Remember when $1.9 million dollars was spent to (unsuccessfully) unseat school board member Steve Zimmer? Remember when triumphant school board member Mónica Ratliff was outspent 28:1? How about when outsiders fruitlessly splotched 35 times more on negative campaigning dollars against board member Bennett Kayser than his opposite? Or what about that extra 700 thousand dollars beyond his opponent sunk into the attempt to ditch George McKenna?

Who thinks it’s that important to influence school board elections, giving over and over and over again to causes the voters repeatedly shoot down? Who asserts this kind of urgency?

It’s some of the same folks now setting their sights on the office of State Superintendent For Instruction. And this time you’d better sit down before reading on because the figures are just stunning. Chump change perhaps for elite multi-millionaires, but for us mere citizens only vaguely attuned to this obscure bureaucratic office, it ought to be a real eye-opener. Marshall Tuck’s campaign filed notice with Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office last week on contributions from “Parents and Teachers For…” totaling $5.72 million dollars.

Further, this total, astonishing as it is, is not even what is most jaw-dropping: the contributors’ list is. Not only who is on it, but who is not. This elite roster of contributors is composed of just 22 participants. And labels notwithstanding, rather few of these would seem to be teachers while of those who are parents, presumably none of them actually sullied their offspring in the public education system to be overseen by this office. This is a very short list of very high rollers with awfully specific designs on the public school system intended to serve all the rest of us.

Let’s run down those twenty two. Their donations range from $1,000 to three orders of magnitude greater: $1,000,000. The average donation is $260K +/- $295K. Leaders of the “PACK” Eli Broad and fellow real estate magnate William E Bloomfield, Jr. are tied in their zeal to topple Tom Torlakson, investing $1m each into his challenger’s zealous pursuit of Public School Privatizing. $250K-$500K was given by eight well known investors, “philanthropists”, real estate moguls and hedge fund managers: Arthur Rock, Cyrus Hadidi, Richard Lundquist, John Arnold, Alice Walton, Carrie Penner, Doris Fisher and Laurene Powell Jobs.

The remaining dozen contributors seemingly include an actual parent, a few astroturf/partisan EdReform organizations, some out-of-state energy and Big Pharma interests (?) and the predictable assortment of venture capitalists: Ellen Rosenberg, William Ausfahl, EdVoice, Jonathan Sackler, Great Pub Schools PAC, Par/Teachers 4 Putting Stu’s First, Stacy Schusterman, Tench Coxe, Frank Baxter, Ronald Conway and Susan Chamberlain. It is left as an exercise for the reader to enunciate further these very special interests, because they are not numerous, and they are not exotic: this fight has been on-going for a goodly while. Neoliberal warriors actively engaging our middle class and the public purse are demonstrably convinced of the imperative to seat their man Tuck in this state’s top public education position.

But the story gets bigger. That $5.7m is itself a subset of just 7 contributing entities filed as “late independent expenditures” of $11,671,948.83 ($11.7m) blasted headlong into the path of teacher Torlakson. Over $2m of this was devoted to negative campaigning against Torlakson and a distinct $1m+ was donated all over again by dirty laundry tycoon inheritor William Bloomfield Jr. Presumably this was all legal as it is duly filed with the Secretary of State, but at the same time, it clearly violates the spirit of campaign financing limitations.

Compare this largesse with Torlakson’s contributors.

During the same period of time, 14 bona fide professional collectives of teachers and education administrators contributed $5.2m to Torlakson’s campaign, less than half the total of his adversary among twice as many groups. And his are people engaged in the actual pedagogy of education and not its business. The names of these entities say it all: these are not financial speculators but academicians. Their collaboration even in some instances is labeled with that term anathema to the plutocrats arrayed against them: “union”. But this term is no more meaningful than the label of an organization that binds professionals of like mind and interests together. It is less pernicious than the commonality of “financier”, which characterizes the high rolling supporters, and it is far less relevant to the race in question.

A comparable subset of these 14 groups includes actual, real, teachers, parents and ordinary others; in short, education system end-users: writers and dentists and secretaries and (arts) media executives and architects; attorneys, realtors, school board member, IT techs, farmers, dean, business owner, principal, contractor, homemaker, consultant, historian, CEOs, state senator, student – it’s a really fun list, it’s all of us. All of the rest of us, that is. There are 1106 contributors within one of these groups, listing 241 professions with an average donation of $2,150 +/- $4K ranging from $25 to $27,200 . Torlakson’s supporters – citizens of all stripes, with an emphasis on those with an actual, functional stake in the system, chip in at a rate two orders of magnitude less than his opponent’s.

Torlakson is the people’s choice because Torlakson is a public servant. One who used to teach, one popularly elected to administer our public education system.

His opponent fronts a host of wholly different pretentions. Marshall Tuck is public school enemy #1, a doer in the quest to drain public school coffers into privately held charter school accounts. Tuck – whose name I hesitate to validate by typing it – is an Education Grifter (“edushyster“?), skilled at skimming the slick blades of astroturf rather than getting down into the weeds of what really makes a school work. His record is abysmal, his claims to success superficial. At best. But he is the anointed of the 1%, garnering one peculiar endorsement after another from papers that should be on record despising his ilk.

There is no choice at all in this race if you have an interest in bettering public education. TOM TORLAKSON is interested in administering public education to the public, one and all. His opponent is on the payroll of ones with an opposite agenda. Together they would ‘divide’ one and all into separate camps, draining public monies toward private charters while refraining from endowing their educational mandate, so as to ‘conquer’ resistance to privatizing the public trust.

If you are a member of the public,
vote TOM TORLAKSON for Superintendent of Public Instruction