Torlakson-Tuck rakes in the bucks

Oct 27, 2014

The Torlakson-Tuck race for State Superintendent of Education continues to be the most interesting statewide race of 2014.  For an office that usually sees little attention – or campaign spending -  the I.E. dough is piling up.  Alexei Koseff counts the numbers in the Sacramento Bee.


“Incumbent Tom Torlakson had slightly more cash on hand than challenger Marshall Tuck heading into the final weeks of the heated race for state superintendent of public instruction, according to their latest campaign finance reports. But the close contest could come down to outside spending, which has topped $10 million since the beginning of October, more than for any other elected office in California this fall.”


Why is all that money flowing into a usually a sleepy race?  Many see a proxy battle between charter school advocates and teachers’ unions that will have national implicationsSeema Mehta has the story in the Los Angeles Times.


“The result could reverberate far beyond California.


"’The politics and the symbolism are tremendous, both for the [unions and] the reformers,’ said Dan Schnur, executive director of USC's Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics. ‘Whichever side wins this relatively low-profile office gets a huge leg up in the broader debate over education policy.’"


And, speaking of charter schools, one of the biggest charter school organizations in the U.S.  has announced plans to double enrollment in the Los Angeles area.  From Howard Blume, also in the Times. 


“KIPP LA now operates 11 schools that serve about 4,000 students; by 2020, the organization wants to grow to 9,000 students in 20 schools.


“The nonprofit is associated with a national umbrella organization called KIPP Schools, which oversees 162 campuses that enroll 58,000 students in 31 regions.”


And, because teachers don’t have enough to worry about… Ed Mendel reports that CalSTRS, the teachers’ pension fund, is forecast to perform below expectations over the next decade, meaning possible rate increases for pension contributions.  From



“The CalSTRS board was told this month that financial experts are forecasting investment earnings of 7 percent a year or less during the next decade, below the 7.5 percent assumed by the pension fund.


“If the new forecast turns out to be correct, long-sought legislation in June that phases in a $5 billion CalSTRS rate increase over the next seven years could fall short of the goal of projecting full funding in three decades.”


Since we’re looking at pensions and education, here’s a good time to link to a handy set of infographics (we used to just say ‘charts’) recently issued by the LAO that present “information about the current state budget (2014-15) and compares the level of spending and revenues assumed in the current budget to historical levels since 1950-51.”


Here are a couple of looks at Proposition 48, which would allow the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to establish an off-reservation casino – and set a trend for future tribal gaming policy.  John Howard counts up the bucks for and against for Capitol Weekly, and George Skelton has the big picture in the Los Angeles Times


“It's not just about an isolated tribe in the Sierra foothills trying to build a casino down in the San Joaquin Valley off California 99 near the economically stressed city of Madera. It's about the precedent of establishing off-reservation Indian gambling halls in population centers….


“Don't look for goodness and righteousness on either side of this bitter brawl. There is a small segment worried about the spreading illness of gambling addiction. But mostly, this fight is over who gets to rake in money from gambling winnings.”


With the splits between doctors and lawyers over Prop 46 and between school reform advocates and teachers’ unions in Torlakson-Tuck you could argue that this is the year California democrats turned on each other.  Add one more issue that’s dividing dems:  yes means yes.  From Matt Pearce in the Times:


“Consider it a clash between those who believe the law is too intrusive and those who believe intrusiveness is the entire point.


“College officials and politicians across the country have struggled over how to fight sexual assaults on campuses, which is why Vox's Ezra Klein supports California's law — even though he calls it ‘terrible.’


"’If the Yes Means Yes law is taken even remotely seriously, it will settle like a cold winter on college campuses, throwing everyday sexual practice into doubt and creating a haze of fear and confusion over what counts as consent. This is the case against it, and this is also the case for it,’ Klein writes.”


After a long stretch of delays, California’s High Speed Rail appears to be back on track.  Dorothy Mills-Gregg has the story at Capitol Weekly.


“California’s $67.5 billion bullet train has been described as “off-track” so long that some thought it was permanently derailed.


“In fact, the outlook has brightened: A series of court decisions, a move by Gov. Brown to pump money into the effort and an awakening interest from high-dollar investors has given the huge project new momentum.”


And, in Washington, Bakersfield Republican and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy makes a pitch for a less polarized, more functional congress – with a GOP-led Senate, of course.  Jake Sherman reports for Politico.


“McCarthy’s vision is a departure from the last four years under former Majority Leader Eric Cantor, when brinksmanship and dysfunction ruled. Now, alienated voters must be won back to have a shot at the White House in 2016.


“’My belief is you have one chance to make a first impression,’ McCarthy said, as his black SUV crawled eastward on Long Island. ‘From the very first day after the election, we should be laying out to the American public what the expectations are. Why make two different agendas?’”


And, finally, happy birthday to President Theodore Roosevelt, born this day in 1858.  Naturalist, author, statesman, war hero, explorer, Nobel prize winner – there are many ways we could memorialize the 26th president today, but there is one incident that most captures the essence of TR: that time he was shot in the chest in an assassination attempt - but insisted on giving his scheduled 90-minute campaign speech anyway.   


“Theodore Roosevelt’s opening line was hardly remarkable for a presidential campaign speech: ‘Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible.’ His second line, however, was a bombshell.


“’I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.’


“Clearly, Roosevelt had buried the lede. The horrified audience in the Milwaukee Auditorium on October 14, 1912, gasped as the former president unbuttoned his vest to reveal his bloodstained shirt. ‘It takes more than that to kill a bull moose,’ the wounded candidate assured them.”


h/t to



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