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2018 election

California Teachers Assn. votes to endorse Gavin Newsom for governor

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks with participants of a march in Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles commemorating the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide in April. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks with participants of a march in Pan Pacific Park in Los Angeles commemorating the 102nd anniversary of the Armenian genocide in April. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The politically influential California Teachers Assn. on Saturday endorsed Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for governor, praising his support for public schools and his promise to hold charter schools more accountable.

“Gavin has long supported increased funding for education and is committed to making investing in students a top priority as governor,” CTA President Eric Heins said in a written statement Saturday. “He supports a public education system that attracts, not attacks, teachers, universal preschool and affordable college for all.”

The move is not entirely surprising given the antagonism between one of Newsom’s top Democratic rivals, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and teachers unions in California.

Villaraigosa launched his career as a union organizer, including for United Teachers Los Angeles, and labor played a critical role in getting him elected to office. But after he tried to gain control of Los Angeles schools, he questioned policies fiercely guarded by teachers unions, such as seniority protections that resulted in regular layoff notices to younger teachers who tend to staff the most challenging schools. He grew to support using student test scores to evaluate teachers and other overhauls opposed by union leaders.

Villaraigosa, who eventually gained control of more than a dozen struggling city schools through a nonprofit, ultimately blasted the city’s teachers union where he once worked as “the largest obstacle to creating quality schools.”

The teachers association also passed over Democrat Delaine Eastin, a long-shot candidate who jumped into the 2018 governor’s race last year. Eastin, who served as California's state superintendent of public instruction, has vowed to put education at the forefront of her campaign.

The key question going forward is how much CTA plans to invest in the governor’s race and how it plans to spend it. In 2014, the union spent $12 million to defeat Marshall Tuck, a huge sum in an obscure race to be state superintendent of public instruction. A Democrat and former charter school leader, Tuck was hired by Villaraigosa to run the nonprofit that oversaw his schools.

Tuck, who narrowly lost his race in 2014 against an incumbent, is running for state superintendent again in 2018. CTA on Saturday also endorsed his opponent, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond).

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