An excerpt from the SFGate article by Jill Tucker:
Two candidates hope to become California's next superintendent of public instruction, a position that requires the patience to answer a frequent question from constituents: "So, what exactly do you do?"

The short answer is that the state's top education official runs California's 9,500 schools, which educate 6.3 million students.

The long answer is more complicated. The superintendent is a bureaucrat, a politician, an administrator and, in worst-case scenarios, the one who takes over bankrupt school districts.

He is a University of California regent and a California State University trustee, and he controls community college cash.

Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, a career politician adept at navigating partisan politics, wants voters to choose him in November. So does Larry Aceves, a retired South Bay district administrator who has seen what works in schools and how Sacramento can influence that for good or bad.

The two candidates aren't too different on paper. Both are lifelong Democrats, although Aceves changed his voter registration to "decline to state" in early September. Both support increasing career and technical training, or what used to be called vocational education. Both were teachers.

They both want to close the achievement gap. They want more money for schools, and they want that money to be spent more wisely. Each carries a long list of endorsements from those in the education community, in labor and in business.

Where they differ is in how they would approach the job.

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