Tony Thurmond took his oath of office as California’s 28th Superintendent of Public Instruction last Monday, saying that it is an honor to lead the state’s 6.2 million students and more than 10,000 schools.
He said his own life story underscored the vital need for all students, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or immigration status, to have a first-class education.
“I grew up in poverty and without my parents,” he said. “But I was raised by a cousin, an amazing woman, who made certain that I got a great education. That’s what got me where I am today, and that’s what I want for my two daughters and all students. I pledge to devote all my energy, talent, experience, and all the powers of my office to ensure all students get a great education.
“But I need help. I’m asking everyone to join me. Help with your local schools. If you can, find a way to be a mentor, a volunteer or contribute to a fundraiser.”
Thurmond, a former Assembly member, was a social worker who worked in nonprofits and served on the West Contra Costa County school board and as a member of the Richmond City Council.
He said that schools face many difficult challenges.
“As I traveled the state this past year, I saw many good things happening in schools, and I saw that many educators and students are working very hard. But we must do better,” Thurmond said. “We must reduce the achievement gap and supply social services to children whose needs outside of the classroom are not being met. We cannot rest when so many of our students are falling short of meeting our high academic standards. We have to work harder and smarter for every student.”
Thurmond’s plan for improving schools includes lifting California from the bottom end of per-student spending to the top end. “Providing more money to our schools helps our students, our communities and our economy. But most of all it helps create a bright future for our state,” he said.
His plan also includes the following:
- Keeping schools safe by reducing gun violence.
- Providing school-based mental and physical health services to ensure that students get the care they need and come to school healthy, alert and ready to learn.
- Expanding access to early education and after school programs to help reduce the achievement gap.
- Making college and career pathways accessible to all students.
- Alleviating the teacher shortage so that all schools have highly trained and certified teachers.
- Improving the type of student data available to allow better research and analysis of student learning.
- Renewing the commitment to helping English learners acquire the language skills they need rapidly, while retaining their native language.