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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

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Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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October 28, 2003

My candidate for ed secretary: nobody

Dick Riordan is rumored to be a possible choice as education secretary for Schwarzenegger. It could be a brilliant move, placing LA’s former reform-minded mayor, who did battle with the teachers unions to try to turn the city’s schools around, as the new governor’s point man on public education. But here’s an even smarter idea: kill the job. In California, the education secretary is a glorified adviser to the governor with few real duties and only a handful of education programs to administer. We already have an entire department full of bureaucrats run by an elected superintendent (Jack O’Connell). And we have a policy-setting state board of education whose members are appointed by the governor. The job of education secretary was created by Pete Wilson in 1991 to prove that he was a pro-schools Republican and to give him more bodies in the battle against the bureaucracy. The office has grown steadily since then, even as its authority remains fairly limited. Ideally, I’d like to junk the superintendent and the state board and vest administrative powers in the governor, just as we do for health care, welfare, environmental regulation and other big issues. Then, maybe, we would need an education secretary instead of the superintendent. But that isn’t going to happen any time soon. In the meantime, Schwarzenegger could demonstrate his commitment to smaller government by naming Riordan or someone else as his education adviser, housed in the governor’s office, and eliminating the rest of the office of the education secretary. The move would save only about $1 million and would be criticized by status-quoists who equate government departments with concern about an issue. But it would be a gutsy step showing that the new gov is not wedded to the old way of doing things.



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Daniel Weintraub


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