Delaine Eastin, the former state superintendent of public instruction, officially kicked off her campaign for governor of California on Thursday.
Last November, Eastin indicated she intended to run for the post that Gov. Jerry Brown will vacate in 2018, but yesterday’s announcement made it official.
Eastin was elected twice as schools chief, and served in the statewide position for eight years between 1994 and 2002. Her terms overlapped with the terms of Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, and Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat. Eastin is the only woman to have served in the post. She served in the state Assembly for eight years before becoming state superintendent.
“It’s clear we can do better,” Eastin declared on her website. “In 1965 we were tied with New York, at 5th of the 50 states in per pupil spending, with student outcomes to match. College was affordable and the state was booming. Today we are near the top in per prisoner expenditures and near the bottom in per pupil expenditures.”
In a statement released yesterday, she said that California once led the nation in jobs, education and infrastructure. “We can again,” she said. “We need to make different decisions and set different priorities in our budget. I have always said that budgets are statements of values. I know that we can do better.”
Eastin will face formidable odds in the gubernatorial race for the post that Brown will vacate in less than two years when he will be termed out of office. Already announced are current office holders Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Controller John Chiang. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is also considering a run for office.
Her presence could raise considerably the profile of preK-12 issues on the campaign trail. Of the declared candidates, Newsom has been relatively silent on K-12 issues, while being much more vocal on higher education issues.
As state superintendent, Eastin was a major proponent of smaller class sizes, and was a force in convincing Gov. Wilson to use a budget surplus in 1996 to help pay for California’s K-3 Class Size Reduction program. Its goal was to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through 3rd grade to 20 students. The program was phased out in 2013, a victim of the state’s budget crisis. Gov. Brown has reinstated a much more modest class size reduction program through the Local Control Funding Formula.
Among other issues, Eastin has also been an ardent advocate of expanding early education in California. She has been critical of Brown and the Legislature for failing to expand preschool funding, and to implement full-day kindergarten more widely in the state.
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