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LOOKING TO 1991 : The...

Look for Orange County to be at the forefront of state education issues--particularly funding matters--in 1991.

Without a doubt, the greatest impact on county and state education issues will come from the appointment of Maureen DiMarco, president of the Garden Grove Unified School District Board of Trustees, as Gov.-elect Pete Wilson’s “education czar.”

As secretary for child development and education, DiMarco will be charged with establishing a cohesive policy on education and youth issues. While DiMarco will have to give equal weight to concerns from throughout the state, her presence in Sacramento will likely give her Orange County colleagues a much-needed sympathetic ear in the Capitol.

And DiMarco is likely to find herself surrounded by those colleagues. Among them could be members of a steering committee headed by J. Kenneth Jones, superintendent of the Fullerton Joint Union High School District, who is leading the fight for repeal of a law that allows counties to assess fees for collecting property taxes from cities and school districts.

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While the steering committee lobbies in Sacramento, the Capistrano Unified School District will be waging another battle in the courts. Last month, the district announced that it will lead eight other districts in the state in a lawsuit against state schools chief Bill Honig, who Capistrano officials charge has failed to enforce the Serrano-Priest law requiring equal funding among all school districts.

While much of the focus in 1991 will be on Orange County’s impact on state issues, the face of county education will change as well. For the first time in more than two decades, the county will have a new schools chief--John F. Dean, who takes over from longtime Supt. Robert Peterson on Jan. 7.

In addition to the seemingly never-ending problem of funding, Dean and other educators will be faced with other ongoing problems such as the lack of bilingual teachers in an increasingly multilingual county and restructuring curricula for students who are not bound for college.

Orange County will be at the forefront of a nationwide effort to solve the latter issue with the involvement of four school districts in a joint schools-business partnership led by the American Business Conference, an organization of 100 chief executive officers of mid-size companies. The program, which aims to channel high school graduates directly into the work force, will be tried on an experimental basis in Orange County, New Jersey and Texas, starting in 1991.

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