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During her campaign to become the state's first woman superintendent of public instruction, Delaine Eastin often took on Gov. Pete Wilson. She promised to "put kids first" in budget fights, denounced Wilson's retreat from the state's experiment with a new student testing system and strongly opposed Proposition 187, which the governor backed.

Now that Eastin has won, she began Wednesday to sound more conciliatory.

"I believe the governor in fact wants to be an effective governor," she said. "If he and I can work together to get the job done for California children, it will be of enormous benefit."

Eastin said she and the governor share some education goals, including elimination of campus violence and improving classroom technology. Her new tone may reflect the realization that the Democratic assemblywoman from Fremont will have to contend with formidable players who have a say in shaping education policy.

These players include the fellow Democrat she defeated 56% to 44% on Tuesday--Maureen DiMarco, who will continue as Wilson's education policy adviser--and the Wilson-appointed State Board of Education.

Eastin also will have to work with a Legislature that has become more Republican and will encounter new chairpersons of the education committees in both houses. Further, she will need to shake off suspicions that she is too closely tied to the California Teachers Assn. and other public employee unions, which provided a large chunk of the $2 million she raised for her campaign.

Eastin said Wednesday she expects a soon-to-be-released report, developed at Wilson's request by the nonpartisan Education Commission of the States, will provide a vehicle for consensus and cooperation to improve California's public schools.

She also promised to appoint a bipartisan staff and to "try hard to work with the leadership of both houses and both parties to do the right thing."

DiMarco said Wednesday that whether the two election opponents will be able to work together "depends on which Delaine we get. If it's the strident, confrontational one, there will be some serious problems. If, however, she earnestly seeks compromise and stays focused on what's best for kids instead of the employee groups, I think there is a strong possibility we can get something done."

Eastin will have to work hard to stake out a leadership role for herself from an office that is largely administrative and whose policy powers have been diluted by recent court decisions, said Michael Kirst, a Stanford University education professor and a former member of the State Board of Education.

Unlike her most recent predecessor, Bill Honig, Eastin comes to office with a partisan political history after a low-visibility campaign, Kirst noted. Honig had the advantage of a much stronger state fiscal situation when he took office, enabling him to help push through a series of reforms and avoid until later bitter clashes over education spending.

Only when speaking of Proposition 187, the illegal-immigration-control ballot measure that won in a landslide Tuesday, did Eastin keep her fighting stance, vowing to join in court challenges.

It would be harmful to deny illegal immigrant children a public education, Eastin said, and she criticized Proposition 187's requirement that school staff verify student status and turn in the names of suspected illegal immigrants.

"Their job is to teach children, and since we have some of the most crowded classrooms in America, I think they've got their hands full already," Eastin said.

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