Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Delaine Eastin, former state superintendent of public instruction, left, talks with Cecilia Massetti, Madera County superintendent of schools, during a visit Monday.
Delaine Eastin, who has announced her candidacy for California governor, visited school administrators Monday evening in Madera. The former state superintendent of public instruction, a Democrat, left no doubt that school financing would be her No. 1 concern were she elected.
Speaking to approximately 50 people in the Conference Center of the Madera County Schools Office, Eastin chastised California’s political leadership for misplaced budgetary priorities and ignoring the state constitution.
Eastin reminded the audience that Article 16, Section 8 reads, “From all state revenues, there shall first be set apart the moneys to be applied by the state for support of the public school system and public institutions of higher learning.”
Eastin suggested that California’s leaders have forgotten that “education is our first priority.”
“The most important job in America is teaching,” Eastin insisted. She said that at one time California was fifth among the states in money spent on education. Now it languishes in 41st place.
Eastin said when she was elected as state school superintendent, California was in 47th place, but by the time she left office, it had climbed to number 27.
She cited the fact that as state schools chief she sued then Gov. Pete Wilson and got $2.3 million back, which was then used to implement her class size reduction plan.
Eastin labels the failure to adequately fund California’s schools a “grave danger.” She quoted a recent research study, which maintained “The social cost of not providing quality care and health and welfare opportunities for young children results in a array of bad outcomes, including child abuse and neglect, high school dropouts, criminal activities, teen pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse, and other health problems. These expensive social ills could be significantly diminished through investments in evidence-based, early childhood programs.”
According to Eastin, shortchanging the educational system has other consequences. ”When I graduated from high school,” she said, “one in 10 children in this state was poor. Tonight it is one in four.”
Eastin laments the fact that the state is spending so much money on prisons, which she says is one of the reasons school funding is inadequate. She said since Jerry Brown has been governor the first time, California built one University of California campus (Merced), 3 California State University campuses, and two community college main campuses. “Do the math,” she said, “That’s six. During that same period of time we built 23 prisons.”
“What is so disgraceful and disgusting,” Eastin says, “is when we turned down two prison bonds, they stopped asking us. They still make you vote on bonds for higher education. They still make you vote on bonds for K-12, but they don’t ask about prisons.”
Eastin closed her remarks with a challenge to her audience, “I say to all of you, ‘Rise up.’ I really do believe California needs to stand up and teach our children well.”
Eastin’s visit to Madera came at the invitation of Madera County Superintendent of Schools Cecilia Massetti, and although her appearance here was non-political, it was common knowledge to those in attendance that she is a candidate to replace Gov. Brown.
Eastin is the only woman to serve as California superintendent of schools, and if successful in her race next year, she would be the first woman to be elected governor of California.