In the race to lead California’s public schools into the 21st century, incumbent Delaine Eastin appeared headed for a November runoff with educator Gloria Matta Tuchman, with about half the votes counted. Though Eastin led the field in votes, she appeared to be falling just short of the majority she needed to win the job outright.

Tuchman — perhaps buoyed by her co-sponsorship of Proposition 227, the English for the Children Initiative — was second for much of the evening. Educational consultant Barbara Carpenter, businessman Mark Isler and college professor Miles Everett appeared to be splitting the vote enough to prevent anyone from capturing the majority needed to avoid a November runoff.

In polls, Eastin led the field in name recognition, but a significant number of those polled said they had not yet decided whom they would support for the non-partisan, statewide office.

The state superintendent of public instruction is the state’s top school official, charged with carrying out educational policies.

Education has dominated headlines and campaign platforms over the past few months. And billions of dollars have been poured into programs ranging from class-size reduction to teacher training in the last three years.

During the campaign, Eastin emphasized her accomplishments, including carrying out class-size reduction in the primary grades and establishing the state’s first learning standards in reading, writing and mathematics. Work also is being completed on standards for what students need to know and be able to do in science, social science and history.

Eastin also urged legislators and gubernatorial candidates to increase the state’s per-pupil funding by $1,000 over the next five years in an effort to bring California in line with the national average.

Challengers for the post differed from Eastin’s philosophy on many points. Isler, Carpenter and Tuchman all supported vouchers and emphasized the need to return to the basics in reading and math instruction. Tuchman, a first-grade teacher in Santa Ana, is a former school board member and ran for superintendent in 1994. Everett, a former Army officer, urged parents to limit the amount of television their children watch.

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