Ex-California Secretary of Education Gary Hart dies at 78

January 29, 2022 GMT
FILE - Former State Education Secretary Gary K. Hart is seen in February 1999. The former state lawmaker who represented parts of California's central coast for 20 years and served as secretary of education under Gov. Gray Davis, has died. He was 78. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
FILE - Former State Education Secretary Gary K. Hart is seen in February 1999. The former state lawmaker who represented parts of California's central coast for 20 years and served as secretary of education under Gov. Gray Davis, has died. He was 78. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
FILE - Former State Education Secretary Gary K. Hart is seen in February 1999. The former state lawmaker who represented parts of California's central coast for 20 years and served as secretary of education under Gov. Gray Davis, has died. He was 78. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
FILE - Former State Education Secretary Gary K. Hart is seen in February 1999. The former state lawmaker who represented parts of California's central coast for 20 years and served as secretary of education under Gov. Gray Davis, has died. He was 78. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
FILE - Former State Education Secretary Gary K. Hart is seen in February 1999. The former state lawmaker who represented parts of California's central coast for 20 years and served as secretary of education under Gov. Gray Davis, has died. He was 78. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gary K. Hart, a former state lawmaker who represented parts of California’s central coast for 20 years and served as secretary of education under Gov. Gray Davis, has died. He was 78.

Hart’s family said he died Thursday of pancreatic cancer.

Hart was a Democratic member of the California Assembly from 1974 to 1982, when he was elected to the California Senate, representing a district that included parts of Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

A former teacher, he focused his legislative work on education, the environment and women’s rights, the Sacramento Bee reported Saturday. His bills helped create California’s first public charter school, establish the state solar tax credit and increase child support payments for divorced women.

Since the Charter School Act was passed in 1992, about 1,300 charter schools have opened across the state.

“Senator Hart’s reimagining of the public education system through charter public schools provided educators the flexibility to design instructional models that put students first and deliver a high-quality education,” Myrna Castrejon, president of the California Charter Schools Association said in a statement.

Another bill to assess the need for a public university in Ventura County led to the establishment of Cal State University Channel Islands.

After retiring in 1994, he co-founded the California State University Institute for Education Reform and served as secretary of education in Davis’ administration.

He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Cary Hart, and their three daughters.