Superintendent of Public Instruction, dedicated public servant and Assemblymember Tony Thurmond will face off against billionaire-backed, charter school ally Marshall Tuck. What's at stake is an opportunity for a full-press effort to privatize our public schools.

This race is of crucial importance to CSEA’s 240,000 members, the 6 million students we serve, and the belief that a fair and appropriate public education is key to opportunity and prosperity for all Californians. Only one candidate shares our commitment to students and the power of their potential: Tony Thurmond. He took a moment to talk with us about public schools and why he’s so passionate about protecting them. Here’s Tony, in his own words:

Q. Why do you want to be Superintendent of Public Instruction?

A. I am passionate about improving public schools because it was my public school education that prepared me for my 20-year career as a social worker, and inspired me to serve on the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board, the Richmond City Council, and now in the California State Assembly. Without public education, my story could have been much different.

My mother, an immigrant from Panama, raised four kids alone until she lost her battle with cancer. At age 6, I left California to live with a cousin in Philadelphia I’d never met. I grew up on food stamps and the free lunch program. I didn’t dream of going to college, but I got a great public education and the folks who worked at my school who knew me encouraged me to apply.

Education was the great equalizer in my life, and I want every child in California to have opportunities like I had through public education. That’s why I’ve devoted my career to helping kids, and that’s why I’m running for Superintendent of Public Instruction. I believe that it’s time to make California’s public education system the greatest in the nation, and I won’t stop until we get there.

Q. What is your vision for the California Public Education system?

A. People tell me all the time: why don’t you just focus on the students who show promise? I reject that line of thinking. I believe every student can achieve. I envision a California public education system which meets every student’s needs and prepares all our kids for success in the 21st Century economy. I hope you will check out my website to read my detailed plan for California’s public schools. Q. What are the biggest issues facing our schools? A. California is the fifth wealthiest economy in the world, yet we are 46th in the nation in per-pupil spending. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is threatening to divert even more funding from public schools. As Superintendent, my top priorities will be increasing funding for public education and pushing back against DeVos’ plans to undermine public education. The success of our students depends on it.

Q. Tell us about some of the differences between you and your opponent in November.

A. The most important differences that separate me from my opponent are experience and support. I’m the only candidate who has actually increased state funding for public education, who has served on a school board, and who has experience working with California’s 120 legislators and the Governor to get results for schools. I’m also the only candidate supported by public school teachers and school employees. My opponent is backed by billionaires, many of them tied to Betsy DeVos, who have a special agenda to privatize public education.

Q. Classified school employees are the backbone of public education. Do you have any ideas about how to better support us as we serve our students?

A. Having worked in schools and served as a school board member, I know firsthand how important classified school employees are to the culture and success of a school. As Superintendent, I will ensure the classified voice is present in all relevant decision-making processes, and I will fight to ensure school employees can do their jobs safely and successfully. As Chair of the Assembly Labor Committee, I’ve always fought for living wages, fair work rules, and family leave for all workers. Just one example is my bill AB 670 which extends classified employee status to part-time playground workers.

Q. What can we do to make our schools places where students can learn and staff can work without fear of violence, bullying and other safety threats?

A. Nothing is more important than the safety of our students and school employees. My heart breaks for the communities who have lost children and loved ones to gun violence in schools. I’ve been working with school districts across the state to provide school gun violence prevention training with the Sandy Hook Foundation. I’ve also introduced legislation to provide school-based mental health services and counseling to help students who are struggling with trauma, behavioral issues, and other mental health issues.

As a parent to two daughters in public schools, bullying is another issue that deeply concerns me. I’ve led statewide roundtables to discuss how educators, including school employees, can combat bullying and promote tolerance in the classroom. I’ve introduced legislation to help educators better support LGBTQ students, who are more likely to be bullied. Every student deserves the freedom to feel safe and accepted at school so that they can succeed.

Q. How can we in California continue to support, protect and nurture our diverse student population so that all California kids have the opportunity to succeed?

A. I’m committed to closing the achievement gap for students of color, English learners, and all students with specialized needs. My plan includes greater investment in ethnic studies, bilingual education, and special education. I’m fighting for more funding for early education and afterschool programs to help all students get started on the same foot and receive the extra support they need. I’m proud to have led the effort to ensure every foster youth in California receives a college scholarship, and I’ll continue to support free community college and affordability for CSU and UC students. My vision is an education system that represents the diversity that makes our state so great.

Contact your field office to see how you can be a part of Tony Thurmond’s victory in November.

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How CSEA's endorsement process works

Candidates are selected by CSEA’s Political Action for Classified Employees (PACE) Committee for recommendation to the CSEA Board of Directors, with CSEA Board Members making the official endorsement. The PACE recommendations are based on candidates’ voting records, answers to CSEA’s questionnaires and candidate interviews or some combination. Candidates are rated for such recommendation based on issues of importance to CSEA, including school and community college funding, retirement benefit protections, healthcare reform, workers’ rights and other issues impacting CSEA members in their work place.