For the two decades that California has had a secretary of education, the position has never made much sense. Appointed by the governor, with a staff of a dozen or so people, this post has no real authority because the state Constitution places responsibility for the schools under the elected superintendent of public instruction, the job recently assumed by Tom Torlakson, says the Los Angeles Times. The secretary’s office has accomplished little and has had more than its share of turnover. Gov. Jerry Brown was right to get rid of it; that was an easy save of almost $2 million a year. But to be completely clear, the secretary of education wasn’t the real problem. The underlying mistake is contained in the Constitution, which mandates an elected superintendent. Ideally, Brown would be able to do away with that post and the appointed Board of Education, bring the Education Department under his wing and streamline the bulky and often-contradictory administration of the public schools. The state’s budget crisis gives California an opportunity to reexamine this awkward sharing of powers. The secretary has traditionally advised the governor on legislation and acted as his spokesperson on the schools; the state board, appointed by the governor, draws up education regulations and adopts textbooks and curriculum standards. The state superintendent, who oversees the giant Education Department, is supposed to carry out all these directives…

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About the Author:

Meris Stansbury

Meris Stansbury is the Editorial Director for both eSchool News and eCampus News, and was formerly the Managing Editor of eCampus News. Before working at eSchool Media, Meris worked as an assistant editor for The World and I, an online curriculum publication. She graduated from Kenyon College in 2006 with a BA in English, and enjoys spending way too much time either reading or cooking.


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