Democrat Delaine Eastin, a longtime state lawmaker who went on to become California schools chief, said Tuesday she plans to mount a bid for California governor centered on improving education.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Eastin said about her main motivation for running. “I am on fire to help kids get a quality education.”
Eastin, 69, of Davis has not held state office since 2003. She was elected to the Assembly in 1986, succeeding Alister McAlister, and went on to serve two terms as state superintendent of public instruction beginning in 1995. She plans to open a committee to begin raising money in January.
Eastin bemoaned California’s standing as 35th in overall per-pupil spending; 42nd adjusted for cost of living. She said she plans to push for far more investment in the education system, as well as policy changes such as making full-day and mandatory kindergarten and universal preschool statewide requirements. She also wants to cap kindergarten through third-grade education at 20 students per classroom, as it was when she was in office.
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“This has a real, long-term impact on economic development of the state,” said Eastin, who was closely allied with the powerful California Teachers Association.
The contest to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown in two years features political heavyweights Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Treasurer John Chiang.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told The Sacramento Bee on Tuesday that he will make his decision about the governor’s race within days of next week’s election, adding that he has no interest serving in a possible Hillary Clinton presidential administration. Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer is also said to be considering a run for governor.
Eastin chaired Close the Gap in California, a group working to elect more women to political office co-founded by her longtime political consultant Mary Hughes.
She opposes the Delta water tunnel projects, but supports drafting a long-range water plan and believes any statewide solution should be paid for by raising the cost of water, which she believes promotes conservation. She wants to identify a continuing source of revenue to fund the high-speed rail system being constructed in the Central Valley.
“You have to pay as you go,” she said.