It's not so much the idea, it's the timing.
Governor Schwarzenegger is obviously at wits end with legislators and the lack of a budget. So one of his latest ideas is to get rid of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in order to streamline the government and cut out excess cost.
Good luck on that, as CaliforniaWatch.org points out.
The office is a non-partisan elected seat. In order to do that there has to be a two-thirds vote in the legislature. Remember lawmakers still can't agree on a budget. And then it has to be put to the voters.
Right now, Jack O'Connell holds that office but he'll be out in November. His suggestion apparently is to get rid of the other guy instead, that being the governor-appointed Secretary of Education who at this time happens to be a woman. The cabinet office has been a revolving door for the last several years. "California is unusual" in that there are two offices, one elected and one appointed says Susan Yonezawa of UC San Diego, who researches ways to improve education in K-12 and post secondary.
"Why do we need both," she adds, although getting rid of the Superintendent's office may not necessarily be the answer to the state's financial or educational challenges. "It's just another proposal of his that has no legs."
Yonezawa says teachers and school administrators deal mainly with the Superintendent who actually runs the department of education and don't really interact with the secretary who generally advises the governor on issues. That points right to the core problem. Who should be running the show? It's no secret that O'Connell and the governor are in a power struggle and at odds over issues from school funding to class size to the arts. "There's confusion now," says Cynthia Uline, professor of educational leadership at San Diego State University. Current governor and fiscal crisis aside she says, there needs to be one chief. "There needs to be an effective leader of the state agency who can work in concert with the administration to lead state policy There's a great deal of focus in public education for accountability. As the system stands now, it's hard to say who has "ultimate authority and accountability."
So the bottom line is, it appears to be another element of our state's system that's "broke" as they say. A problem that needs to be solved for the sake of our kids, but not now when we still can't pass a budget.
Published at 12:49 PM PDT on Jul 15, 2010