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Live Within Fiscal Means, Deukmejian Tells Trustees

May 05, 1987|DOUGLAS SHUIT | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Expanding his running battle with state education leaders over the level of funding for public schools, Gov. George Deukmejian Monday scolded a group of elected school board members for constantly pressuring for extra budget dollars.

It was the same message he had delivered to the state Parent Teachers Assn. last week and was met with an equally chilly response--indicating growing friction between the governor and segments of the education establishment that have supported him.

"Nobody in education wants to do away with anything. They just seemingly want more and more and more," Deukmejian told about 150 members of the Assn. of California School Boards during a question and answer session after a breakfast speech.

'Fair Share' Promised

"As sure as I'm standing here, as soon as this budget bill passes, no matter how much money is in it, it's going to be followed by additional (spending) bills," Deukmejian said.

At one point, the governor did make the school board officials happy by promising that if there is a substantial increase in tax revenues--predictions are that tax receipts will be anywhere from $500 million to $900 million higher than budget estimates--public schools would get their "fair share" of the new money.

But the governor used some of his strongest language to defend his education budget.

Deukmejian lectured the officials that they ought to budget more like families, who have to live within limited means. And he said they should try to get more out of existing dollars by demanding better results in the classroom from teachers, administrators, students and their parents.

After the speech, Dianne Jacob, president of the association and a San Diego County Republican who said she had voted for the governor, told reporters that she thinks Deukmejian is misreading the political situation and is ignoring the genuine financial needs of the public schools.

"I don't know who the governor has been listening to," Jacob said, complaining that she and her group don't feel the governor has been listening to them.

Jacob noted that the governor's speech came against the backdrop of serious budget shortages and threatened teacher layoffs in school districts throughout California.

A member of the Jamul-Dulzura Unified School District in San Diego County, Jacob said school districts face a "serious" financial problem and added that "there hasn't been due focus" by the governor's office on the problems facing individual school districts.

$600 Million More

She said school board members want the governor to add at least $600 million to his proposed $39.3-billion state budget.

Deukmejian said schools face heavy competition for state dollars from health, prison and other programs.

The situation is complicated, Deukmejian said, by the spending limit placed in the state Constitution by voters in 1979. He said the state already is very near the spending limit.

(Once the state reaches that limit, any increases in spending, including additional sums for school programs, would have to be matched by cuts elsewhere in the budget.)

When asked by a member of the school board association whether he would consider lifting the lid on the state spending cap, Deukmejian strongly defended the expenditure ceiling.

Cap Defended

The governor said he thinks the current spending cap is reasonable.

"In our own family budgets, we are limited as to what we have available to spend depending on what our earnings are. I think the taxpayer wisely has said there should be some kind of reasonable limitation on government spending," Deukmejian said.

Deukmejian said that he would consider changing the limit if it proves to be unworkable, but added that state leaders "owe it" to the voters who approved the spending limit in 1979 to try and make it work.

Meanwhile, state schools Supt. Bill Honig, who has called the governor's budget a "disaster" for education, unveiled a 10-minute videotape he will use to build support among parents throughout the state for his campaign to increase school funding.

The tape, which features Honig, school officials, teachers and Apple Computer Chairman John Sculley talking about the need for increased spending on education, will be shown to parents at 3,100 "house parties" around the state Thursday night.

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