Kirst is a Stanford education professor who has a long relationship with Gov. Jerry Brown. He served on the board during Brown's first term as governor (including a stint as president), consulted on education matters when he was the mayor of Oakland and advised Brown throughout his most recent gubernatorial campaign.
He is one of seven new members Brown appointed last week to the board that sets policy for California's public schools.
The board was supposed to tackle two hot-button issues in its first meeting, which runs through today: affirming the ability of the Aspire charter school chain to operate statewide, and regulations for a controversial law known as the "parent trigger" that made up part of the Race to the Top package of bills.
Both items will reveal the political leanings of the new board on education reform. The prior board, appointed by Schwarzenegger, favored charter schools and policies that give parents more choice about their children's education. But teachers' unions generally oppose such changes, and were heavy contributors to Brown's campaign.
The items were postponed to give board members more time to consider the issues, said Regina Wilson, spokeswoman for the state board of education.
Photo: Michael Kirst. Courtesy of Stanford University School of Education, 2010