November 2022 Election: Q&A with Lance Christensen, Candidate Superintendent of Public Instruction


There are two candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot for a four-year term as California superintendent of public instruction: Republican education policy officer Lance Christensen and incumbent Democrat Tony Thurmond. Here are Christensen’s responses to a 15-question survey that the San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board emailed candidates.

Q: What about your background makes you the best candidate for this position?

A: I have been active in all aspects of education over the past two decades, ranging from teaching culminating in extensive experience in public policy having worked for several legislators and public policy makers in the government of the United States. ‘State. In my current role, I advocate for education policies focused on student success. Most importantly, I am the father of five school-aged children who experience the challenges of our public education system every day.

Q: What would be your main priorities for the next four years?

A: Education is a fundamental constitutional right. I run to empower parents, improve classroom safety, and fund students, not systems. I will appoint a Senior Parent Advocate in the Department of Education who will be responsible for providing feedback on education policy to parents. We will conduct a ‘Children First’ audit of the Ministry of Education, prioritizing academic achievement and expanded opportunities to ensure students can receive the education that is best for them. I will also be inviting all school board superintendents and administrators in Sacramento to host a forum on the future of education in California so that we can better prepare our children for the 21st century economy.

Q: How will you use the bully pulpit of your position to advance these priorities?

A: Many of the education reforms we need will not happen overnight. However, I will use the tools available to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to have a public conversation with school boards, administrators and teachers. Incumbent doesn’t even have an official government website to receive comments and all of its social media pages are private campaign pages. This approach does not invite dialogue. I will solicit reactions from the public and I will have regular availability for the media and the press as well as for the general public. I will also be a vocal critic of the Legislative Assembly and the Governor when they advocate policies and budgets that do not directly improve our education system.

Q: What is the biggest challenge facing the public education system in California, and how would you overcome it?

A: Entrenched vested interests that have controlled our school boards, teachers, and curricula that protect the status quo rather than reward excellence. Changing misplaced priorities and pursuing proven models will be necessary to overcome the deeply entrenched status quo.

Q: You have proposed suspending any “problematic curriculum process – including the mathematical framework and critical race theory (disguised as ethnic studies)”. What makes a curriculum process problematic in your opinion?

A: Currently, eighth graders do math at the fifth grade level. It does not work. A curriculum that does not teach basic measurable educational qualities will inherently divert valuable instructional time. At a time when California is last in literacy, replacing reading, writing, and math with programs unrelated to school materials is problematic. Let’s focus on the basics and master them rather than getting into complex issues of race and sexuality that confuse most adults in our country.

Q: How would you advise schools to approach the pandemic at this stage of it?

A: The emergency is over. All mandates must be terminated. We have spent the last two years experimenting with our children’s education, health, psyche and future with new and ever-changing guidelines that only set our students back further and further. Learning loss is reaching unprecedented levels, and we may have lost an entire generation with the government’s response to the pandemic. All schools must return to full in-person instruction.

Q: How would you handle parental concerns, such as those recently expressed about public school curricula and public health mandates?

A: This is an area where I would rely on input from a parent liaison officer and consult with local district officials and parent groups. We would also start all assessments with parents first and then develop them with professionals. Parents should be the first to be consulted, not the last to automatically approve. I run to empower parents and put kids first.

Q: The pandemic has exacerbated learning loss and developmental delays for many students. What is your proposal to remedy this in the short term and in the long term?

A: In the short term, I would immediately lift all mandates under my control and encourage all districts to require teachers to return to classrooms for in-person instruction. Unfortunately, we may not know the true harm that remote learning and other mandates have caused our students for years to come. I would explore revamping existing budgeted programs to include accelerated educational programs, expanded tutoring, and similar programs designed to upgrade students and overcome their learning loss.

Q: The achievement gap is pervasive despite growing attention to it. What would you suggest to close the disparity in academic performance between low-income students and students of color, and wealthier white peers?

A: California is expected to spend $23,000 per student this year, but many students in many communities are not getting a $23,000 worth education. We need to fund students and fund their education, not fund a failed system that dooms them to failing schools. Expanding educational opportunities for all students using existing funds would significantly level the playing field and increase the quality of education at all levels. This means that charter schools should be encouraged and where additional mentoring and tutoring can be helpful, we are shifting resources there.

Q: What steps would you take to protect students, teachers and staff from gun violence? Do you support the presence of armed security guards or teachers on campus?

A: The use of School Resource Officers through local public safety agencies such as police departments and sheriff’s departments is something that should not only be invited, but welcomed, on our campuses. . Well-trained peace officers on campus are essential to providing a safe and secure learning environment. I also urge schools to work with law enforcement to develop school safety plans that include safer perimeters and protocols when threats are made against the school, staff, or students.

Q: There are concerns about traditional student assessment and whether standard grading is fair to all students. How should schools prepare students for college? What would you change in California?

A: There are many basic parameters and subjects that can be used as basic baseline assessments. The elimination of standardized tests only compounds the problem. Students should be encouraged to be the best readers, writers, historians, and mathematicians they can be in preparation for their desired field of study. Where there are gaps, schools should provide targeted resources to focus on testing issues or gaps. School counselors should be familiar with what it takes to get into a variety of universities and be honest with their students about what different universities are looking for, as these priorities change every year.

Q: The Local Control Funding Formula, approved in 2013, was supposed to provide funds to directly help English language learners, foster children and students from poor families. Some say the funds were diverted to other uses. Should LCFF funds be used for teacher salaries? If yes, why? If not, what would you do about it?

A: The LCFF was supposed to reduce mandatory expenditures by category which did not give districts enough flexibility. Since then, the LCFF has been burdened with heavy demands that undermine its original mission. I would have a conversation with local administrators to assess their concerns in various districts across the state and bring them to the Legislature and the Governor’s team to see how we could best address local funding issues.

Q: What role do you think charter schools should have in the school system?

A: Charter schools are public schools and are an integral part of our education system to provide new and different ways of learning that can unlock unique potential for students who thrive in different areas of learning. Additionally, charter schools provide educational opportunities and choices for students. We must continue to encourage and support charter schools that continue to provide these opportunities.

Q: What is your position on Proposition 1, which would establish Californians’ rights to abortion and contraceptives in the state Constitution?

A: Abortion is already legal in California. I believe Proposition 1 goes too far, and its adoption would result in California spending millions of dollars that could otherwise fund key education spending initiatives. I oppose it.

Q: Why should voters elect you over your opponent?

A: Incumbent Tony Thurmond represents the status quo of a failing education system in California that has left Californians behind in literacy in the entire country. Superintendent Thurmond was appointed by the very special interests that have ruled Sacramento for the past half century, showing that our schools have gone from the envy of the nation to a punchline. Thurmond refuses to debate me on the merits or to defend his case despite my repeated invitations.

I have worked on public policy and education reform for almost two decades. I deliver real tangible change and hope to be measured by my track record if elected to do the job. Our schools are too important to continue to be left behind. I will disrupt the chess system and change the status quo.


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