State Journal: Home work; Bully pulpit
When Bill Honig knocks off work as California's superintendent of education and heads for home, he arrives at the headquarters of the Quality Education Project, a nonprofit parent-involvement project operated in the family residence by his wife, Nancy.
Eyebrows were raised recently over the cozy relationship between the state chief and the consulting project, prompting Ms. Honig to volunteer to go before the state school board to give details about her firm's multimillion-dollar business with California schools.
In his own letter to the board, Mr. Honig said local newspaper reports suggested that he may have violated conflict-of-interest laws by allegedly telling department staff to steer clients toward the q.e.p. and by granting school districts "seed money" that later was spent for q.e.p. services.
Mr. Honig denied steering business to the q.e.p., however, and said that no state money was ever used directly for q.e.p. services.
Moreover, he indicated, school districts that used the q.e.p. while getting state seed money received the services for free.
Neither of the Honigs has been formally charged with any wrongdoing, and the board declined recently to look further into the issue.
But both Honigs admit that their decision to operate the program in their home was politically naive, even if the $18,000 paid by the q.e.p. to lease space for 15 employees is less than market value and has gone for remodeling work to turn bedrooms into offices.
Ms. Honig last year earned $108,000 as president of the q.e.p., which reaches 200,000 children in 320 schools, mostly in California.
To make sure he is not just preaching to the choir about the need for education reform in Kentucky, Commissioner of Education Thomas C. Boysen has begun visiting churches.
In addition to stopping at schools and meeting with local leaders, Mr. Boysen is seeking pulpit time in hopes of converting more doubting Thomases.
"One of the things that I want them to be aware of is that schools have a renewed commitment, and there is a dramatic change afoot," he said, adding that churches can be useful new partners in fulfilling reform goals.
"When you go back to our beginnings, it is out of churches we grew,'' he said, "and while the separation of church and state has taken religion
out of the schools, I think we can have education in the churches."
Mr. Boysen made his initial education sermon last week at the First Baptist Church in Bowling Green.--ps & lh