New Priorities: Governor Brown Overhauls California Education

It started with a message from Ben Austin, Executive Director of Parent Revolution. He announced his departure from the California State Board of Education at the behest of incoming Governor Jerry Brown. Austin’s announcement stated his ongoing commitment to pursue charter schools and other options “outside the system” for parents dissatisfied with their bottom-ranking public schools.

Just a few days later, Brown removed 7 out of the 11 California State School Board members and replaced them with his own. Most of these are seasoned educators, administrators, and school superintendents. One, Bill Honig, has removed himself from consideration for appointment, with no reason given.

The LA Weekly points out that pending regulations on the petition process for parents using the “Parent Trigger” law passed in 2010 will be finalized and approved under Brown’s Board, and not the pro-charter-friendly board of the previous administration.

The LA Times and the LA Weekly both have assessments of the new appointees. They’re scheduled to be sworn in on Friday, January 14, 2011.

One professor of education remarked that not only was Brown parting ways with a pro-charter agenda, he was also putting distance between the state of California and President Obama’s Race to the Top agenda:

“The governor has selected some of the smartest policy thinkers in California. They’re experienced, they’re thoughtful and they’re largely independent minded, with the exception of the CTA staffer,” said Bruce Fuller, an education professor at UC Berkeley.

“But the move does signal that the governor is breaking from President Obama’s reform agenda quite sharply…. The downside of that is, if not the Obama reform agenda, what is the governor’s specific plan for lifting public schools? It’s an independent, smart and sage group, but will they coalesce around a pointed and aggressive plan?”

Given the state’s size, its 6.2 million students in almost 10,000 public schools, it’ll be interesting to see how Governor Brown pilots education policy for this influential state.

Cross-posted from