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Poll finds equitable funding as biggest issue in Torlakson victory

Vanessa Romo | November 11, 2014

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tuck torlaksonLast week’s election for California Schools Superintendent, was widely framed as a battle between the teacher unions that backed incumbent and victor, Tom Torlakson, and refomers who supported Marshall Tuck. But a new survey suggests voters were more interested in how public schools are funded.

The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners on behalf of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the largest number of voters, 76 percent, cited equity in school funding in deciding whom to vote for, with 76 percent saying it was “important” and with 50 percent considering it “very important.” That latter group favored Torlakson by 57 percent to 43 percent for Tuck, according to the study.

Voters in both major parties favored making school funding more
equitable moving — 90 percent of registered Democrats, 69 percent
of registered Republicans and 78 percent of voters who declined to give a party preference.

Torlakson was the teachers union candidate while Tuck was backed by so-called education reformers. Both their campaigns received record-breaking financial support — an estimated $30 million — from their respective backers, making it the most expensive political contest in the state, almost three-times more expensive than that of the governor’s seat.

The report also showed that 70 percent of voters said that “Stopping Wall Street and corporations from taking over schools for profits” was important in their decision-making process, with 56 percent rating it as a top priority.

But the public seemed split on the issues around teacher tenure and due process. Two-thirds of voters reported that “removing teacher tenure protections” was important in casting a ballot. Yet, nearly the same number said that “preserving due process protections for teachers” was important.

Nearly 4 of 5 Tuck supporters, 79 percent, said they wanted to eliminate teacher tenure protections while 69 percent of Torlakson voters said preserving due process protection was a higher priority.

Other key issues for voters were reducing standardized testing, which 61 percent of voters agreed should change, and increasing the number of charter schools. More than half of voters said they would like to see a boost in charter school options.


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