Thursday, September 11, 2008


By Shane Goldmacher - Sacramento Bee

Sept 11, 2008 - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's fourth education secretary in five years resigned on Wednesday, saying he was ready to start "a different chapter of my life."

David Long, the former superintendent of schools in Riverside County whom Schwarzenegger touted as having "the most unbelievable experience" last March, lasted 18 months on the job.

The governor's office did not announce Long's resignation, though they made him available for an interview after The Bee obtained his resignation letter. No replacement has been named.

Long, a Republican, said his relationship with the governor remained strong throughout his tenure: "I came to Sacramento for a reason, and his name was Arnold Schwarzenegger."

Back when Long was tapped for the job in March of 2007, Schwarzenegger had touted 2008 as the "year of education reform," promising to overhaul both school funding and structure.

In his resignation letter, Long wrote that he took the job "because of the remarkable window of opportunity that existed for education."

Bob Wells, the executive director the Association of California School Administrators, said, "He wanted to be the guy at the right hand side of this governor shaping that."

But those grand plans fell by the wayside as the state slipped deeper into deficit. In January, Schwarzenegger proposed across-the-board cuts to education, though he later backtracked. The year of education was largely abandoned, as the state remains without a budget 73 days into the fiscal year.

"Those things were completely clobbered by the budget crisis," said Kevin Gordon, an education consultant.

In an interview, Long said that fact "didn't enter one of my brain cells in my decision" and added that the state's fiscal woes "shouldn't stop the train and it didn't."

Long was Schwarzenegger's fourth secretary of education, following Dick Riordan, Alan Bersin and acting-secretary Scott Himelstein.

It is a post fraught with bureaucratic infighting, as responsibility for public education is divided between the Board of Education, whose members the governor appoints, the elected superintendent of public instruction and the education secretary.

"I'd be less than honest if I didn't say there were some structural problems," Long said. "I don't know of any other state that has a system (like California)."

But his relationships with the leaders of the other education departments "overrode the structural problems."

Long said he had been offered new "tremendous opportunities" - though they are not yet finalized enough to be shared - and didn't want them to "slip away." He is a 40-year veteran working in and around public education.

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