Gov. Gray Davis on Friday appointed a highly respected education lobbyist known for his expertise in school finance to be California's new interim secretary of education.
John B. Mockler, 58, currently the executive director of the state Board of Education, will assume his new position on Aug. 1. Mockler will replace interim Secretary Sue Burr, who is joining the Elk Grove Unified School District as an assistant superintendent.
Mockler is an influential Sacramento insider, a self-described "education finance and policy junkie" who has spent three decades in and out of state government.
He has shaped large chunks of California's school finance code in the process, and is credited with being the primary architect of Proposition 98, the 1988 voter initiative that guarantees schools and community colleges minimum state funding each year.
"With a lifelong commitment to education, John Mockler brings invaluable experience to further my administration's efforts to improve California's schools," Davis said in a statement.
Mockler began working in Sacramento in 1965. He spent nearly 10 years in a variety of legislative positions, including stints as senior consultant to the Assembly Education Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. He also spent three years as a senior staffer in the state Department of Education under former Supt. Wilson Riles.
In the early 1980s, he spent a year as a top advisor to then-Speaker Willie Brown, specializing in education and tax issues.
Outside of Sacramento, Mockler worked three years for the Los Angeles Board of Education, reviewing budgets and district policies.
In recent years, he has headed consulting and lobbying firms, representing the Los Angeles district, textbook publishers and other interests.
Mockler said he is excited about his latest incarnation.
"I think we can do some good work," he said. "The state's economy is moving. We've directed a lot of resources toward education. The governor has really shown a willingness to move in that direction."
Mockler will serve at least through the end of the year. A spokesman for the governor said the appointment is temporary, until a permanent secretary is named.
Mockler and Burr follow Education Secretary Gary K. Hart, who resigned in February after little more than one year in the job.
Lawmakers, policymakers and leaders of the state's largest teachers union all applauded the appointment.
"There are few people who can stand up to John Mockler in terms of their knowledge of education policy, particularly finances," said Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni (D-San Raphael), chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee. "He knows education inside and out."
Wayne Johnson, president of the California Teachers Assn., said: "I don't think there's been a major piece of legislation affecting education in California in the last 15 years that John hasn't been a major factor in drafting. In Sacramento, he's been the man."