Wanted: Another Education Secretary for California

February 05, 2010 1 min read

What is it with the ed. secretary gig in California?

For the fourth time since Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor in late 2003, his appointee to the position is stepping down. That’s some heavy turnover.

This time it’s Glen W. Thomas, whom the Republican governor tapped to be his top education adviser little more than a year ago. Former Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, had three different secretaries during his nearly five years in office. Why the revolving door?

Could it be that the job is all title, no power? The stage is certainly crowded for K-12 honchos in California.

There’s the elected state superintendent of public instruction, who is the chief executive of the massive state department of education. There’s the appointed (selected by the governor) state board of education, made up of 11 members, which sets major K-12 policy in areas like standards and school accountability.

And then there’s the education secretary, a Cabinet position created by Pete Wilson when he was governor in the 1990s. The secretary, other than advising the governor and lobbying for his or her education agenda, has no real authority (a proposal to combine the jobs of state supe and secretary was scrapped in 2008). By all accounts, Mr. Thomas was determined to work closely with the state superintendent, Jack O’Connell, and the state board, especially when it came to crafting the state’s Race to the Top application.

Time now for the governator to hire his fifth--and final?--secretary. There’s 11 months left on the job (Gov. Schwarzenegger’s term ends in early 2011), and with all those required furlough days for state workers, it may be closer to 10 months. Any takers?

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.