As Yogi Berra would say, it’s deja-vu all over again in California, where, for the 19th time out of the last 25 years, the state has started a new fiscal year without an approved budget. And, as in the last several years, lawmakers are grappling with how to close an eye-popping deficit—a gap that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says has to be closed without raising taxes.
Last week, the governor (who has just got to be ecstatic that this is his final budget battle) took to the radio waves to call for ways to “streamline bureaucracy and to make government smaller.” His first idea to do that?
OK, so he doesn’t outright say that California should dump the state supe’s job. But here’s what he does say:
...In California, we elect the superintendent of public instructions. [sic] But why? We already have a secretary of education and a board of education. Why do we need a superintendent of education?"
There are a couple of reasons, says Hilary McLean, a spokeswoman for Jack O’Connell, the current elected state chief. She tells the folks at the online investigative news site California Watch that scrapping the job would save the state a whopping $151,427, the salary for that position. And still, as McLean points out, you’d have to hire someone to run the state education department.
And there’s the matter of the state constitution. The state superintendent of public instruction is a constitutionally mandated position. The governor rightly asks why the state needs an education secretary, a state board, and an elected state supe. There’s a good argument to be made that there are too many chefs in the kitchen.
But he fails to mention that the appointed education secretary’s position was created less than 20 years ago when Pete Wilson was governor. Or that the current secretary, Bonnie Reiss, is pulling down $175,000 for a political appointment that carries little authority. The governor could save the state an extra $23,573 if he got rid of that job.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.