State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig announced Thursday that he has spent $425,000 of his own campaign funds to produce a slick, 32-page brochure touting improvements in the public schools and promoting Proposition 98, the school funding initiative.
Honig helped write Proposition 98 and is one of its strongest supporters. But the schools chief acknowledged that a major reason he decided to use his own political funds to promote the measure was that under a new “political reform” initiative to take effect Jan. 1, he will be prevented from spending most of the money on himself anyway.
Honig, frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for governor in 1990, is featured in five full-page, full-color photographs in the magazine-size brochure.
“Hey, it’s my money, you know. I mean I never said it wasn’t going to benefit me,” Honig said when questioned about the photos at a news conference. “My fortunes are tied up with the fortunes of the schools.”
Using computerized voting lists for names and addresses, the Proposition 98 campaign is mailing the publication to 550,000 two-voter households in all regions of the state, hoping that it will be seen by at least 1.1 million voters.
It will go to both Democratic and Republican voters. But the emphasis will be on voters under the age of 40, who are most likely to have children in school, according to a Proposition 98 official. Honig said senior citizens will receive other types of mailings.
Proposition 98 would guarantee public schools and community colleges about 40% of the state general fund, which this year amounts to $36.1 billion. The general fund is used to finance schools, prisons, health programs and other state services. In addition, schools would be provided with automatic budget increases tied to the level of inflation and school enrollment growth. The proposition would also repeal a provision of the state Constitution so that in the future, schools, rather than taxpayers, would have first crack at tax rebates stemming from budget surpluses.
Passage of the measure would give schools an immediate budget increase of $215 million, a figure that could grow to as much as $1 billion in extra money in a few years. Had it been in place last year, budget officials estimate that schools would have received $750 million of the $1.1 billion rebated to taxpayers.
Honig’s brochure answers critics who have questioned the performance of schools in recent years. It boasts of rising student test scores and other improvements since Honig became schools chief in 1983.
Honig, in the brochure, compares schools to a business: “From 1983 to 1986, our costs per student increased 10%. Our productivity, measured in student achievements, rose 20%. In any other business, our stock prices would be soaring!”
Honig said the $425,000 expenditure will use up most of the money in his personal campaign committee, Californians for a Better Education. As of the first of the month, the Honig campaign fund had $334,291 in it, but some bills for the brochure had already been paid. Nancy Honig, the superintendent’s wife who helps with the committee, said that “the money is almost all gone.”
The campaign committee raises money from a variety of sources, including teachers, businesses and others with an interest in education.
Proposition 73, one of two campaign finance measures approved by voters in June, places restrictions on the use of campaign funds collected during 1988 and before. When the measure takes full effect Jan. 1, most of the money Honig raised for his political war chest will not meet the new standards.