Education Related Issues On State Ballots This Fall: Far West
In California, what began as a significant clash of ideas in the race for state superintendent of public instruction has turned into a series of quibbles over specifics.
William Honig, a Marin County school superintendent who is challenging the incumbent, Wilson Riles, has relied heavily on his call for a more traditional system of education with emphasis on the "basics."
Among Mr. Riles's old efforts was a "comprehensive reform" bill that he helped push through the legislature in 1975, only to have the bill vetoed by the Governor. That bill would have given students a "personalized" curriculum "from a system of multiple options in programs and learning styles."
Mr. Honig's challenge appears to have tempered the Riles approach, however. In early September, Mr. Riles and other prominent educators proposed a new "no-nonsense approach" to high schools.
Mr. Riles has stressed that California ranks 50th among the states in the percentage of personal income devoted to education. Although he has been a persistent advocate for spending more money on schools, state education spending has declined in his 12 years in office. Mr. Honig, who served for six years on the state board of education, says Mr. Riles is "too close to established education interests." The challenger says the answer is not simply to spend more money, but to redirect the education establishment and its spending habits.
In the gubernatorial campaign, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, a Democrat, faces Attorney General George Deukmejian, the Republican nominee.
Mr. Bradley says that education will receive more money than any other area in his administration and that he will seek to extend school sessions. The Democrat wants to reinstate the sixth period of the school day (which many schools dropped because of Proposition 13), improve security, increase the role of business in the schools, and assure funds for staff development.
Mr. Deukmejian stresses cutting and streamlining what he says is excessive regulation of the schools. He notes that 50,000 new administrative employees have been hired by California public schools in the past 10 years. He says he will give local districts more control over state money, and he promises "stable" funding by the state during his administration.
The attorney general says he will support efforts to stiffen curricula and promotion requirements. And, Mr. Deukmejian says, he will give local districts the tools they need to ensure a "drug-free" environment in the schools. As one way to achieve this goal, he favors laws regulating drug paraphernalia.
Oregon's electorate will decide on a property-tax-limitation measure and pick a state superintendent of public instruction.
The proposed constitutional amendment would limit local property taxes to 1.5 percent of assessed valuation. The statewide average is now about 2.2 percent. The measure would also limit the annual growth in property-tax revenues and restrict the legislature's authority to raise new revenue.
Every major education group in the state opposes the measure, arguing that it would cut some school districts' revenue by as much as 25 percent, and that Oregon already has sufficient limits on taxes and spending. But a public-opinion poll conducted two weeks ago by the education coalition opposing the measure indicated that it would pass handily.
In the nonpartisan race for state superintendent, the incumbent, Verne A. Duncan, is opposed by William Kendrick, superintendent of schools in Salem. Mr. Kendrick contends that he would be a more aggressive spokesman for education, would work more effectively with legislators, and would be more sensitive to the concerns of parents and local educators.
Both candidates say they want to increase the state's contribution to education, but not at the expense of local control. Mr. Duncan is seeking his third four-year term.
In the gubernatorial race, state Senator Ted Kulongoski, the Democratic nominee, is challenging the Republican incumbent, Victor G. Atiyeh. Although education has taken a back seat to economic issues in the campaign, the Oregon Education Association is supporting Mr. Kulongoski--who is the lawyer for the teachers' group.