What Would a Governor Larry Elder Mean for Education?

In less than a week, California voters will decide whether to short-circuit Gavin Newsom’s tenure as governor. Should they decide to send him packing – an outcome that would require some extraordinary math – they’ll be ushering his polar opposite into the governor’s mansion. Radio talk show host Larry Elder currently leads the field of challengers by 34 percentage points. He’s an unabashed Black conservative and Trump supporter who made a career out of challenging so-called “victimhood” mentality, insisting that personal choices and the collapse of the family, not systemic racism, are responsible for the challenges people of color face.

As you can imagine, Elder’s views on education also differ enormously from Newsom’s. He’s a longtime proponent of school choice and charter schools and he regularly takes teachers unions to task. He has vowed to fight student masking and mandatory teacher vaccinations in schools. EdSource would love to tell you more, but Elder declined to return their questionnaire about K-12 education policy. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley filled it out. You can read their responses here

For a moment, let’s just imagine what an Elder governorship would look like. He would almost certainly rescind the executive orders Newsom passed during the pandemic. One of the most immediate and consequential effects would be the state’s response to the coronavirus and the amount of protection offered in schools. An Elder administration would give even more oxygen to the anti-science activists who've been disrupting school board meetings nationwide.

For longer term education policy, the outcome would likely be quite different.

“A Democratic supermajority in the Legislature would plot to undermine him, with more than the two-thirds needed to pass veto-proof laws and replace his budget with their own,” writes EdSource’s John Fensterwald.

“And the State Board of Education, the governor’s primary instrument to set education policy, would remain under the control of Democratic appointees led by Newsom’s chief adviser, Linda Darling-Hammond.”

Jack O’Connell, the Superintendent of Public Instruction under Arnold Schwarzenegger, told Fensterwald he’d expect “immediate veto overrides, which we haven’t had since the late ‘70s under Jerry Brown’s first term.”

And so what? If there’s anything we’ve learned over the past five years, it’s that the GOP base seems far more interested in ‘shaking things up’ than policy anyway.