Why Governor’s Race May Turn to Schools


Just as school's out for the summer, education is about to re-emerge as a big issue in the governor's race.

The Republican primary has been dominated by conversation about the budget, the economy and especially immigration. But that should change as Democratic nominee Jerry Brown and the all-but-certain Republican nominee, Meg Whitman, turn to the general election.

Why schools, particularly when jobs are overwhelmingly the number one subject on people's minds? Because both Whitman and Brown may benefit politically from that conversation.

Whitman badly needs to get back to the political center after a primary season debate consisting of claims about which GOP candidate was the real conservative. Talking about her desire to help schools (a desire that, it should be noted, doesn't seem to be backed by a plan to produce more revenues for those schools) is one way to take the conservative edge off and appeal to moderate voters. Schools also are one of three areas in which Whitman has issued fairly specific policy proposals.

Whitman's campaign also seems to see education as a vulnerability for Brown. The state took over the Oakland school system while Brown was mayor, though it's a stretch to hold Brown responsible for that, since the schools were overseen not by the mayor but by an elected school board. 

Interestingly, Brown has an interest in bringing up schools for a related reason. He personally worked to open successful charter schools, and can make the case that he used what limited power he had to try to help the schools. Brown likes to point to his record in Oakland to show that he's grown since he was governor nearly three decades ago.

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