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Deukmejian Seeks $1-Billion Hike In Funding for California Schools

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Before Gov. George Deukmejian of California uttered a word of his State of the State address last week, his audience in the Assembly chambers got a hint that a truce was at hand in the war of words that he and the state's chief school officer have waged over the past year.

The Governor stepped from the podium, walked to where Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig was seated and shook his hand.

When he retook the platform, Mr. Deukmejian proposed an increase in state spending on precollegiate education for next year that amounted to nearly $1 billion. Last year's increase, by contrast, was only about $260 million.

"Mr. Honig feels like that's pretty fair," his spokesman said. "More needs to be done, but it's a good beginning. It's a fair share of what is available now."

Disagreements over the size of the state education budget and the achievements of education reforms to date were central points of contention in last year's well publicized feud between the Governor and Mr. Honig.

After proposing the increase in education spending, the Governor proceeded to announce that he and Mr. Honig have agreed to co-sponsor a number of reform measures in the legislature.

One of those reforms, he said, would enable the state department of education to intervene in failing school districts.

Mr. Deukmejian said the California Commission on Educational Quality--which he established to assess the success of recent reforms--had found that "student performance is suffering in a number of school districts that lack clearly defined goals."

To correct this, he said the commission had proposed that the state develop a new "high-performance curriculum, along with an innovative assessment system, to assure that schools are doing their job."

"If schools consistently fail to perform," he said, "the commission recommended that the state department of education intervene and provide guidance, up to and including the appointment of a state trustee."

In a presentation to the Governor's commission in November, Mr. Honig had proposed that the state be given the authority to take control of academically failing districts.

Mr. Deukmejian noted that his commission had also recommended that schools be required to develop long-range financial plans.

"I support these reforms, and have discussed them with the superintendent of public instruction, Bill Honig, who also supports them," he said. "I am pleased to announce that Superintendent Honig and I will co-sponsor legislation to implement them."

The Governor also said his budget proposal contains money to improve the training and testing of new teachers, to provide "continuing education" for veteran teachers, and to expand summer-school programs.

In addition, he proposed that the state float nearly $1.6 billion in school-construction bonds, double the current commitment.

"We must prepare for the fact that by the year 2000, we will have 1.4 million more students to educate than we do today," he said.

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