Gov. names acting state education secretary

Times Staff Writer

The governor appointed an acting secretary of education Tuesday, choosing a loyal insider who is likely to lower the profile of the office, while pushing an agenda that includes improved vocational education and more transparency on school performance.

Scott Himelstein, 49, follows two strong and sometimes controversial personalities: former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and former San Diego schools Supt. Alan Bersin.

No fireworks are expected from Himelstein, a Republican who made generally positive impressions over 18 months as Bersin’s deputy and chief of staff.

Himelstein, who will earn $121,920 a year, pledged fidelity to Schwarzenegger’s ongoing education goals.


“Parents should have user-friendly, easy-to-access data for their local schools,” he said, echoing the governor in Tuesday’s State of the State address.

Himelstein also spoke of a need to “reinvent and rebuild career technical education.” He said that last November’s bond included money to build or modernize vocational classrooms. “And we’re working on ways to better recruit and retain teachers and to streamline the teacher credentialing process,” he said.

The education secretary advises the governor and also represents him on education-related issues and legislation. But the office doesn’t run the state’s Department of Education.

Himelstein came to Sacramento with Bersin, following their long association in San Diego.

In San Diego, Himelstein, at Bersin’s behest, chaired San Diego Reads, a public-private, communitywide initiative that raised more than $4 million to provide more than 1.5 million books to San Diego schools.

California Teachers Assn. President Barbara Kerr offered no comment on Himelstein, but said it was important to fill the job because of pressing ongoing issues, including distributing money from Senate Bill 1133, which provides $2.9 billion over seven years to low-performing schools. This funding settled a lawsuit over school funding between the CTA and the Schwarzenegger administration.