In a discussion with The Daily Wire, Christensen, a father of five, said he jumped into the race to solve some of the education problems plaguing the state.
“California, years ago, was the premiere place for K-12 education in the entire world — in fact, for all of education, higher education included — and a few generations of really progressive tactics have moved the state from the envy of the world to the pity of the world,” he said. “And we have an education system that went from being one of the top producers of scientists and mathematicians and artists to one that can barely put out kids that can read. We rank 50th in the nation in literacy.”
“And looking at all of that combined with a very … strong cultural shift in politicizing these kids with the teachers unions, we’ve now got a product that people are leaving the state in droves to get a better education,” he explained. “Just over the last two years, we’ve lost 271,000 kids out of our public school system and we went from growing from over six million kids to around 5.9 million, and it’s a complete disaster for a lot of school districts…”
Christensen is a proponent of school choice, and says “kids shouldn’t be held captive by their zip codes.” He also wants to appoint a chief parent advocate as his first action if elected. “The parent owns their child, not the school or the state. And parents should get the best education they can for their kid,” he said.
Christensen discussed how to empower parents more in their kids’ education, saying the first step is to get them to understand that public schools are not what they used to be. “Motivating them to action, taking control of their kids’ education is part two, and part three is speaking out,” he added.
He also said districts that can get teachers unions out of the equation and cultivate an environment of academic achievement while creating quality teachers will succeed, noting, “In California, the teachers union is so powerful and is so overwhelming that right now they control the whole system. And that’s largely why it’s failing.”
The morale among teachers has been low across the nation. He said that good teachers should be rewarded for their ability, while bad teachers should not be able to stay in a job as easily as they have been able to. “I say we pay good teachers a good salary, more money. I have no problem paying a good teacher a six figure salary,” he said, adding, “But that must also come along with getting rid of bad teachers easier than the two year tenure they have.”
He also said there should be more opportunity for people to be credentialed from other fields, especially those who want to teach after they retire. “I think there’s a multitude of opportunities to get grown professionals, mature, respectable people from the community, to get back into our public schools and to demonstrate opportunities for these kids to find success,” he said.
He also believes the pension system should be reformed, especially since it doesn’t benefit women who leave work to raise a family and return later on. He also noted that there are ways to help teachers feel safer in schools rather than letting students “run roughshod over their teachers and other students in the classroom,” as California laws are allowing them to do.
COVID lockdowns, in particular, negatively impacted students across the state. As The Daily Wire previously reported, Fox KTVU reported data released earlier this year that showed test results went down over the past year and enrollment also decreased.
The data showed that only around 49% of students met or exceeded the standard for English Language Arts/Literacy, while about 34% did so in math during the 2020-2021 school year. During the 2018-2019 school year, those numbers were over 51% for English and almost 40% for math.
Graduation rates also went down in 2020-2021 from the year before, with African American students being most negatively impacted.
Christensen said that while the world was shocked by COVID, after the initial few weeks, it was clear it wasn’t affecting children and “we shouldn’t have locked kids out.” He also said school districts would need to be held accountable for the recovery money they received, and people should be aware of where it was used.
While Christensen went to college and got a master’s degree — which he fully paid himself and worked on scholarships — he said he thinks “the time of sending every kid to college is over” and is a supporter of vocational education. “But I also believe that learning never stops, but it doesn’t have to happen in the classroom either,” he noted.