Governor Brown set to eliminate Secretary of Education post

As Californians await the release of Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget today, it was reported over the weekend that one of the Governor’s moves will be to eliminate California’s Secretary of Education post. The Los Angeles Times reported that while they could not get confirmation, the 11 employees in the Secretary’s office were apparently notified that their positions were being eliminated.

Unlike other states, California’s Secretary of Education is not a cabinet post and only acts in an advisory capacity to the governor on education policy. It is, in fact, the Superintendent of Public Instruction and its 11-member board that oversee the Department of Education. During the campaign, Brown promised to reduce the redundancy in state government and what he believes to be unnecessary expenditures. The Secretary of Education position was viewed as one of then-candidate Brown’s targets. And while the $1.9 million budget is but a small dent in California’s looming $28 billion deficit, the move is seen as an example of Brown’s no-nonsense style.

That said, Brown also promised during his campaign that education was going to a major focus of his office and that he intends to make his mark on education policy. Just two days after being sworn-in to office, Brown appointed seven of the 11-member Board of Education.

Others also believe the move signals that Brown, unlike Governor Schwarzenegger or Governor Pete Wilson, plans to have a good relationship with the newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. According to Rick Simpson, deputy chief of staff to Assembly Speaker Perez (D-LA), in the San Francisco Chronicle:

     “It’s what I would expect, particularly given the appointments of the new Board of Education members. I am anticipating a much more cooperative relationship between the superintendent and the governor, the superintendent and the board and with the Legislature. And it certainly signals he is serious about reducing the size of the Governor’s staff.” 

Time will tell. Last week it was also reported that Superintendent Torlakson warned that the California public schools were in a state of fiscal crisis and that more cuts on top of the $18 billion in cuts the public schools faced in just three years, would render some school districts insolvent. Torlakson strongly urged Governor Brown to not to make any additional cuts to elementary and high school education. As reported in the San Jose Mercury News, ““I am here to declare a state of fiscal emergency for California schools,” Torlakson told reporters today. “There’s simply no other way to describe it: this is an emergency.”

Yet, with a $28 billion deficit to fill and a public seemingly unwilling to raise additional revenue, where will the cuts come from? Stay tuned for Brown’s plan later today.