Applicant

Superintendent of Public Instruction

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Applicant Lance Christensen is asking you to hire him for the role of superintendent of public instruction, which pays $189,841 per year. His resume:

Lance Christensen

EDUCATION POLICY EXECUTIVE

Professional Profile

Christensen, a father of five school-aged children, has been active in local and state politics for nearly two decades. He has been a state budget analyst, a political staffer in the Legislature and a volunteer assistant chairperson of the Facilities, Transportation & Finance Committee at the San Juan Unified School District.

His current full-time work at the California Policy Center focuses on getting parents more active in local government. He helps run virtual training sessions for parents seeking to run for local school boards. He partners with Let Them Breathe, an organization that advocates for parental rights and against COVID mask and vaccine mandates.

Christensen eked his way out of the June primary as a vocal critic of incumbent Tony Thurmond, who he said could have played a more active role in helping local school leaders navigate the pandemic.

Experience

Chief operations officer and vice president of education policy and government relations, California Policy Center

2021-present

Oversees policy for conservative think tank based in Orange County.

Led a push for reopening schools during the pandemic.

Advocates for charter schools at the state Capitol.

Provides resources for public employees seeking to leave their unions.

Chief of staff and senior policy advisor, state Sen. John Moorlach’s office

2015-2020

Advised on all policy, fiscal and legislative issues for the Orange County Republican. 

Supervised all personnel issues in the Capitol and district offices.

Oversaw communications strategy and media relations.

Policy consultant, Senate Republican Caucus

2008-2013

Served as consultant on the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.

Analyzed bills and negotiated amendments related to water and energy.

Assistant finance budget analyst, California Department of Finance

2005-2006

Ensured that juvenile detention centers were getting adequate funding for educational programs.

References

  • California Republican Party
  • Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
  • Reopen California Schools
  • U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock
  • State Assemblymember Kevin Kiley

Fun Fact

Christensen worked as a student reporter for Channel One News with Anderson Cooper and Lisa Ling.

“Saying Tony Thurmond played a support-role during the pandemic is very generous. He was a nonentity.”

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Here’s where Lance Christensen stands on the big questions about California education.

Key Topics
Where Lance Christensen Stands on the Issues
The job
COVID impact
Money
Students
Teachers

The state superintendent of public instruction oversees a public education system serving more than 6 million K-12 students.

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What are your two top priorities in the post?

Restoring academic success and preparing kids for the 21st work century are my top priorities. To accommodate that, my first hire would be a Chief Parent Advocate as my deputy superintendent. Parents must have a seat at the table. I would also confirm that our current statutory and fiscal approach is aligned with the state constitution and local preferences as they apply to school site budgets, curricula, and discipline. We need to fund students, not systems.

How would you work with the governor and Legislature?

I will work with the governor and any legislator who advocates for parents and students as their top priority. I would also like to move as much decision-making authority from Sacramento to the local school districts to empower trustees and superintendents to make the best decisions for families and students in their community.

How would you collaborate with local school officials?

I will prioritize transparency and local control. It’s time to eliminate Sacramento’s bureaucratic bloat. Soon after taking office, I will invite every district and county trustee and superintendent in the state to Sacramento for a public forum to discuss our respective constitutional and statutory authorities and collaborate on the need for adjustments, realignment, or reforms.

How would you address declining enrollment? What adjustments do you support in funding based on attendance?

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How would you address declining enrollment? What adjustments do you support in funding based on attendance?

Parents have been leaving California schools for years, but the pandemic revealed how rapidly public education has declined. The only way to fix it is to restore trust in the system. Parents need to feel like each of their kids is uniquely valued and provided the right kind of resources and programs to have academic success. Students cannot continue to be treated as economic units placed on a conveyor belt.

Do you support statewide masking rules? Or should local school districts decide?

I do not support mask mandates in schools. The decision should be left up to parents. Should parents feel like their child needs to wear a mask, or if the student feels so inclined, then that is their choice and they should be afforded the opportunity to do so.

Should public or private charter schools play a bigger role?

I believe in the right of a parent to choose any forum to educate their kids, public, public charter, private or homeschool. As a father of five kids, all of whom have spent every year of their academic career in public schools — district and charter — we value choice in education. Private schools and private home schools are legitimate options for parents who desire different things for their children.

There’s an increasing debate whether the state’s extra investment in schools with poorer students is paying off. School districts are under fire for not disclosing more about their spending, including how they used COVID relief money

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Is the state’s formula for channeling more money to schools with more low-income students working? If not, how to fix it?

California ranks near the bottom of nearly every academic metric when compared with the other 49 states despite spending more than $20,000 per kid. There are no serious studies that demonstrate measures to direct more money to economically disadvantaged neighborhoods are actually improving academic outcomes. California’s education funding system is failing a whole generation of students. The complexity of Proposition 98 and the Local Control Funding Formula is too complicated and hasn’t accomplished the goals of empowering local district budgeting. The state needs to consider broader reforms to allow more resources and money to follow the students.

How would you increase transparency to the public on local school district spending?

To increase transparency on education spending, I would put every district’s budget and annual audited financial report on the Department of Education’s website. Attached to their pages would be standard metrics such as administrative costs, district salaries and benefits; bond revenue/payments; capital improvements; pension and retiree healthcare payments; unfunded liabilities; discretionary spending, etc. We need to track how much federal funding is coming into our systems and what it is paid for. I would also publish the expenses of the Department of Education in a searchable format as a model for other state agencies and departments.

The achievement gap for students of color has stubbornly persisted, while a proposed new framework for teaching math has sparked criticism and controversy.

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How would you reduce the “achievement gap” for students of color?

Give parents choices and resources to send their kids to schools that actually care about them. Once parents start moving their kids to other schools, the local district will either improve its educational processes quickly or be replaced by the voters at the ballot box.

Do you support the proposed framework for teaching math?

No. It’s a sham and that’s why 1,200 academics, math professors, and Nobel laureates pushed so hard against the framework causing the superintendent to pull it back for “review” until after the November general election.

The state is facing a severe teacher shortage that was only worsened by the pandemic, including a lack of substitute teachers that is hitting poor students the hardest.

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How would you address the teacher shortage in the short term? In the long term?

To fix the teacher shortage, the Legislature needs to immediately restore discipline in the classroom by reforming the law that strips teachers and principals of their ability to control their classrooms. It’s time to prohibit collective bargaining. Other states limit the power that teachers’ unions have and still provide necessary protections for good teachers. Principals should be able to dismiss poor teachers with reasonable protections for the teachers who may be mistreated by their administration. Additionally, we should allow districts to pay teachers more money based on metrics they develop. We need to simplify the credentialing process for professionals so they can teach in the classroom after weeks, not years.

Do you support increasing teacher pay? What is your position on limits on using pandemic aid for teacher salaries?

Yes! Pay good teachers what they are worth. If we’re spending approximately $23,000 per kid with an average of 25 students per classroom, that’s around $575,000 in that classroom. We can eliminate other unnecessary mandates and costs that don’t improve our classrooms and pay good teachers a six-figure salary. We can also accommodate teachers who deal with difficult situations or challenging cohorts of students. Conversely, those teachers who are poor educators should be let go. If teachers feel like they are being fairly compensated, their classrooms will reflect excellence and encourage more students to participate in our public schools.