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Eastin: Jerry Brown “Has Really Hurt” California Schools

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Candidate for California governor Delaine Eastin.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

This is the second installment in a series of Capital Public Radio interviews with the prominent candidates for California governor. You can find all the interviews here.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Delaine Eastin is accusing termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown of “tepid” and “timid” leadership – especially on schools.

“He has really hurt education in this state,” she told Capital Public Radio in an interview earlier this month. “He hasn’t been for universal preschool. He hasn’t been for mandatory kindergarten. He hasn’t been for reducing the cost to go to college and university. And so Jerry’s marks are not high in my book when it comes to education.”

Eastin, a former Assemblywoman and State Superintendent of Public Instruction, is one of four prominent Democrats running to replace Brown next year.

And while she praises some parts of the governor’s record – such as his fiscal policy and the deal he reached to extend California’s cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emissions reduction program – her assessment of Brown’s education policies echoes her broader critique of the state’s direction overall.

“California’s still the biggest state in the union – the sixth largest economy in the world – and yet, we’re doing tepid, timid, small things instead of really dreaming big dreams and doing the right things by kids, adults and seniors,” she says.

Eastin isn’t the best-known Democrat running for governor. She hasn’t held elected office in nearly 15 years, and she polls at the bottom of the pack. But she’s hoping her campaign will catch fire with her laser-like focus on education.

She supports universal preschool, mandatory kindergarten and – with California ranking by one measurement 41st of the 50 states in per-pupil spending – a much larger investment in public education.

Asked how to pay for her proposals, Eastin says it’s time to consider changing how property taxes are assessed on commercial properties under Proposition 13.

“Right now, we’re wringing our hands, and telling school districts, well, we’re giving you more money but we’re also running up the price of the pensions,” she says. “So let’s find a solution here where we do in fact increase the per-pupil spending so that we can increase the education of our children.”

Brown’s office responded to Eastin’s comments by pointing to his education actions as governor:

  • Convincing voters to pass a November 2012 tax initiative to avoid massive cuts to education as California recovered from the Great Recession
  • Record-high state budget funding for schools and community colleges
  • And a new school funding formula intended to send more money to districts with the most low-income students, English language learners and foster youths.

Brown has agreed to modest increases in state spending on early childhood education programs in recent years, as the state budget has stabilized. But he has opposed efforts both inside and outside the budget process to create universal preschool, citing a need to keep California’s finances in balance.

Eastin even threw a personal shot at Brown, whom she quoted as saying he wasn’t hurt by getting kicked out of preschool. (Eastin’s campaign was not able to provide any sourcing for Brown’s purported quote, and the governor’s office said it was “not familiar with the governor’s disciplinary record in preschool.”)

“There are two possible answers,” she says. “One, yes it did, Governor; and two, you are the very demographic who has the least need for preschool” because Brown’s parents were both educated and affluent.

“They spoke to you and they read to you and they sang to you and they were wonderful people,” Eastin went on, adding that she has the “greatest respect” for Jerry Brown’s father Pat, who served as governor from 1959 to 1967.

“But when it comes to education, I would argue, the last great governor of California was Pat Brown – but it’s not Jerry.”

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