Join Club Momme for exclusive access to giveaways, discounts and more!

Sign up

$30-Million Race for Office Shows Upside Down Priorities

Photograph by Getty Images

If you walked in the backdoor of my house this week unannounced, the one right next to the refrigerator, you may have found yourself looking straight at my ass. That’s because, more than once, I was bent over the freezer, my hand trolling around in my son’s Halloween candy bag for a “fun” size Snicker’s — or 6. I was aware that if my kids knew I did this they would not be happy, so I had a candy excuse strategy in place if they caught me and challenged me on my choice to pilfer their stash.

“My eating this candy is in your best interest,” I’d say. “It is better for you on a few levels. Number one, it makes me happy, and if I’m happy, then I will be a better mother. Number two, the more I eat of it the less you will be eating, which means less sugar coursing through your small veins and less tooth decay. My eating your Halloween candy, despite what it looks like, is a win-win situation for everyone.” Obviously I knew eating their candy was a mistake, but I took comfort in knowing it’s a common one. Heck, Jimmy Kimmel has had an ongoing bit about it for at least three years.

RELATED: Jimmy Kimmel's Halloween Candy Challenge

I was unexpectedly reminded of my crafty Mom spin this past Thursday morning while in a bit of a sugar fog, having polished off everything but the Laffy Taffy the night before. I was settling in to read the paper, jolted awake seeing the Los Angeles Times’ figures on how much the race for State Superintendent cost. Over $31 million dollars. Let me repeat this figure: THIRTY ONE MILLION DOLLARS for a position described by more than one source as having very little clout. Immediately incensed, I went looking for more details.

One article I found, “The most expensive political contest in California is for an office nobody’s heard of,” described the limitations of the position.

“The superintendent post has little political power. The governor appoints the state Board of Education and typically has his own education advisers. In any case, the state Department of Education doesn’t directly run California’s schools and has limited policy sway.”

Call me naive, but $30 million dollars is a lot of money to spend on anything, let alone an elected office with very little power. This news wouldn’t have hit me so hard if I hadn’t just been at a meeting at my son’s middle school, Thomas Starr King in Los Angeles, where they were assigning shifts for parents to don plastic gloves and show up with buckets of ammonia to clean the bathrooms. Apparently, there is not enough money in the school’s budget to hire adequate custodial staff. That fact made this quote I read from incumbent and victor Tom Torlakson, and a lot of the other soundbites from teachers’ union members, sound a little insincere and a lot like my Halloween candy spin.

"We are all committed to making our schools better and helping our students achieve their dreams. No one wants that more than California's teachers.” Huh. Tough to buy that helping students “achieve their dreams” is their priority given that the teachers’ unions spent over $10 million dollars keeping Torlakson in office. They could have paid for a lot of dreams with that money.

Among all these presumably brilliant business minds and passionately committed educators on Torlakson’s side, couldn’t someone have pulled out of the maelstrom of campaign excess and said, “Hey, guys and gals, maybe we could take a few million and help an actual child!”

But it’s not just the unions that are to be held accountable in this spending debacle. If making the schools and curriculum better for students was No. 1 on everyone’s list, wouldn’t someone in this insanely expensive campaign on either side have interjected some reason? Torlakson’s opponent, Marshall Tuck, raised most of his money through wealthy independent donors, including Steve Jobs’ widow, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and L.A. philanthropist Eli Broad.

RELATED: Some Teens Care About Elections

Among all these presumably brilliant business minds and passionately committed educators on Torlakson’s side, couldn’t someone have pulled out of the maelstrom of campaign excess and said, “Hey, guys and gals, maybe we could take a few million and help an actual child!”

Clearly the answer is no. And that, for those of you kicking yourselves for slipping a Hershey’s bar in the pocket of your bathrobe while no one was looking, is by far the biggest mistake of this week.

Explore More: elementary school, education, school, news, Mistake Of The Week
More from kids