Investment in education has pushed gubernatorial candidate and former State Superintendent of Schools Delaine Eastin (D) into the race for the governor’s office in 2018 and into a visit to Stanislaus State amid her campaign.
Eastin is the second gubernatorial candidate to make an appearance at Stanislaus State, courtesy of the latest town hall hosted by the university’s Democratic Party Club. The reasons for Eastin’s candidacy lie in California’s disinvestment in education, which according to Eastin include cuts to early childhood education, dropout rates, the building of only three California State Universities in more than 30 years, and per prisoner spending exceeding per pupil spending.
“I began serving on a lot of different boards that helped children and education and the environment and different things, and I watched as California began disinvesting in education again,” said Eastin. “When I got to be superintendent, we had dropped to 47th of the 50 states in per pupil spending. I got us back to 27th. Tonight, we’re down to 39th.
“You’re living in the most expensive state in the union, with the highest number and percentage of poor children, the highest number and percentage of English learners — you should not be in the bottom 10. You should be near the top,” Eastin added.
Within the Carol Burke Lounge, Eastin rallied, in no uncertain terms, for affordable health care, affordable housing, clean air and water, universal access to child care and preschool, banning fracking, making college tuition free and building more colleges.
“We have the fewest slots available for four-year colleges as a proportion of our population as any state,” claimed Eastin. “We used to be number one. Now, we’re number 50. We used to spend 18 percent of state budget on higher ed [and] three percent on prisons. Higher ed is now below 12 percent. Prisons are above 9 percent.”
While Eastin posed a number of visions for education, community members still questioned how these bold endeavors would see funding.
In response, Eastin addressed making changes to Proposition 13 and the reassessment of commercial and industrial properties. The 1978 law deals with property taxes and made it so that reassessment of property could only be done when a property changes hands or construction is done. According to Eastin, some firms haven’t reassessed since 1975.
Being one of four Democratic candidates, Eastin differentiated herself from the rest of the field by pledging to not take money from big pharmaceuticals, a commitment to education and emphasizing her stance as the only candidate to come out against fracking.
“We had earthquakes before they were fashionable,” quipped Eastin. “We don’t need to frack to find out what an earthquake feels like. It’s dangerous for us to be fracking.
“At the end of the day, I don’t have to tear them down to build myself up, but who’s talking about changing Prop 13?... the reality is right now in California we need to have social justice as a real focal point for us,” Eastin added. “We are the most diverse state in this union and we need social justice as a centerpiece of what we do.”
Following the town hall, Eastin also presented her views on managing crime through an increased concentration on education. She made her case with talking points including kids having access to preschool, mandatory kindergarten and strategies implemented by Montclair Ontario School District that she claims led to increased attendance, graduation and no suspensions in four years.
“If we did a better job with education, we could break the school to prison pipeline. I understand the wish that we would spend less on prisons. It’s ridiculous,” said Eastin. “... budgets are statements of values. Is it more important to spend money on prisoners than it is to spend on education? No, it’s the opposite of what we ought to be doing.”
Despite the variety of platforms she posed, it was Eastin’s fervor for education that resonated with members of the audience.
“Education is the foundation for a better future. Education is the foundation to build a strong society, so any candidate who is willing to invest in education - I am looking to work with that candidate,” praised Stanislaus County Democratic Central Committee Chairman Harinder Grewal.
Eastin’s educational prowess and dedication to students was a standout trait even to attendees who had never heard her platform before, such as Maya Ramirez, a student at Stanislaus State.
“I honestly had never heard about her before but, after this event, it was really informative. I learned that she appears to be, on paper at least, a really good candidate for governor,” Ramirez said.