As McGeorge School of Law professor Chris Micheli observes, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, a nonpartisan elected office, “directs all functions of the Department of Education, executes policies set by the California State Board of Education, and also heads and chairs the Board.” None of the duties Micheli outlined include making state contracts in which the superintendent has a had a financial interest. That was what got State Superintendent Bill Honig busted on four felony conflict-of-interest charges in 1993.
In similar style, the duties of the State Superintendent do not include giving away millions of dollars in public funds to corrupt organizations. That was the practice of former Bay Area Assemblywoman Delaine Eastin, State Superintendent from 1994-2002.
On Eastin’s watch, the state was funding an interlocking directorate of “Community Based Organizations.” The CBOs, in turn, were to use the money for citizenship classes and English language instruction for immigrant children. Instead CBO bosses were spending it on political activism, the purchase of new homes, and luxury items such as Mercedes-Benz automobiles and jewelry. The CBO that got the most, some $7 million, was Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, founded by Bert Corona, a Communist Party USA activist going back to the 1930s.
When state auditors Robert Cervantes and James Lindberg began investigating the CBOs, Corona complained to Delaine Eastin. She did not put a stop to the massive fraud and theft of public funds. Instead she reprimanded and demoted the whistleblowers, who were also on the receiving end of threats from Corona, a Stalinist with a long record of violence.
The whistleblowers took legal action and the state wasted more taxpayer dollars defending Eastin. Cervantes got his job back, plus a monetary settlement. In 2002, a jury awarded Mr. Lindberg $4.5 million and held Delaine Eastin personally liable for nearly $1.4 million in non-economic damages and $150,000 in punitive damages because she had “acted with malice” toward him. The award was reduced to $4 million and Eastin’s punitive damages dropped, but by then the damage had been done.
“Taxpayers’ money was ripped off, and politicians were at least compliant, if not complicit,” wrote Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee. “Those who tried to set things right were punished and the taxpayers were tapped again to compensate them. Finally, taxpayers’ money meant to educate children is, instead, being spent to fight a whistle-blower. What’s wrong with this picture? Everything.” Even so, Eastin never faced felony charges of the kind that brought down Bill Honig.
“President Trump’s proposed budget is an out and out theft from the least of us to give to those with the most.” That is Delaine Eastin in the April 5, 2017 San Jose Mercury News. The piece notes that Eastin was a candidate for governor and a former state education superintendent but says nothing of her record in that powerful post.
Thanks to Eastin’s friend, the late millionaire lobbyist John Mockler, K-12 education is the biggest item in the budget. State Education Superintendents Bill Honig and Delaine Eastin both confirm that the money is not all for the children.