Nancy Honig Resigns From Parental Group : Education: The wife of state schools chief says conflict-of-interest inquiries created 'an untenable position for us all.' She served as president of the nonprofit organization.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Nancy Honig resigned Thursday as president of the Quality Education Project, a parent involvement program that is the subject of state and federal investigations into possible conflict of interest and misuse of funds by her husband, state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig.

Nancy Honig, who was paid more than $100,000 a year as QEP president, issued a statement saying she was leaving because "as long as I remain at its helm, QEP's effectiveness will be compromised and my husband's integrity will be challenged. This is an untenable position for us all and my resignation is the clear choice to make."

Bill Honig issued a one-sentence statement: "This is a difficult decision for Nancy to make but I understand it, respect it and support her in it." He was not available for questioning.

State Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren and the U.S. Department of Education have been investigating whether Honig used federal money to help QEP projects in several California school districts.

In a preliminary audit made public last month, federal auditors said they determined that Honig had a conflict of interest and demanded that he repay $222,590 in federal funds.

Honig called the findings "preposterous" and said he was sure that the Department of Education eventually would rule in his favor.

Lungren has been investigating similar allegations.

Honig's relationship with QEP has been one of many criticisms of the state schools chief that have been made by Joseph D. Carrabino, president of the State Board of Education, and by other board members.

In a spirited defense of the program at a State Board of Education meeting last February, Nancy Honig said QEP has received no money from the state Department of Education and termed the attacks on her and her husband "political."

At the time, she said she had no intention of resigning, but evidently changed her mind as the political damage to her husband has become more evident.

QEP, a nonprofit organization, works to get parents involved in their children's education, mostly in kindergarten through eighth grade and usually in low-income, heavily minority neighborhoods.

More than 300 schools in 54 school districts in California and Mississippi have contracted with QEP. The programs are financed by local school districts and by QEP, for which Nancy Honig has raised more than $10 million since 1982.

The offices are in the Honigs' San Francisco residence, where Nancy Honig and a staff of 10 have been working. From 1987 to 1990, the organization paid the Honigs an estimated $72,000 in rent but the couple has provided the space rent free since Jan. 1, 1991.

"With Nancy gone, there is much more motivation on everybody's part to find new quarters," QEP spokeswoman Nan Hohenstein said Thursday.

QEP Vice President Judith S. Johnson will serve as interim president. Nancy Honig will continue to play a "limited role," QEP board Chairman Randy Knapp said, working in states other than California.

In her resignation statement, Nancy Honig called attention to gains made by California third- and sixth-graders enrolled in QEP, citing California Assessment Program (CAP) scores.

She expressed hope that QEP "can survive as an organization and receive the objective recognition it deserves as one of the nation's most effective parent involvement programs."

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