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Education Leaders Assail Planned Cuts

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Education leaders angrily complained Tuesday that they had been misled by Gov. George Deukmejian who, they said, won their support for a gasoline tax increase with the implicit understanding that he would not push for cuts in education funding.

Less than a month after the voters approved a phased-in 9-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax increase, the governor is now proposing to cut education by $800 million to help bridge a $3.6-billion gap in the state budget.

“We feel like we’ve been betrayed,” said Ed Foglia, president of the California Teachers Assn.

Michael Frost, Deukmejian’s chief of staff, defended the governor’s plan, saying that the budget crisis this year was so severe that no programs should escape austerity.

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Proposition 111, a ballot measure approved by voters June 5, modified the state spending limit and triggered the gasoline tax increase as well as certain changes in the funding formulas set out for education in Proposition 98. In 1988, despite the adamant opposition of Deukmejian, voters approved Proposition 98, which guaranteed schools at least 40% of the state budget and provided yearly funding increases tied to enrollments and inflation.

As part of the negotiations over Proposition 111, education leaders agreed to give up some of the money schools would have garnered under Proposition 98 in years when there was a budget surplus in return for changes in the formula that determines the amount they will get each year to compensate for inflation.

“The ink’s not dry on . . . Proposition 111 and all of a sudden there’s a recommendation (to) forget it--it doesn’t mean anything,” said Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig.

Both Honig and Kevin Gordon, director of government relations for the California School Boards Assn., said the governor’s suggestion for cuts also violates the intent of Proposition 98. A clause in the initiative permits Proposition 98 to be suspended by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature in an “emergency.”

By emergency, they said the measure referred to a natural disaster such as an earthquake, not budget shortages that could be solved by other means.


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