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Governor Suggests Abolishing Office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction

July 15, 2010

During his radio address about the state budget last Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger offered a number of suggestions regarding how state government could save money – with the idea of abolishing the constitutional office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction being the first among several possibilities mentioned.

“I urge the legislators to get to work and to send me a budget as soon as possible,” the Governor said.

“I want to also remind them that the worst thing we could do in this budget is raise taxes again or borrow money again.”

“Not only would that kill private sector jobs and slow our economic recovery, but there are so many inefficiencies within government that should be fixed before we even think about raising taxes or borrowing.”

“That is why we have to look at ways to streamline the bureaucracy and make government smaller.}

“For example, in California we elect a Superintendent of Public Instruction. But why? We already have a Secretary of Education and a Board of Education. Why do we need a Superintendent of Education?”

The Governor continued, “We also have two completely separate tax collection agencies. The Board of Equalization handles the sales tax. And the Franchise Tax Board collects income and corporate taxes.”

“That is absolutely unnecessary and a waste of money, and there are so many more examples out there.”

California’s Secretary of Education and the members of the State Board of Education are appointed by the Governor.  The office of Secretary of Education was created in the 1990s.  The State Superintendent of Public Instruction, on the other hand, is a non-partisan office that was created when the state constitution was adopted in 1849.  Eliminating the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction would involve a constitutional amendment.  But as some legislative Democrats pointed out after the Governor’s address last Friday, the Governor could use his authority to save money by abolishing the office of Secretary of Education at any time.

Last year, some legislative Democrats suggested that the state save money by abolishing the office of Lieutenant Governor, after Lt. Gov. John Garamendi (a Democrat) resigned to take a seat in the House of Representatives. Garamendi, who had been contemplating a run for Governor, was elected to represent California’s 10th Congressional District in November 2009.  Some Democrats then flirted with the idea of abolishing the office of Lieutenant Governor (which has few actual duties) rather than see Gov. Schwarzenegger appoint a Republican to the post (who might eventually become a contender for Governor in some future election).  However, the idea of abolishing the office of Lieutenant Governor – which would have involved amending the state constitution – never got much traction, and has since been abandoned by most Democrats . . . particularly now that Democrat Gavin Newsom (currently mayor of San Francisco) is leading his Republican opponent (Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, appointed by Gov. Schwarzenegger) in public opinion polls leading up to the Nov. 2, 2010 general election.

The governor’s 2-minute, 56-second address is available at: http://gov.ca.gov/mp3/press/govaddress_budget_inaction_07092010.mp3.

The 2-minute, 59-second address is available in video form at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_E5ofSb6mw.

Sources:   EdBrief staff, Governor’s Press Office