Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman struck back Tuesday against rival Jerry Brown's claim that her proposed tax cuts for the wealthy would strip billions from California's public schools.
Whitman said she would funnel more money into classrooms by trimming what she described as an overfed state education bureaucracy.
The former eBay Inc. chief executive said she would consider axing one of the many overlapping entities that oversee public education.
"We can no longer have two gigantic bureaucratic overhead structures," Whitman said. "What we're doing is we are force-feeding the bureaucracy while we are starving the classroom."
Whitman has not offered specifics on how she would streamline the system.
She spoke after touring an Oakland elementary school on Tuesday, as her campaign released an ad touting her as an education reformer.
Whitman said none of the $15 billion in cuts she wants to make would come from schools, but did not explain how she would achieve that when more than half the state's $87 billion general fund goes to K-12 public schools and universities.
Brown, the Democratic state attorney general, in recent days has criticized Whitman's plan to eliminate the capital gains tax, calling the proposal a giveaway to the wealthy that would add to California's deficit at the expense of education funding.
The tax cut is a cornerstone of Whitman's plan to reboot the state's floundering economy, where unemployment has stayed above 12 percent for more than a year. Whitman said Tuesday that lower taxes would spur investment and job creation, which would lead to more tax revenue that could provide more money for schools.
Whitman also used the Oakland event to criticize Brown's handling of the city's education system during his two terms as mayor of that city.
During Brown's second term in 2003, the state Legislature approved a $100 million emergency loan to the insolvent Oakland Unified School District and put the district under direct state control.
"I think everyone is clear that the record in Oakland is dismal. ... He did not turn this school system around," Whitman said.
Brown campaign spokesman Sterling Clifford called Whitman's claims that Brown was to blame for the school district's troubles untrue and "desperate."