By Miriam Raftery
October 5,2009 (San Diego)—“Our schools have been left to fall to the bottom of rankings in the nation,” Tom Torlakson told delegates at the San Diego Grassroots Convention in San Diego on September 26th. “In the early ‘70s, we were the best in the nation.”
Gloria Romero, also running for the state’s top education spot, also issued a call to turn around California’s underperforming schools. “It’s shameful that California leads the nation in drop-outs,” she said. “Let’s put education at the top of the Democratic agenda.” She called education “the civil rights issue of our time.” She added, “My mother had a sixth grade education. I have a PhD. That’s the power of education to turn around a life…We spend more on prisons to locok up people than we do on educating our students.”
Torlakson is currently a member of the state Assembly from Contra Costa County. He serves on the Assembly Education Committee and chairs the Assembly Select Committee on Schools and Education. He is a former science teacher who has also served as a fireman in the U.S. Merchant Marine service.
Romero is a State Senator representing East Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley areas. She was the first woman to serve as Majority Leader and currently chairs the Senate Education Committee as well as the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Education. She has taught at every level of higher, was named Outstanding Faculty Member by Associated Students at Cal State Los Angeles, and served as Vice President of the L.A. Community College Board of Trustees, the nation’s largest community college district.
Torlakson also pledged to combat the drop-out rate, make education more relevant and increase outreach to state schools. “I’m a teacher. I will fight for California, so every child can fulfill their dream,” he said. Torlakson added.
He has authored a bill that would provide healthcare for every child in California, funded through tobacco taxes. He has also urged the Governor to direct stimulus funds to help schools
Romero noted that 60% of African American students and the majority of Latino students in California fall below federal achievement standards. “We’ve got to turn around under performing schools,” she said. Romero also wants to see state educational bureaucracy downsized, return of decision-making to local entities, and stronger parental involvement.
Her website calls for strengthening teaching at all levels, investment in a “world-class” system of data and information, and modernization of high schools to instill a new set of three R’s: rigor, relevance, and readiness. “We’ve got to get our students ready for the workforce and prepared for college,” she concluded.