California Superintendent of Public Instruction

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California Superintendent of Public Instruction
General information
Office Type:  Nonpartisan
Office website:  Official Link
2012-2013 FY Budget:  $56,948,972,000
Term limits:  2 terms
Length of term:   4 years
Authority:  California Education Code, Title 2, Division 2, Part 20, Chapter 3, Article 1, Sections 33302/33303
Selection Method:  Elected
Current Officeholder

Name:  Tom Torlakson
Assumed office:  January 3, 2011
Compensation:  $151,127
Next election:  November 6, 2018
Last election:  November 4, 2014
Other California Executive Offices
GovernorLieutenant GovernorSecretary of StateAttorney GeneralTreasurerAuditorControllerSuperintendent of Public InstructionAgriculture SecretaryInsurance CommissionerNatural Resources SecretaryIndustrial Relations DirectorPublic Utilities Commission
The California Superintendent of Public Instruction is an elected, constitutional, state executive position in the California state government. The superintendent oversees the California Department of Education and, by extension, all of the state of California's public schools. He or she executes the policies of the California Board of Education, which is the school system's primary governing body. The superintendent also manages the operational side of the school system; he or she licenses teachers, maintains school property, and fulfills other administrative duties.

Current officeholder

The current superintendent is Tom Torlakson, a Democrat, who was first elected in 2010 and assumed office on January 3, 2011. Torlakson won re-election on November 4, 2014.

Before becoming superintendent, Torlakson served in the California Assembly from 2008 to 2010 and the state Senate from 2000 to 2008. He was a member of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors from 1980 to 1996 and served as chair in 1984, 1989 and 1994. Professionally, Torlakson has extensive experience as an educator; he was an adjunct faculty member at Los Medanos College from 2007 to 2010, a teacher at Mount Diablo High School from 1972 to 1981 and a coach at Antioch High School from 1973 to 2003. He also worked at Kosich Insurance Company from 1989 to 2010. Torlakson holds an M.A. in Education, a teaching certificate and a B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley[1]


The office of superintendent is established by California statute.[2]

California Education Code, Sections 33302 and 33303

33302. The Department of Education shall be conducted under the control of an executive officer known as the Director of Education.

33303. The Superintendent of Public Instruction is ex officio Director of Education.


Like all state elected officials, the superintendent of education must be a registered voter in the state. Additionally, he or she must not have served two terms in office since November 6, 1990, when state office term limits were adopted into the state constitution.[3]


Superintendents are elected every four years during gubernatorial election years (e.g. 2006, 2010, 2014, etc.). Winners take office on the first Monday in January following their election.[4] The office of superintendent is technically nonpartisan, so all candidates run without any party affiliation in both primary and general elections.[5]

California Constitution, Article 2, Section 6

(a) All judicial, school, county, and city offices, including the Superintendent of Public Instruction, shall be nonpartisan.

(b) A political party or party central committee shall not nominate a candidate for nonpartisan office, and the candidate's party preference shall not be included on the ballot for the nonpartisan office.


See also: California down ballot state executive elections, 2014
Superintendent of California, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngTom Torlakson Incumbent 52.1% 3,167,212
     Nonpartisan Marshall Tuck 47.9% 2,906,989
Total Votes 6,074,201
Election Results via California Secretary of State.


California Superintendent of Public Instruction, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngTom Torlakson 54.5% 4,222,946
     Nonpartisan Larry Aceves 44.9% 3,476,243
     Write-In Diane Lenning 0.6% 46,061
Total Votes 7,745,250
Election Results via California Secretary of State

Term limits

Superintendents of public instruction, much like constitutional state executives like the governor or secretary of state, face an absolute limit of two terms in office.[6]


Vacancies in the office of superintendent are filled by the governor.[7]

Click here to view a larger-scale image of the California Department of Education Organizational Chart as of November 2012.


The superintendent of public instruction is the administrative head of the California Department of Education; he or she executes the policies made by the state Board of Education and oversees the operation of the state's public school system. The superintendent provides local and county school boards with blank teachers certificates, oversees all state education employees, organizes adult education programs, evaluates the performance of public schools and manages departmental facilities and resources, among other duties.[8]


  • Curriculum, Learning & Accountability
  • Finance, Technology & Administration
  • Government Affairs & Charter Development
  • Legal, Audits & Compliance
  • Special Services & Support[9]

State budget

See also: California state budget and finances

The budget for the State Department of Education in the 2012-2013 Fiscal Year was $56,948,972,000.[10]


The superintendent's salary, like that of all other state elected officials, is determined by the California Citizens Compensation Commission on an annual basis. The last time the superintendent's compensation was changed was 2009, when the office's salary and benefits were cut by 18 percent.


In 2014, the superintendent received a salary of $151,127, according to the Council of State Governments.[11]


In 2013, the superintendent received a salary of $151,127. This figure comes from the Council of State Governments.[12]


In 2010, the superintendent received compensation in the amount of $151,127.[13]

Historical officeholders

List of Former

Officeholders from 1851-Present[14]

# Name Tenure Party
1 John G. Marvin 1851-1854 Electiondot.png Democratic
2 Paul K. Hubbs 1854-1857 Electiondot.png Democratic
3 Andrew J. Moulder 1857-1863 Electiondot.png Democratic
4 John Swett 1863-1867 Union Party
5 O. P. Fitzgerald 1867-1871 Electiondot.png Democratic
6 Henry N. Bolander 1871-1875 Ends.png Republican
7 Ezra S. Carr 1875-1880 Ends.png Republican
8 Frederick M. Campbell 1880-1883 Ends.png Republican
9 William T. Welcker 1883-1887 Electiondot.png Democratic
10 Ira G. Hoitt 1887-1891 Ends.png Republican
11 J. W. Anderson 1891-1895 Ends.png Republican
12 Samuel T. Black 1895-1898 Ends.png Republican
13 Charles T. Meredith 1898-1899 Electiondot.png Democratic
14 Thomas J. Kirk 1899-1907 Ends.png Republican
15 Edward Hyatt 1907-1915 Ends.png Republican
15 Edward Hyatt 1915-1919 Nonpartisan
16 Will C. Wood 1919-1927 Nonpartisan
17 William John Cooper 1927-1929 Nonpartisan
18 Vierling C. Kersey 1929-1937 Nonpartisan
19 Walter F. Dexter 1937-1945 Nonpartisan
20 Roy E. Simpson 1945-1963 Nonpartisan
21 Maxwell L. Rafferty Jr. 1963-1971 Nonpartisan
22 Wilson C. Riles 1971-1983 Nonpartisan
23 Bill Honig 1983-1993 Nonpartisan
24 Delaine Eastin 1995-2003 Nonpartisan
25 Jack O'Connell 2003-2011 Nonpartisan
26 Tom Torlakson 2011-Present Electiondot.png Democratic

Recent news

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California Superintendent of Public Instruction News Feed

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Contact info

Mailing address:
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 319-0800

See also

External links