Superintendent of Public Instruction

About CalMatters | Support this guide

The State of California is seeking a chief of schools to oversee a public education system serving more than 6 million K-12 students. 


  • Managerial know-how needed to oversee the more than 2,700 employees in the California Department of Education
  • Deep knowledge of education policy and finance, as well as the needs of diverse student groups
  • Experience managing task forces and grant programs targeting priorities such as Black student achievement and student mental health
  • Progressive-leaning applicants should push for more school funding, especially for schools in lower-income communities, and cultivate alliances with teacher and staff unions. Conservative-leaning applicants should advocate for school choice and support charter schools.


$189,841 a year

About the hiring process:

Unlike other statewide offices, this is a nonpartisan race and a candidate can win the election in June by winning a majority of the votes. If no one does, the top two vote-getters will face each other in November. 

The 2018 runoff election became one of the state’s most hotly contested races, with union-backed candidate Tony Thurmond narrowly defeating school choice advocate Marshall Tuck. The two candidates spent an estimated $60 million combined.

Since the start of the pandemic, however, Thurmond and the California Department of Education have mostly taken a back seat in key decision-making on school reopenings and safety protocols, deferring to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health. In late 2021, Thurmond was thrust into the spotlight as reports from Politico described mismanagement and former staff accused him of cultivating a toxic work environment that led to high turnover. One of his top deputies resigned after the agency confirmed he was living in Philadelphia. 

Thurmond, however, has endorsements from the California Democratic Party, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the California Teachers Association

Thurmond is being challenged by Marco Amaral from San Diego County and George Yang from the Bay Area. Amaral is the board president of the South Bay Union School District. The son of Mexican immigrants, his platform includes increased funding for schools, ending standardized testing and paying teachers at least $70,000 a year and school staff a minimum of $25 an hour. Yang is an engineer and has one child who attends public school and a second who attends Catholic school. His platform includes establishing partnerships with private companies to develop after-school programs. 


Show More Applicants
Loading campaign finance data…

Media Endorsements

Lance Christensen

Tony Thurmond