Honig Joins Governor on School Plan : Pair to Cooperate on Legislation for Education Reform

Times Sacramento Bureau Chief

After feuding bitterly with him for most of last year, Gov. George Deukmejian announced in his annual State of the State Address Wednesday that Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig now will join him in co-sponsoring legislation to "reform" student curriculum and school financing.

The new Deukmejian-Honig alliance was disclosed in a package of what the governor called "common-sense policies" for 1988 and into the future, sketched with little detail in a 23-minute speech clearly designed to refute critics who contend that California's chief executive has no vision.

Drawing perhaps his biggest applause of all, Deukmejian announced that his budget will contain nearly $1 billion in new money for K-12 schools. This will result in "the highest level of support per student in California history, even after adjusting for inflation," he asserted.

Deukmejian also announced proposals to:

--Place $1.6 billion in school construction bonds before the voters this year, double what the governor originally had sought.

--Open a California trade office in Mexico City by the end of the year, adding to the trade offices the governor opened last year in Tokyo and London.

--Hire 1,200 more Caltrans engineers and other state employees to "speed up work" on about 1,500 highway projects.

--Hire 2,200 more public safety employees and also place a bond issue before voters to build more prisons.

Delivered in Assembly Chamber

Deukmejian delivered his State of the State Address from the dais of the ornate, 19th Century-style Assembly chamber, as governors always have throughout modern California history. On hand for what is always one of the biggest events of the year in the Capitol were the 120 members of the Legislature, other elected statewide office holders--including Honig and Democratic U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston--top state Administration officials and invited guests.

Deukmejian, appearing slightly nervous despite it being his sixth State of the State message, was interrupted nine times by applause. The biggest ovations came when he talked about spending more money for education and locking up criminals.

The address was broadcast by satellite from the Capitol and carried live by at least 14 television and 12 radio stations around the state.

The dollar-and-cents details of the programs Deukmejian outlined will not be unveiled until today when the governor sends the Legislature a state budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning next July 1. Deukmejian announced that his proposed budget will total $44.3 billion, and he calculated that this would exceed current spending by 6%.

"Although the high-tax advocates disagree, we choose the common-sense wisdom of living within our means, not the pie in the sky vision of expensive dreams," the Republican governor declared, expressing his well-known fiscal conservatism. And with a jab at Washington and, indirectly, the Administration of his longtime ally, President Reagan, Deukmejian added: "As long as I'm governor, California, unlike the federal government, will never succumb to the fatal attraction of excessive spending."

Honig sat in front of Deukmejian, at a lower level, during the address. Last year, Honig repeatedly charged that Deukmejian's spending policies were a "disaster" for education and the governor, in turn, called the schools chief a "demagogue" and "snake oil salesman."

But on Wednesday, Deukmejian drew applause with the announcement that he and Honig will team up to co-sponsor legislation aimed at implementing the recommendations of the Commission on Educational Quality created last year by the governor during the height of their public feud.

His Biggest Battle

Deukmejian's biggest legislative battle at the start of his sixth year in office will be the struggle to win confirmation of his nominee for state treasurer, Rep. Daniel E. Lungren (R-Long Beach). Democrats, who control the Legislature, are eyeing confirmation of Lungren as a bargaining chip to gain gubernatorial support of their own programs. Appealing to the Legislature's sometime sense of "productive" bipartisanship, Deukmejian pushed in his speech for Lungren's confirmation, calling him "a man of unquestioned integrity, intelligence and fairness."

But Republicans basically were the only ones to applaud; Democrats sat silently.

Deukmejian did not spell out details of the legislation, but mentioned that he and Honig agree that the state should develop a new, uniform curriculum that all schools can use throughout the K-12 system. He noted that the commission found "that student performance is suffering in a number of school districts that lack clearly defined learning goals."

Additionally, Deukmejian said the legislation will include "an innovative assessment system to assure that schools are doing their job." If schools "consistently fail to perform," he added, echoing the commission's recommendations, the state Education Department--headed by Honig--should be authorized to "intervene and provide guidance, up to and including the appointment of a state trustee," presumably to help govern an institution.

Long-Range Planning

Deukmejian also said the legislation will require schools to "develop long-range financial plans that anticipate changes in enrollment and contain prudent reserves."

His budget proposal, the governor said, will contain money to improve training and testing of new teachers, continue the education of veteran teachers and provide more summer school classes for students--all things Honig pressed for last year. Deukmejian clearly was frustrated by the drawn-out battle with Honig last year because it tarnished the image he had built up during his first gubernatorial term as a friend of education. Honig's image as an effective champion of schools also was sullied when he was unable to deliver the money he was fighting for.

The two, even if they do not entirely agree, now have gone to pains to patch up their public quarrel--and they literally took extra steps to demonstrate their unity in the Assembly chamber. When Deukmejian was introduced at the podium, he waved over at Honig, then stepped down and walked 10 feet to shake the school chief's hand.

Expresses Satisfaction

Afterward, Honig expressed satisfaction with the new funds Deukmejian is proposing for education.

"Knowing how much money is available, we got our fair share," he told reporters. "I'm generally positive about the budget. It's fair from an educational viewpoint. . . . It's an important signal to the schools that we are going to continue this reform movement."

But of the $1 billion in additional money, Honig estimated that $750 million is needed "just to stay even."

Because of fateful timing, there seemed to be a slightly hollow ring to Deukmejian's boast that "California continues to be a powerful magnet for the best and the brightest . . . more engineers and scientists are working here than any other states." He did not mentioned two major setbacks suffered by his Administration in its recent attempts to lure prestigious, economy-stimulating research facilities to the state.

State Loses Plant

Even as Deukmejian was polishing his speech text on Wednesday, a computer chip consortium called Sematech, which is headquartered in California, announced its selection of Austin, Tex., as the site for its principal manufacturing and development center. California was a finalist for the site and Deukmejian had lobbied publicly for the facility, which will have an annual operating budget of $250 million.

Last month, California failed in an effort to be included on a list of finalists for an even bigger project, a $4.4-billion federal atom smasher called a superconducting super collider.

Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy, who is running for a Democratic U.S. Senate nomination, issued a prepared statement Wednesday calling for creation of a "California Competitiveness Task Force" to develop a strategy for winning such projects. "In today's challenging economy we have to constantly re-earn our stripes," McCarthy said. "Resting on our laurels is the economic equivalent of sleeping at the wheel."

Deukmejian borrowed from Will Rogers to say the same thing in different words: "Even if you are on the right track, you can still get run over if you just stand still." But the governor also said that while "complacency" is not justified, neither is "excessive complaining."

To Increase Spending

But attempting to address the increasing complaints of motorists, particularly in Southern California, Deukmejian noted that he has proposed a $2.3-billion, five-year plan to increase spending on California transportation projects by 40%. The proposal has passed the Senate but currently is tied up in the Assembly, and the governor urged that it be swiftly approved.

"Yet," he added, "it is not enough to simply pave over our transportation challenges by building new roads and freeways. We must also build new bridges of innovation to make better use of the system we already have." He called for businesses and local governments to promote ridesharing and flexible work hours, as the state government already is doing.

Deukmejian promised to make greater use of "innovative technology" such as road sensors and television monitors "to create smoother traffic flow." He added, "Our challenge is to replace high-tension highways with high-tech highways . . . free of roadblocks and violence."

The governor did not specify how big a bond issue he will propose for prison construction. As for bonds to build schools, the governor wants to place one $800-million proposal on the June ballot and another $800-million measure on the November ballot, an aide said.

Deukmejian likely will personally open the new Mexico City trade office if the Legislature authorizes the facility, the aide said.

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