State Journal: "Out of step" in Washington State; Update on the Deukmejian-Honig summit

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Washington State's schools are "highly resistant, even immune to change" and "dangerously out of step" with the changing world economy, says Dennis Heck, an undeclared candidate for the job of state school chief.

In a recently published book, Mr. Heck, the former House majority leader and author of the state's Basic Education Act, lays the groundwork for his expected campaign next year to capture the state's highest education post. The long-time incumbent, Frank Brouillet, has not yet announced whether he intends to seek a new term.

Mr. Heck says that his book "is not a platform."

"It's more of an essay than a platform," he says. "My role is to provoke some debate about the challenges of education."

Mr. Heck says he expects that his book's criticism of efforts undertaken during Mr. Brouillet's tenure in office will cast a pall on his relations with the superintendent.

"There's not a lot of hope that we'll be fishing buddies now," he notes.

California's Gov. George Deukmejian and its chief state school officer, Bill Honig, may disagree on budget priorities, but at a Sept. 17 "summit" meeting they agreed that "education should be above politics," reports Mr. Honig.

Over lunch in the Governor's office, which included a bottle of wine from Mr. Honig's family vineyard, the two leaders "agreed that when we don't agree, it sets back education reform," Mr. Honig said.

The specific issues that led to widely publicized feuding between the two during the past year were not discussed, he said.

But they agreed that when they disagree in the future, they will "try to debate and discuss the issues in a less personal or partisan manner."

The "key point" of agreement, Mr. Honig said, was that the state's reform efforts of the last four years are on the right track. "We're not going to start over again, we're going to build on what we've already accomplished."

Gov. Deukmejian "made no specific commitments," but the meeting should "help keep the lines of communication open," the superintendent said.

The Governor "served a good lunch" and the meeting was conducted "in a friendly atmosphere," Mr. Honig said. But was the Governor receptive to the state superintendent's persuasion?

"It's hard to tell until we see what next year's budget brings," he said.

--tm & ws

Vol. 07, Issue 06

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