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For School Kids, the Future Is Now

November 14, 1994

At a time when voters are preoccupied with controlling crime and illegal immigration, Delaine Eastin knows that the real future of California lies in improving education.

Eastin, elected Tuesday as California's first woman superintendent of public instruction, is one of just two Democratic statewide officers. She faces a tough challenge, not only in working with a Republican governor and, possibly, a GOP-dominated Assembly but also in making headway on educational reform as the state remains in the budgetary straitjacket imposed by the economic recession.

Demographic trends suggest that California public schools will see 30% growth in total enrollments over the next decade. Most of those new students are already born or, analysts at RAND predict, will be born to people who already live in California. As a result, RAND researchers argue, even stopping illegal immigration completely would have little effect on this massive growth.

In the face of this and other problems that could be daunting, Eastin offers sensible goals. She agrees with Gov. Pete Wilson on the need to eliminate campus violence and on improving classroom technology. With the innovative but controversial California Learning Assessment System (CLAS) test of student achievement unfortunately shelved by Wilson, Eastin wants to work toward implementation of another way to properly evaluate student performance. Such a statewide instrument is sorely needed.

Eastin also promises to be an advocate for California's youngsters in the surely bruising budget battles to come. We wish her success. Much depends on it.

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