State Journal: Brickbats for Blanchard; Tarnished reputations

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Efforts to reach a bipartisan consensus on education and school-finance reform have stalled in the Michigan legislature, and Republican lawmakers and education leaders are fixing the blame for the impasse on Democratic Gov. James J. Blanchard.

"Frankly, the chasm between the two legislative chambers is just too wide to be bridged without the element we have been lacking for over two years--real leadership from the administration," John Engler, the majority leader of the Republican-controlled Senate, said in a speech before a coalition of education groups this month.

In addition, superintendents of several school districts and the vice-chairman of the state board of education were recently quoted in the local press as criticizing Mr. Blanchard for allegedly failing to offer a clear view of where he stands on the matter.

Last month, the Governor and leaders of the Senate and Democratic-controlled House agreed to form a joint committee to try to reach a compromise. But according to Sen. Dan L. DeGrow, the Republican who chairs the Senate education committee, that attempt "has gone by the wayside."

"We've had a series of private meetings with staffs from both chambers and the Governor's office, but we weren't able to bridge the gap," he said.

Mr. DeGrow said he saw signs of hope in Mr. Blanchard's statement last week that he "expects" lawmakers to approve a 1 percent to 2 percent increase in the state sales tax.

"I wouldn't call that a ringing endorsement" for the proposed tax hike, the Senator said, "but at least he's showing a willingness to come farther."

The feud last year in California between the governor and the state school chief over the education budget has apparently soured the public's opinion not just of the state's schools, but of the two combatants as well, a new survey indicates.

The study, conducted by the Los Angeles County office of education, found "a steep dive" in the proportion of county residents who would give the schools an A or B grade--from 35 percent in 1986 to 30 percent in 1987. Such ratings had increased steadily since 1983.

Survey respondents cited local schoolteachers (33 percent) and friends and neighbors (27 percent) as the most believable sources of information about state education issues.

At the bottom of the list were the state superintendent, Bill Honig (13 percent), and Gov. George Deukmejian (10 percent).


Vol. 07, Issue 25

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