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Decision '94 / SPECIAL GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA'S ELECTIONS : Statewide Races : SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION

October 30, 1994

THE OFFICE

As chief advocate for public education, the superintendent oversees day-to-day operations of the 2,200-employee state Department of Education. Within the state's 5.2-million student system of schools, the officeholder also helps local districts carry out policies set by the governor-appointed State Board of Education, distributes about $29 billion in federal, state and local school funds and helps develop curriculum, school reform efforts, student assessment and teacher training. The superintendent also is a member of the University of California Board of Regents and an ex-officio member of the Cal State University Board of Trustees. The post is the only statewide constitutional office that is designated nonpartisan.

MAJOR CANDIDATES

MAUREEN DI MARCO

* Born: Aug. 2, 1948, Rochester, N.Y.

* Residence: Cypress

* Current position: California secretary of child development and education

* Education: Attended Glendale Community College, USC and Western State University Law School

* Career highlights: A Democrat, she was appointed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson in 1991, as state's first Cabinet-level education adviser. Began as a volunteer in her children's classrooms, elected to the Garden Grove school board, was president of the California School Boards Assn., served as a consultant to former Supt. Bill Honig.

* Family: Married to Richard DiMarco; two children

* Background: As consultant to Honig, DiMarco participated in fashioning landmark school reform legislation in 1983, which beefed up high school graduation requirements and lengthened the school day and year. While working for Wilson, she helped initiate such programs as providing health and social services on school campuses with large numbers of needy students, expanding the state's preschool program and starting a new teacher-intern program.

DiMarco's defense of Wilson's budget policies during the recession--in essence keeping per-pupil spending the same for three years, with no allowance for rising costs--has been seized upon as a major campaign theme by opponent Delaine Eastin, who charges that the governor gives prisons a higher priority than schools.

DiMarco pledges to help "get the politics and bickering" out of education, work for improvement in basic academic skills, make schools safer and give local districts more say in how their schools are run.

*

DELAINE EASTIN

* Born: Aug. 20, 1947, San Diego

* Residence: Fremont

* Current position: Member of California Assembly

* Education: Bachelor's degree, UC Davis; master's degree, UC Santa Barbara

* Career highlights: A Democrat elected to the Assembly in 1986, Eastin has chaired its Education Committee for four years. Before entering politics, she was a community college government instructor for seven years, then worked as a manager at Pacific Bell during the court-ordered breakup of the Bell telephone system.

* Family: Married to Jack Saunders; no children

* Background: The combative Eastin helped lead a successful fight during the 1992 budget negotiations to protect schools from deeper cuts. She has penned a wide range of education bills, including a measure that resulted in tighter fiscal controls on local school systems after the financial collapse of the Richmond Unified School District in the Bay Area. She also pushed through bills to "cut red tape in the education code" and to modernize libraries, both of which were signed by the governor.

Eastin's strong alliance with the powerful California Teachers Assn. has made her vulnerable to accusations that she could not be an independent leader on education issues. In particular, she fought unsuccessfully for CTA-sought conditions in the state's 1992 charter school law, which grants selected schools great autonomy and freedom from most district and state regulations.

The assemblywoman promises to be a "bureaucracy buster" and to "fight to put kids first" through cleaner and more modern schools, higher academic standards, education reforms and increased parental and business involvement.

The Issues

Separated by few ideological differences, the candidates nevertheless fault each other on specific issues as they tout their records and qualifications to overhaul California schools. The DiMarco campaign, trying to portray Eastin as the tool of special interests, says in an analysis of the assemblywoman's financial supporters that almost half of the $643,000 she raised between July 1 and Sept. 30 came from labor unions and education employee groups. The Eastin campaign, noting that Wilson is raising money for the underfunded DiMarco, calls her an apologist for Wilson.

STUDENT ASSESSMENT

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