SACRAMENTO — Gov. George Deukmejian again scolded state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig for "complaining" about the shortage of school funds, saying Tuesday that he has heard the same arguments from education officials for 25 years.
Deukmejian, in hard-hitting remarks to a group of electronics executives, said that for as long as he can remember "all (school officials') effort, all their energies are always based on money."
"There hasn't been one year that I've been here that I've ever heard that there isn't a need for more money for education. Never!" said Deukmejian, whose climb to the governor's office began when he was elected to the Assembly in 1962. "I've heard it for 25 years and will always hear it because that seems to be where they are constantly focusing their primary attention."
The governor's comments came just a day after Honig unveiled a $900-million school program calling for improved teacher salaries and increased financial support for classroom instruction.
The governor made it clear in his speech and follow-up comments to officials of the American Electronics Assn. that he believes the education system should be able to manage with the $17.2 billion for public schools he is proposing in his new budget.
Deukmejian told reporters later that he believes that Honig, along with school administrators, parents and students, should be "pulling together in a drive for a greater commitment to excellence." That means "spending more time" on classroom excellence and "getting young people to be happy about going to school and working hard," Deukmejian said.
Responding, Honig said "the governor's comments are surprising because all he has concentrated on is how much things are going to cost."
"All the governor asks is, 'How much is this going to cost?' He never asks what it's worth, what the payoff is. Leadership is not always saying no. Sometimes it is saying yes," Honig said.
The school superintendent also said Deukmejian is "trying to politicize" the school budget issue. "I wish he'd get on with looking at the merit of our proposals. He said nothing about the merit of our plan," Honig said.
In his speech, Deukmejian also outlined a trip he is planning to London next month to open a California trade office in the British capital. The governor said he will visit London, Brussels and Paris for nine days beginning April 10. Deukmejian opened California's first trade office in Japan in January.
"My goals in Europe will be the same as they were in Japan: to help reduce barriers to trade, aggressively market California products and encourage foreign investment so that we can bring more jobs to our state," he told the electronics executives.
Concern Over Trade
Deukmejian received a warm reception from the executives, who have sought the governor's help in reducing trade barriers.
Although the subject was international trade, Deukmejian at times seemed preoccupied with Honig and the controversy over his education budget.
"I have proposed spending $17.2 billion on schools this year, $5 billion more than just five years ago. In return, I think that the taxpayers deserve fewer complaints from our top school officials," he said after assuring the electronics executives that education is his top budget priority.
Later, in comments to reporters, Deukmejian accused Honig and other officials of "perpetuating a hoax on the people" for making expensive spending proposals without "telling anyone where the money is going to come from."
'Major New Money'
"What they do is they appeal to a certain constituency group by saying, 'Well, we are all in favor of all this major new money for this program,' whether it's for schools or whatever the program may be, but they don't tell the people how it's going to be financed, or they don't tell the people that, 'Yeah, we are going to have to raise your taxes to pay for this,' " the governor said.
Honig, in announcing his program Monday, did in fact say he would propose raising new revenues by closing so-called loopholes in current tax law, although he did not identify them. Deukmejian, when asked by a reporter whether he would consider the proposal, said, "I'm willing to be open and to listen."