No summer vacation for SPI fundraisers

No summer vacation for SPI fundraisers

(Calif.) After a rigorous June primary, candidates and consultants typically use the summer months for planning before kicking off the final run toward November after the Labor Day holiday.

But Marshall Tuck and Tony Thurmond, running a neck and neck race for state schools chief, were both busy raising hundreds of thousands of dollars through June and July, according to disclosure statements released earlier this week.

Tuck, the favorite of the charter movement, continued to maintain the lead by bringing in almost $427,000 this summer. Thurmond, a sitting state Assemblyman from Richmond who has the backing of employee unions, raised nearly $365,000 over the same period.

Tuck, who won the June 5 primary by almost 87,000 votes, started the year with almost $1.6 million and has added another $1.1 million since.

Thurmond began the year with $1.1 million and he has taken in another $700,000.

While the spending might seem out of place given that the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction actually has very little authority over education policy in the state, the money raised and spent by the candidates this fall is likely to pale in comparison to that of outside groups.

In independent campaign committee sponsored by EdVoice, which supports Tuck, spent more than $6.3 million in the primary.

An independent committee supporting Thurmond, with ties to the California Teachers Association, spent $3.1 million leading up to the June election.

There is little to suggest that outside spending will not once again dominate the race come November.

Four years ago, independent committees spent close to $5 million in the race between Tuck and Tom Torlakson, the current superintendent.

The struggle between charter supporters and the traditional public school advocates is not a new one. The CTA, which has played a dominate role in Capitol politics for decades, has been critical of the charter movement almost since it began in the early 1990s.

Sacramento-based EdVoice, along with the California Charter Schools Association, are also not newcomers to the political scene. Among their financial supporters over the years have been people including Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, Silicon Valley investment banker John Doerr, and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

But the political landscape has changed dramatically in the past two years. First with the election of Donald Trump as president and his appointment of Betsy DeVos, pro-charter enthusiast, as Secretary of Education. Then more recently, and perhaps more important to politics in California, the conservative majority U.S. Supreme Court drastically curtailed the fundraising ability for public employee unions in case decided in June.

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