California Lawmakers Raise School Aid $338 Million

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Sacramento--Both houses of the California legislature have voted unanimously to give the state's public schools about $338 million more next year than Gov. George Deukmejian proposes.

The votes in the Democratic-dominated legislature, with full Republican support at this point, set the stage for bipartisan negotiations involving legislative leaders and the Republican Governor.

Governor Deukmejian, in the $30.3-billion state budget he proposed last January for 1984-85, called for a $900-million increase in state support for schools.

This was $338 million less than the cost-of-living increase projected for schools next year in a sweeping 1983 finance-reform law that boosted teachers' starting salaries, stiffened academic high-school graduation requirements, and gave school districts fiscal incentives to lengthen their school days and years to bring them closer to the national average.

Legislative Negotiations

In late May, the Assembly voted 75 to 0 after a testy marathon session to give education the full fund-ing envisioned last year; the Senate then followed with a 39-to-0 vote. The Senate acted after Republicans received assurance that the Democratic leadership would look favorably on tighter compliance audits for local school districts.

Both school-finance votes came shortly before a Senate-Assembly conference committee began meeting to resolve differences--amounting to more than $1 billion over the Deukmejian proposal--in the overall state budgets approved by each house.

'Not Ready to Act'

Robert Taylor, Governor Deukmejian's deputy press secretary, said the school-finance bill is "sitting there until we call for it. We're not ready to act on a substantial portion of the budget without considering the other major elements of the budget."

The Governor is committed to preserving a "prudent" state reserve of $950 million so that California will not have the deficit he inherited on taking office in January 1983, Mr. Taylor said.

After the Memorial Day recess, Governor Deukmejian resumed closed-door sessions with the legis-lature's leaders, but there were no immediate indications of progress on major issues.

The Governor was said to be concerned that the additional $338 million for education, a teacher-pension lawsuit, and failure to trim increases in state welfare and health programs could drain the reserve funds.

The leaders of the legislature's two education committees, Senator Gary K. Hart and Assemblyman Teresa Hughes, both Democrats, urged the Governor to sign the bill providing the additional $338 million for elementary and secondary schools.

Senator Hart, who drafted the bill, told reporters the Governor's signature now would allow school districts to complete plans year before the current school year ends.

A No-Show

Bill Honig, state superintendent of public instruction, did not appear as scheduled at the press conference with the two Democratic legislators.

A spokesman for Mr. Honig said that he decided not to appear because Republican legislators had not joined Senator Hart and Assemblyman Hughes.

"That's important to him ... to keep school financing bipartisan," said the aide, Susan Lange. "He didn't want to take away from that by having it perceived that it is a Democratic issue only."

Vol. 03, Issue 37

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