Announces bid for state superintendent of public instruction after Convention

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) didn’t have an easy start in life. His father abandoned the family, and his mother, a Panamanian immigrant, died of cancer when he was six.

Calling education “the great equalizer” that made it possible for him to become a state legislator, Thurmond talked about the cousin in Philadelphia who took him and a brother in after his mom died.

“She raised us as her sons and saved my life,” he said about his cousin, adding that she modeled education as the way out of poverty. “She worked a lot of jobs and went to night school. She was a nurse’s aide and a shop steward. I was on the picket line as a teenager, and I knew right away my walk was going to be with labor and people who fight for working people.”

Thurmond went on to be a social worker, earning a dual master’s degree from Bryn Mawr College in social work and law. He served on the Richmond City Council in the East Bay and on the West Contra Costa Unified School Board before becoming a legislator.

Thurmond spoke about the importance of school staff and how he relied on them when working in schools.

“The school secretary was my best friend — she always knew where the principal was, so I always knew where the principal was,” he said. “And custodians, you better know how to work with your custodians to run an after-school program. All these caring adults who help our kids thrive — I love you all.”

Like many who spoke at the convention, Thurmond talked about the need to resist the anti-union, anti-immigrant, anti-worker administration in Washington.

“We have a president who thinks tweeting and governing are the same thing,” he said. “We have a president attacking those who need the most — attacking the after-school programs, the arts, even attacking the free lunch program. I take that personally because I was on food stamps when you got actual stamps.”

Joking that he ate so much government cheese, he thought USDA was a brand name, Thurmond said he was thankful for the programs that fed him, and that he has heard from CFT members that many of their students come to school hungry.

“Thank you for all you do to support students like me,” he said.

Thurmond talked about the legislation to resist Trump such as SB 54 to make California a sanctuary state as well as bills he has authored: AB 43 to make private prisons put money into preschool programs, AB 45 to provide affordable housing for school employees, and AB 670 to include part-time playground supervisors in the classified service. 

Two days after the convention, Thurmond announced that he would run for superintendent of public instruction in 2018.