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Name: Torlakson, Tom
Current Position: Superintendent of Public Instruction

Elected to a four-year term on November 2, 2010, Tom Torlakson became the 27th head of California’s public school system and of the California Department of Education in January 2011. One of his first acts was to declare a financial emergency for schools in response to state budget cuts. He also created the Team California for Healthy Kids campaign to promote healthy eating and physical activity through schools and child care programs.

Torlakson, a native of San Francisco, served in the U.S. Merchant Marine as a fireman and was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal. He then attended San Mateo Community College and the University of California, Berkeley, earning a bachelor’s degree in history in 1971, a master’s degree in education in 1977 and a Life Secondary Teaching Credential. Torlakson taught at Mount Diablo High Schools while in college and through 1981 and was a coach at Antioch High School for 30 years, until 2003. While teaching, he founded the Holiday Run and Walk for Health.

He jumped into politics in 1978, serving on the Antioch City Council for two years, and then on the Contra Costa County board of supervisors from 1980 through 1996; he served as the board’s chair in three different years. He served as president of the Association of Bay Area Governments from 1994 to 1995, co-chair of the Local Government Caucus since 1997, and chair of the Highway 4 Task Force and State Route 4 Bypass Authority, each for seven years.

Elected to the state Assembly for the years 1996-2000 and 2008-2010, and to the state Senate in 2000-2008, Torlakson focused his legislative efforts on education, supporting bills to increase funding for books and computers and for campus safety, and to improve student health through nutrition and physical education. He helped author a bond measure, Proposition 1A, that funded new schools and improved existing buildings. He also authored legislation supporting after-school programs, and as a state senator in 2006 his legislation expanded those programs by 300%, reaching 4,000 schools. In 2002, Senator Torlakson founded the California Task Force on Youth and Workplace Wellness. Torlakson wrote the Quality Education Improvement Act of 2006, bringing $3 billion to the state’s lowest-performing schools.

Torlakson is married and has two daughters. He is still a teacher at Los Medanos College and a teacher-on-leave at the Mount Diablo Unified School District.


Official Biography (California Department of Education)

Biography (Project Vote Smart)

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