MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown blasted the notion of government-imposed standards for public schools, saying he opposed efforts from Washington and Sacramento to dictate education policy.
Using "data on a national or state level I think misses the point — that learning is very individual, very personal," Brown said during an on-stage interview Monday with the Atlantic magazine's James Bennet at the Computer History Museum. "It comes back to the teacher and the principal. The leader of the school is by far the most important factor."
When asked if he supported national education standards, Brown said, "No. That's just a form of national control."
Speaking to a half-empty auditorium of about 150 technology business leaders, Brown reprised a story he tells frequently about an exam he had in high school when a teacher asked students to write their impressions of a green leaf.
"Still, as I walk by trees, I keep saying, 'How's my impression coming? Can I feel anything? Am I dead inside?' So, this was a very powerful question that has haunted me for 50 years."
The point, Brown said, is that "you can't put that on a standardized test. There are important educational encounters that can't be captured by tests."
The 25-minute interview hit on topics including the rollout of the federal healthcare law and Brown's own intellectual approach, but did not touch on any of the issues or policies that may be part of Brown's next budget, which he is required to make public by Jan. 10.
Assembly Democrats unveiled their spending priorities for the upcoming year — including increases in welfare grants, tax credits for the working poor and more money for community colleges and public universities — but Brown, so far, has remained mum.
The governor expressed optimism that the federal government would fix the problems it has had enrolling thousands of newly eligible people for subsidized healthcare coverage, but admitted the launch of the massive new program was "screwed up."
But, he said, "something screwed up can get fixed."
California has had much more success in getting its own healthcare plan off the ground, he said.
Brown noted the recent shift in how the rest of the nation views California, now that the state has closed a $27-billion budget gap from when Brown began his term in 2011. Instead of being viewed as a failed state, Brown said, California has regained its reputation as an engine of innovation and creativity.
"California is still a very yeasty place," he said, noting the state's record for companies that develop new technologies that grow into major industries.
He said the state now has multibillion-dollar surpluses that can continue for the next several years if state lawmakers spend responsibly.
Though the release of his budget plan is still about a month away, Brown has expressed concerns that tens of thousands of Californians without jobs could soon lose their unemployment benefits, under a new bipartisan budget deal reached in Washington.
The governor sent a letter to congressional leaders late last week urging them to extend benefits for those who have been unable to find work.
"These workers will suffer irreparable harm if these federal benefits are allowed to expire," Brown wrote, noting that more than 214,000 Californians could see their benefits expire.
Brown also noted the "severe federal underfunding" of the state's unemployment insurance program, which the governor blamed for delays in workers receiving their unemployment checks.