Tony Thurmond says his journey makes him the best candidate to lead K-12 education in California

Tony Thurmond wants students to know about his life. He knows adversity.

Thurmond, 49, a candidate for a 4-year-term as state superintendent of public instruction, is a two-term Democratic assemblyman in the San Francisco Bay Area, a former school board member and city councilman from Richmond with a career in social work and nonprofit management.

 

Not on his resume, though, is a childhood full of tragedy. It’s a subject he brings up to introduce himself on the campaign — not just to cite a personal success, which it is, but as a way to credit the adults in his life, especially teachers, who raised his aspirations and helped him along the way. For a candidate running for an office with limited power to make policy but with a big megaphone to influence opinion, Thurmond’s story is compelling.

“I could have ended up in a California state prison; instead I ended up in the California State Assembly. We could create other stories like that; all 6 million of our students deserve a great education,” he said in an interview.

By running for the statewide job — which pays $158,775 — he is giving up his political office. “In spite of being in a very safe seat in the Legislature … I thought about the political legacy I wanted to leave and the chance to make education better. I made the decision to risk it all to help our kids. Our kids are risking a lot and so I am. I’m all in it for them.”

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