Tom Torlakson sworn in as Calif. head of schools

January 3, 2011 5:35:09 PM PST
After 32 years in local and state politics, Tom Torlakson may be embarking on his toughest challenge yet as he takes over as California's new Superintendent of Public Instruction.

"We should be the nation's leader in education and we will be again," Torlakson said at his swearing-in ceremony at Concord's Mt. Diablo High School Monday.

The 61-year-old Torlakson returned to his roots at Mt. Diablo, where he once taught science and world history. Like so many in the state, Mt. Diablo is a district in deep financial trouble, facing school closures as a way to help solve a looming budget deficit.

"We're going to have to bite the bullet right now and fix the short-term gimmickry and mirrors and smoke that have gone on in Sacramento so that we can get honest budgets," Mt. Diablo School Board member Gary Eberhart said.

Torlakson expects things to get worse for education funding before they get better at the state level under new governor Jerry Brown. Brown is expected to release his budget on Jan. 10.

"We're going to see the governor's budget soon," Torlakson said. "I anticipate there are going to be cuts because education is such a huge part of the budget, but I'm going to fight to see that the cuts are minimal and that we go to the voters and ask the voters to invest in our schools."