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Jerry Brown Appoints Board, Cuts Ed Secretary Post

As expected, new California Gov. Jerry Brown has announced that he is eliminating the position of education secretary and the staff for that office, in a move he says will cut costs for his cash-bereft state and reduce duplication of duties. (See my earlier post for background.)

The Democrat is also moving fast on other education fronts. He made his appointments to the state's board of education this week. The names include Mike Kirst, of Stanford University, who advised Brown's campaign and served on the board previously; Bill Honig, a former state superintendent of instruction; Trish Boyd Williams, the executive director of EdSource, a nonpartisan research organization; and Patricia Ann Rucker, a legislative advocate for a union, the California Teachers Association, which endorsed Brown during his campaign. All seven of his appointees are Democrats.

Honig's appointment to the board drew criticism because he has a past conviction on conflict-of-interest charges (felonies that were were later reduced to misdemeanors). But Brown has defended him, telling the L.A. Times that Honig has "the knowledge and skill to be quite valuable, and it would be a shame to waste that."

The governor's board picks are being impugned more broadly in some circles by those who predict the new board will attempt to water down the state's "parent trigger" law, which allows mothers and fathers to vote to convert traditional public schools into charters, fire the principal, or close the school, among other options.

One of the disappointed was Gloria Romero, director of Democrats for Education Reform's California chapter. In an e-mail to Ed Week, she credited the outgoing board members with supporting new approaches to teacher evaluation and other changes in line with the state's Race to the Top application, and questioned the willingess of the new members to pursue the same agenda.

"Our children's futures depend on the actions of adults who will have the courage to truly prioritize a 'kids first' agenda," she wrote, "over the demands of the adults' special interests, which loom large in Sacramento."

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