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California Department of Education
News Release
California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #24-16
March 28, 2024
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Superintendent Thurmond Honored with Cesar Chavez Award for Empowering Farm Working Families and Underserved Communities

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond was honored today with the Cesar E. Chavez Opportunity Award for his impactful work in empowering and influencing the lives of farm working families residing in predominantly rural communities. The award was presented to Superintendent Thurmond at the 8th Annual Cesar Chavez Legacy Breakfast, in celebration of Chavez’s 97th birthday, by The Farmworkers Institute of Education & Leadership Development (FIELD) External link opens in new window or tab..

“Extraordinary models of social justice inspire us to do better and be better. There are few that rival the inspiration of Cesar Chavez and FIELD, an organization he founded 46 years ago, and their work to support farm working and rural communities,” Thurmond said. “When I began my career in public service, I committed myself to lifting up our communities that needed it the most. That did not change when I began my service as State Superintendent of Public Instruction. I am truly honored and humbled by this award.”

During the COVID pandemic, Thurmond fought to secure resources—both public and private—to ensure children of rural and farmworker communities had access to digital devices and WiFi so they would not fall behind as classrooms closed. He also secured funding to provide water bottles to Coachella farmworkers during a scorching summer heatwave and secured personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution during the pandemic to support not only schools, but also farmworkers and Native American families, along with several nonprofits, including the UFW Foundation.

Superintendent Thurmond also secured funding to provide emergency resources to farmworker, rural, and immigrant students and their families in the Coachella Valley and the Pajaro Valley who were impacted by storms and floods. These resources include gift cards for food, water, gas and housing, and books and school supplies. He is also working with leaders in Huron, California, to establish a high school for local residents and support farmworker children.

As a legislator in the State Assembly, Thurmond co-authored historic legislation External link opens in new window or tab. that was signed into law to grant overtime pay to farmworkers to end an 80-year struggle to make this benefit available to those who serve us every day in California’s agricultural communities. Thurmond authored Assembly Bill (AB) 2514, creating a grant program for new and expanding dual immersion and developmental bilingual programs, which was signed into law by Governor Brown in 2018. He is also sponsoring legislation, AB 1942, that would allow undocumented students in the UC system to receive paid employment.

State Superintendent Thurmond helped garner $10 million to implement 27 grants for dual language immersion programs now being implemented across this state and co-sponsored AB 1127 with the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) and Californians Together during the previous legislative session to reinstate the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program.

FIELD External link opens in new window or tab. is committed to uplifting the economic prospects of underserved populations in poor, minority communities. The organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, founded and established in 1978 by farmworker leader Cesar E. Chavez, whose ultimate vision was to inspire farmworkers and the rural workforce to gain self-sufficiency through employee-owned social enterprises. FIELD carries out this mission through a continuum of educational and workforce development programs that assist underserved communities in achieving empowerment, self-sufficiency, and a better quality of life.

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Tony Thurmond — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Thursday, March 28, 2024
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