Where did the candidates for California's most high-profile elected offices – Jerry Brown, Meg Whitman, Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina – get their education?
None graduated from a public high school in California. San Francisco-born Attorney General Jerry Brown came the closest, attending St. Ignatius College Prep, the prestigious parochial school in his home town, and graduating from there in 1955. (The school, affectionately referred to as "SI," was founded exactly a hundred years earlier).
In fact, Brown has the purest California education pedigree of all four candidates. After graduating from St. Ignatius, he went to the University of Santa Clara, and then the Sacred Heart Novitiate Jesuit Seminary in Los Gatos in 1956. Four years later, he enrolled in UC Berkeley, where got a bachelor's degree in classics.
His opponent in the gubernatorial race was educated further afield. GOP candidate Meg Whitman graduated from Cold Spring Harbor High in Long Island, N.Y. in 1973. (Other notable former students include Lindsay Lohan, whose recent travails have not brought luster to her alma mater). Whitman went on to Princeton, where she got a degree in economics.
Of the four, Sen. Barbara Boxer is the most complete product of a public education, albeit far from California. She graduated from George W. Wingate High School in Brooklyn, and then attended Brooklyn College, a campus of the City University of New York. (In 2000, Wingate High was closed due to poor performance, and transformed into four "small schools.")
As a child, Boxer's GOP opponent Carly Fiorina moved constantly from state to state and even to London and Ghana (travels precipitated by her peripatetic-law professor father) but graduated (as Cara Carleton Sneed) from Charles Jordan High in Durham, N.C. One place her father had taught was Stanford University. The lure of the Bay Area brought her back to Stanford as an undergraduate, and she graduated in 1976 majoring in medieval history and philosophy.
Brown and Whitman do have one thing in common: They both have advanced degrees from Ivy League colleges. After Berkeley, Brown went to Yale Law School where he earned a law degree (a useful credential for an attorney general), while Whitman earned a degree in business administration from the Harvard Business School (no doubt equally useful in her role as eBay executive).
Why is any of this relevant? It's clear one's early educational experiences have a profound impact in shaping views on what works, and what doesn't, in education. In light of the multiple crises facing the state's public education system, and the failure of many educational reforms to turn them around, the views elected officials bring from their past experiences could leave their imprint on policies they advocate for California.
This is far more the case for whoever will be governor, but U.S. senators can also shape federal education policies affecting the states. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., demonstrated that as co-author of the No Child Left Behind legislation that has driven education reform in dramatic ways in California and nationally for the past decade.