Attorneys for state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig and for the State Board of Education have reached an agreement that will significantly expand the role of the board in supervising California educational policy.
However, the agreement, contained in a “memo of understanding” that was made available Wednesday, provides less authority over the budget and major education programs than board President Joseph D. Carrabino and others on the board had been seeking.
“It is a compromise,” said a key figure in the negotiations who did not want to be identified. “It includes concessions from both sides.”
The agreement is scheduled go before the board Friday for official action and is expected to end a quarrel between Honig and the board that has lasted for several months.
The dispute arose over the constitutionally muddy role of the State Board of Education, 11 appointees of the governor who generally have taken a back seat to the state superintendent in setting and implementing policy.
The memo of understanding calls for the board to review and discuss the state’s $24-billion education budget no later than the board’s annual May meeting, which is several months before board members now see the proposed spending plan.
Carrabino has complained frequently that loose Department of Education fiscal controls create conditions for “rip-offs” or “corruption,” charges that Honig and other department officials have just as vehemently denied.
The agreement allows the board to recommend changes in the budget and requires Honig to provide staff members to help the board with its proposed changes.
Veteran Department of Education staffers said this amounts to a much bigger budget role for the board but does not give the board a veto over Honig’s proposed budget.
In another important area, the agreement permits the board to conduct full performance reviews of up to three Department of Education programs each year.
This formalizes a review process that has been rather haphazard in the past, both board and department sources said.
It eliminates the board’s demand that all personal service contracts of $20,000 or more receive board approval.
The agreement seeks to resolve another key dispute by requiring Honig to provide drafts of all policy advisories to board members at least 15 days before they are issued.
In the past, some board members have complained that Honig and other top Department of Education officials were issuing “underground regulations” to the state’s 1,000 school districts that never were discussed by the board.
In another departure from present practice, the board would review, but could not veto, Honig’s appointments to top department jobs.
The memo of understanding was hammered out by Howard L. Dickstein, special counsel for the State Board of Education, and Joseph R. Symkowick, general counsel for the Department of Education.
If the board does not accept the agreement Friday and decides instead to demand even more authority, Honig probably will resist and the matter will wind up in court.