California’s schools are burning down, and teachers union leaders bring the gasoline

Eric Green

Summer Fellow

Eric Green
May 12, 2022

California’s schools are burning down, and teachers union leaders bring the gasoline

In just three days in early May, California’s teachers unions opened the vault and moved $1.2 million into Tony Thurmond’s campaign for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Thurmond has earned their favor. In nearly four years as the incumbent, he has advanced the unions’ demands to end charter schools, and endorsed teacher strikes — which, in every case, led to school closures and, where the strikes were successful, pressure for higher taxes, greater public debt, and expanded union control over teacher discipline. In every case, it’s poor families who, trapped in failing school districts and facing higher taxes, will bear the burden.

The recent cash gusher came from just three sources. The California School Employees Association and the California Teachers Association each gave Thurmond $500,000. The California Federation of Teachers gave him Tony $200,000. The contributions were tracked on California Policy Center’s Twitter bot, “Union Watch” (@CalUnionWatch).

Lance Christensen, Thurmond’s only real opponent in the race, has brought in a total of just $21,201. (Full disclosure: Christensen is a colleague at the California Policy Center.)

Massive disparities like this one used to have liberals demanding campaign-finance reform. Decrying “dark money,” they campaigned for limits on political contributions from “wealthy” individuals or “powerful” corporations. The legal corruption at the heart of California’s politics — the near total control of statewide offices by union-backed candidates — is the real dark money.

These days, Thurmond is dealing with a problem of his — and the unions’ — creation: with California’s population in an unprecedented downturn, and many parents pulling their children out of the state’s public schools, Thurmond has hidden behind that last refuge of scoundrels, a task force. Thurmond says his will “be intentional about understanding the why behind the drops and the sharing of ideas and local efforts that we may contemplate scaling to make a real difference.”.

We can save him the effort of such “intentional” understanding: he’s responsible, and resigning might be his most significant contribution to restoring the state’s K-12 schools.


Eric Green is California Policy Center summer fellow and a student in the Pepperdine School of Public Policy.


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