'Paycheck Protection,' District Spending Cap Measures Defeated
In a race with implications for teachers' unions and other labor organizations nationwide, the "paycheck protection" measure, Proposition 226, died by 54 percent to 46 percent after enjoying a 3-1 lead in the polls earlier this spring. The measure would have required that unions obtain annual, written permission from individual members before using their fees on political activity. The state's powerful teachers' unions were seen as major targets of the proposal, which pitted unions against business interests and conservative foes of the mostly pro-Democratic political activism of organized labor. ("Unions Rally Membership To Save PACs," May 13, 1998.)
"This was the biggest win for organized labor in decades," said Kenneth C. Burt, the political director of the 50,000-member California Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. "This was designed to take out teachers in particular from the political arena."
On another front, in a vote that is being hailed particularly by small school districts across the state, voters also gave a thumbs-down to Proposition 223. The so-called 95/5 measure would have capped districts' administrative spending at 5 percent of their budgets. The remaining 95 percent of district budgets would have been earmarked for classroom services, such as teacher salaries and instructional material. United Teachers Los Angeles, whose members can be affiliated with either the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers, crafted the proposal. ("Classroom-Spending Vote Has Educators Split," May 20, 1998.)
Small districts argued that they lack the economies of scale to limit administrative spending to 5 percent. Most districts in the state currently exceed that ratio.
"Passage would have been a tragedy and a far cry from education efficiency," said John D'Amelio, the president of the California School Boards Association in Sacramento. "Our small school districts would have been hardest hit."
Opponents of that measure also fought an uphill battle. Just three months ago, 31 percent of likely voters surveyed said that they opposed the proposition, vs. 50 percent who favored it.
Nominees on Education
A tight race for state schools chief forced a November run off for the office. Winning 43 percent of votes cast in the nonpartisan primary for state superintendent of public instruction, incumbent Delaine Eastin fell short of the majority she needed to avoid a run off. Her opponent in November will be Santa Ana 1st grade teacher Gloria Matta Tuchman, who captured 26 percent of the primary vote. Ms. Tuchman is well-known in the state for her long-running opposition to traditional bilingual education programs.
Meanwhile, in the Golden State's gubernatorial primary, voters picked Lt. Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat and career politician, to square off in November against state Attorney General Daniel E. Lungren, a Republican and former U.S. congressman from Long Beach, Calif.
On education issues, Mr. Davis wants parents to sign contracts with their children's schools to commit them to helping with homework. Mr. Lungren, who faced no serious GOP challenger, has pledged to back state academic standards and the ongoing push--championed by retiring Republican Gov. Pete Wilson--to lower classroom sizes in the early grades.
In what many saw as a vote against big money, Mr. Davis spent about $9 million to win a primary victory with 58 percent of the votes cast for Democrats. In comparison, his closest challenger, airline tycoon Al Checci, spent about $30 million in capturing 21 percent of her primary's votes. Democratic U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, who also outspent Mr. Davis, finished third among the Democrats, with 20 percent of votes.
Gov. Wilson is barred by law from seeking a third term. About 38 percent of the state's 14.6 million registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday.
California was one of five states to hold gubernatorial primaries June 2. In one of those, Alabama, the incumbent Republican--who is well-known for his steadfast support of school prayer--failed to muster the 50 percent of the vote necessary to win his party's five-way gubernatorial primary.
Alabama Gov. Fob James Jr. won 48 percent of the Republican vote, while challenger Winton Blount, a businessman from Montgomery, captured 41 percent. Many of the remaining votes were cast for former Gov. Guy Hunt, who entered the race late. Mr. James and Mr. Blount will meet again in a June 30 runoff.