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SteinbergJohnson2.JPGSacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who has spearheaded a series of education reform initiatives during his two terms in office, waded into the state superintendent of public instruction race Tuesday, backing upstart challenger Marshall Tuck.

Tuck, a former charter schools executive from Los Angeles and a political rookie, faces incumbent Tom Torlakson and Long Beach teacher Lydia Gutierrez for the nonpartisan post. He is running on a plan to jump start California's perennially low-ranking schools with proposals such as greater curriculum flexibility for local districts, a longer teacher tenure process and an increased role for parents in Sacramento's education policy-making.

"As Mayor, I know firsthand how important local control and parent involvement are for our schools," Johnson said in a statement. "Marshall has demonstrated through both his work opening new charter schools and turning around failing schools in some of LA's toughest neighborhoods that he has the vision and experience needed to bring major change to California public schools."

Tuck most recently served for six years as head of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a nonprofit that took over 17 of the city's lowest-performing campuses beginning in 2008. The Partnership was a signature program of former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who endorsed Tuck last month.

Several of Tuck's proposals, particularly using student test scores in teacher evaluations and eliminating seniority-based layoffs, are strongly opposed by teachers but touted by education reformers like Johnson and his wife Michelle Rhee, a former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools who now runs advocacy group StudentsFirst.

PHOTO: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson clasps hands with California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in April following the announcement that the NBA would not allow the Kings to move to Seattle. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer



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