Growing up a time when most girls weren’t sent to college, Delaine Eastin feels fortunate that her parents placed such a high value on her education. They encouraged her to pursue her dreams, and she ended up graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of California Davis in 1969 and a Master of Arts in political science from the University of California Santa Barbara in 1971, as well as a California Lifetime Community College credential. The degrees propelled her to positions like instructor at California Community Colleges, accounting manager of Pacific Bell, city council member of Union City, California, corporate planner of the Pacific Telesis Group and assemblywoman of the California State Legislature. Ms. Eastin’s strong reputation in these roles led her to be elected to the post of superintendent of public instruction at the California Education Department, where she served two terms for a total of eight years. She was notably the first and only woman to be elected to the post, and was the fourth woman to be a constitutional officer in California. After this, Ms. Eastin became the executive director of the National Institute for School Leadership and a distinguished professor of educational leadership at Mills College. Since stepping down in 2009, she has continued to share her knowledge through various speaking and consulting engagements.
One of the highlights of Ms. Eastin’s career was orchestrating a class size reduction in the state of California for kindergarten through third grade. When she was elected superintendent of public instruction, they had the largest class size in the U.S., which didn’t seem right to her. She drafted a $2.3 billion proposal to reduce class size in kindergarten through third grade, and sued then-governor Pete Wilson for illegally withholding money from the schools. He eventually agreed to a class size reduction of 20 or less in kindergarten through third grade and, with the help of her wonderful and committed staff, they made it happen. These efforts led to substantially increased education funding and to California moving from 47th to 27th in per-pupil spending. Another highlight was writing the biggest landfill clean-up bill in California’s history.
As a testament to her hard work and dedication, Ms. Eastin received accolades like the UC Davis Medal in 2015, the June Taylor Award for her efforts to put gardens in schools from the American Horticultural Society in 2003, the President’s Crystal Apple Award from the American Library Association, and the Educational Excellence Award from the California Association for Counseling and Development, as well as Alumna of the Year awards from UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara. Other notable honors include being named the Legislator of the Year by the California School Boards Association three times, an Outstanding Public Official by the California Teachers Association and an Outstanding Business Woman by the American Business Women’s Association, among many others. She is also particularly proud to have an elementary school in Union City named after her, as well as an early childhood developmental center in Fremont and a high school art gallery in Healdsburg.
When Ms. Eastin has free time, she enjoys photography, hiking, reading, theater, travel and community engagement. She had previously held roles like board of directors of the Pence Gallery, commissioner for the Commission on the Status of Women, chair of the Alameda County Library Commission and president of the Alameda County Solid Waste Management Authority.