California's schools superintendent Tony Thurmond, whose tenure has been marked by scandal, plummeting student proficiencies, and an aggressive push for radical gender ideology, is exploring a run for governor.
Thurmond announced Wednesday that he "will be seriously exploring a run for governor in 2026" to continue "taking on MAGA extremists who want to ban books" and "defending classroom teachers and students against the constant assault on our democracy." A close ally of term-limited Gov. Gavin Newsom (D.), Thurmond has served as California superintendent of public instruction since 2019. During his tenure, test scores have fallen nearly 10 percentage points as Thurmond focused on training teachers to help students change genders.
Thurmond could face an uphill battle in his bid for governor. Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis (D.) has already thrown her hat in the ring for 2026, and Attorney General Rob Bonta (D.) is also expected to run. In addition to the crowded field, Thurmond has his fair share of political baggage. He came under fire in 2020 for giving a high-paying "superintendent of equity" job to a friend who lived in Pennsylvania. Nearly two dozen senior officials left the Department of Education after Thurmond took the helm, citing a toxic and abusive workplace.
Thurmond's announcement came on the heels of a damning report on California's public schools. Only 35 percent of low-income students met state literacy standards in 2022, according to the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. Just 21 percent were proficient in math.
As California's students faltered, Thurmond focused on pushing gender ideology in the classroom. He helped secure funding to train teachers to support students' gender transition and chose adamant purveyors of transgenderism, including the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Trevor Project, to write the training. The State Legislature is advancing a bill that would make the course mandatory for all middle and high school teachers.
Thurmond also teamed up with the nonprofit Gender Nation to distribute books about transgenderism into public school classrooms for children as young as preschoolers. He is supporting a bill this year to prohibit school boards from removing LGBT books they deem inappropriate and has joined the LGBT rights group Equality California to rate California districts on their transgender policies.
Thurmond did not respond to a request for comment.