Former California lawmaker, Secretary of Education Gary Hart dies at 78

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Former lawmaker and state Secretary of Education Gary K. Hart died Thursday of pancreatic cancer. He was 78.

Hart represented part of the Central Coast in the California Assembly from 1974 to 1982, when he was elected to the California Senate. Hart served in the Senate until 1994, representing a district that included parts of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

His legislative work focused largely on education, the environment and women’s rights. His bills helped create California public charter schools, establish the state solar tax credit and increase child support payments for divorced women.

“Hart always said much of his legislative success had to do with his dedicated and loyal staff who helped draft bills and provided wise strategic advice. He felt his ability to work closely with other legislators — including Republicans — was a key reason for his legislative successes especially when Republican governors (George) Deukmejian and (Pete) Wilson had the power to sign or veto bills,” according to an obituary that Hart’s family provided to The Sacramento Bee.

Then-State Sen. Gary K. Hart, D-Santa Barbara, teaches U.S. history to students at Kennedy High School in Sacramento in 1992. The class was studying the Great Depression.
Then-State Sen. Gary K. Hart, D-Santa Barbara, teaches U.S. history to students at Kennedy High School in Sacramento in 1992. The class was studying the Great Depression.

Hart also sought unsuccessfully to establish public financing of political campaigns and make changes to the ballot initiative process.

After leaving public office in 1994, Hart co-founded the California State University Institute for Education Reform. In 1998, Gov. Gray Davis tapped him to serve as secretary of education, where he helped shepherd Davis’ education agenda through the Legislature the following year.

After retiring from politics, Hart served on boards of several organizations, including the Public Policy Institute of California, the Cotsen Foundation for the Art of Teaching, the Campaign for College Opportunity and the Alder Graduate School of Education.

Hart, who was born Aug. 13, 1943, is survived by his wife of 52 years, Cary Hart, as well as three daughters and six grandchildren.

The family asks that contributions in Hart’s memory be made to the Sacramento County Office of Education Resiliency Scholarship Program, P.O. Box 269003, Sacramento, CA 95826.

Former state Sen. and Secretary of Education Gary K. Hart teaches students in the PACE program about maps at Kennedy High School in September 2002. Hart represented Santa Barbara in the Senate and the Assembly for 20 years. He twice ran for Congress, losing his second race in 1988 by less than a percentage point.
Former state Sen. and Secretary of Education Gary K. Hart teaches students in the PACE program about maps at Kennedy High School in September 2002. Hart represented Santa Barbara in the Senate and the Assembly for 20 years. He twice ran for Congress, losing his second race in 1988 by less than a percentage point.
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