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State Board Agenda

California educators are not sure if they are waiting for a leadership tremor or an earthquake.

The answer lies in the hands of Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, who will have almost immediate power to control seven out of the 11 appointed positions on the state board of education after he takes office, which he is expected to do next month.

Three of those positions will come under the new governor's control on Jan. 15, when the terms of three current board members end. Of the other four positions, three are slotted for appointees of Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, who will remain in office until the recent election recalling him is certified. Their confirmation in the coming weeks by the state Senate is unlikely. One other seat is vacant.

Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has the potential to dramatically change the climate of the board, which plays a major role in setting state school policy and implementing the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"Over the last few years, a considerable amount of authority has been given to the state board of education," said Scott Plotkin, the executive director of the California School Boards Association. "And to be able to replace seven [positions] and make that kind of change that quickly could have a dramatic impact, but we don't know how to assess it just yet."

Nonetheless, the upcoming appointments have education officials bracing for what could be a major overhaul of the board.

"Our biggest concern is that after six or seven years of bringing everything into alignment in California, the last thing we need is any more dramatic shifts," Mr. Plotkin added.

Rick Miller, a spokesman for the state department of education, echoed those concerns.

"I think it's important that we not radically change directions," he argued. "We hope and believe Governor Schwarzenegger will agree with that and appoint board members who want to keep our system of high standards of accountability."

A spokesman for Mr. Schwarzenegger said that the actor-turned-politician has not yet indicated how he will act on the board appointments, or on specific education policies.

But on his campaign Web site, the governor-elect says: "My goal is to shift more power to local communities and give them more say over their budgets and get more money into the classroom."

—Olivia Doherty

Vol. 23, Issue 8, Page 21

Published in Print: October 22, 2003, as State Journal

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