A Los Angeles Superior Court judge wrote in June that California laws governing teacher tenure, dismissals and layoffs have left grossly ineffective teachers in the classroom, unconstitutionally depriving children in poor communities of an equal education.

When the two remaining candidates for state superintendent of public instruction, both Democrats, discuss the case, it highlights why voters should replace incumbent Tom Torlakson with innovative education administrator Marshall Tuck.

Torlakson panders to the politically powerful California Teachers Association by defending the status quo. Tuck advocates for immediate changes and understands what must be done.

With an MBA from Harvard, Tuck could have made big bucks running a top company. Instead, he has focused on education, leading since 2007 a nonprofit organization that worked with former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to successfully turn around 17 low-performing schools.

Rather than embrace Tuck's success, Torlakson demonized him with a campaign ad labeling the challenger a "Wall Street banker." It's a worn-out campaign cliché. In fact, Tuck worked as a Salomon Brothers financial analyst in Los Angeles from 1995-97, starting when he was 22 years old. He next taught underprivileged students in remote rural villages of Zimbabwe and Thailand.


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But that doesn't fit Torlakson's slimy narrative. He'd rather attack Tuck than fix the state's education system. He certainly doesn't want to address the issues raised by Judge Rolf Treu's tentative ruling.

California teachers are tenured after just 18 months on the job. The torturous process for firing ineffective teachers is so complex, lengthy and costly that many districts are reluctant to even try. And seniority dictates which teachers are laid off when money is tight, no matter how superior the junior teacher, nor ineffective the senior.

This absurd system disproportionately affects poor districts, and it lowers the bar for all. To be sure, the vast majority of teachers work hard for low pay often in very challenging environments. But, as Judge Treu concluded, thousands of poor performers remain.

Torlakson, a defendant in the case, says he will await the judge's final ruling before deciding whether to appeal. That's right: Rather than working to fix the system now, he contemplates fighting further to defend it.

Tuck promises, if elected, to drop any appeal the incumbent might file. He advocates a longer teacher review period like in 41 of the 46 states with tenure; a less cumbersome dismissal process like for most other California state workers; and a layoff system that considers performance.

The superintendent should use the office as a bully pulpit for change. Only one of the candidates fully appreciates the need for it. We recommend voters select Marshall Tuck.