While appearing to come close to agreement with legislative leaders on school financing in private negotiations Wednesday, Gov. George Deukmejian publicly exchanged insults with state Controller Gray Davis and Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig.
In uncharacteristically harsh language, the governor said Davis engaged in “shameless media showboating” when he decided Tuesday to pay California school districts the full 4.8% cost-of-living increase voted by the Legislature, instead of the 3% level that was included in the governor’s final budget.
Deukmejian warned local school superintendents that they risk running out of money sometime next spring if they spend all of the money that now is flowing from the controller’s office.
“It’s about time the state controller spent a little less time honing his press releases and media sound bites (and) spent a little more time reading the budget bill and the state Constitution, and living up to his oath of office to support and defend the Constitution,” the angry governor stated.
Davis shot back, “If the governor wants to engage in personal attacks, I’ll be happy to go behind the barn with him.”
Deukmejian also angered Honig by claiming that the state schools chief agreed to a 3% cost-of-living increase for schools when the two met to discuss the 1990-91 budget last January.
“That’s absolutely false,” Honig said. “When you get these people in a corner, they just lie.”
Honig said the governor had agreed last year, during discussions about how to implement Proposition 98, that he would first provide enough money for a full cost-of-living hike and then use any extra money for class size reduction and other educational improvements.
“Since then, he’s violated that agreement” in several ways “and now he has the gall to suggest that I volunteered” to accept a 3% cost-of-living adjustment, Honig said.
While all this shouting and name-calling was going on in public, Sens. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara), Becky Morgan (R-Los Altos Hills) and Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale) were working quietly with the governor’s office, trying to work out a school funding compromise.
These are the elements of the compromise, as described by members of both parties and by legislative aides involved in the negotiations:
The COLA would remain at 3%.
However, the governor would free up about $150 million of the $462 million he set aside when he signed the budget July 31 and this money would be sent to school districts immediately, on a per-student basis. This money would be part of the schools’ funding base, not one-time money. This had been a major disagreement between the governor and education groups.
Another $150 million would be sent to school districts next spring, if budget conditions permit, again on a per-student basis.
For class size reduction, $220 million would be spent but schools would have considerable flexibility in spending at least half of this money.
Most of the groups in the education coalition that has been negotiating with the governor and the Legislature indicated a grudging willingness to accept this compromise.
But Honig, whose feud with Deukmejian is deep and personal, and the powerful California Teachers Assn. object to the compromise because it retains the governor’s 3% increase.