Meg Whitman Uses Education to Court Latino Vote in Calif.

July 21, 2010 2 min read

Education issues haven’t exactly risen to the top of the agenda in the battle to become California’s next chief executive.

But Meg Whitman, the former eBay executive and billionaire who is the Republican candidate for governor, has launched an education-themed television ad on Spanish-language stations around the state.

The education content in the ad is pretty thin, and it’s standard fare for campaign spots. It shows Whitman in a classroom as she utters platitudes about Latino youth being the state’s future doctors, engineers, and entrepreneurs. She also offers a pledge to support “school reform” that will make California’s education system No. 1 again.

Nothing too Earth-shattering, but the ad has provoked interesting reaction from some Latino officials. Mónica García, the president of the Los Angeles Unified school board, issued a blistering statement yesterday accusing Whitman of being disingenuous. García cites Whitman’s close allegiance with former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson (he’s her campaign chairman), who supported Proposition 187, the 1994 voter-backed initiative that sought to block undocumented immigrants from receiving state services, including public education. Wilson, out of office for 12 years, has remained a polarizing figure among many Latinos in the state.

The ad is one in a series that Whitman has been airing to court the state’s coveted Latino vote. The candidate is also running ads that highlight her opposition to Arizona’s controversial immigration law. According to Field Poll results released last month, Whitman’s support among Latinos has picked up since she began her Spanish advertising blitz. It also has prompted her opponent, Democratic state Attorney General Jerry Brown, to start his own Latino outreach campaign. Some Democrats have been frustrated by Brown’s slow start to courting Latino voters.

But Brown certainly has a history of bonafides he can draw on when it comes to his support for Latinos. As governor in the 1970s, Brown supported Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers’ movement and signed the landmark Agricultural Labor Relations Act, which gave the state’s farmworkers the right to organize.

For a more thorough look at Whitman’s positions on education, look at her campaign website. Among the highlights: directing more money into classrooms, raising the cap on charter schools, and, borrowing an idea from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, issuing annual report cards on schools.

Curiously, Brown, who started two charter schools during his years as mayor of the city of Oakland and at one time supported the idea of a school board comprised of mayoral appointees, doesn’t appear to even have an education platform on his campaign website. Or if he does, it’s sure not easy to find.

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

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