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Honig Says He's Unlikely to Seek 4th Term : Politics: 'You get about as much accomplished as you can get in 12 years,' state schools chief says. He repeats his contention that his felony indictment was politically motivated.

June 14, 1992|WILLIAM TROMBLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig, under state indictment on felony conflict of interest charges, said he does not expect to run for a fourth term.

"I haven't finally made a decision but I think it's very unlikely I'd run again," Honig said during a wide-ranging interview with The Times.

"You get about as much accomplished as you can get in 12 years," said the schools chief, whose third term will end early in 1995.

Honig said during the interview last week that he plans to remain in education in some capacity and does not intend to run for any other political office.

"I want to make sure I get all these charges cleared," he said, referring to the four-count indictment in March accusing him of conflict of interest in connection with the Quality Education Project, a parent involvement program run by Honig's wife, Nancy, for several years.

Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren has charged that Honig benefited financially from $337,509 in state contracts that helped QEP get started in four California school districts in the 1980s.

But Honig insists that he and his wife not only received no money from these contracts but that QEP contributed much more money to the four districts than they received from the state.

In the interview, Honig, a liberal Democrat, repeated charges that the indictment is a "political vendetta" on the part of Lungren, a conservative Republican.

He said Lungren was doing the bidding of a "conservative cabal" that includes elements of the religious right, members of the State Board of Education, legislators and members of the state Little Hoover Commission who are trying to drive him from office.

"People in politics today take a 'we and they' approach," Honig said. "I'm not sure it's even always ideological. They just take the view that you're against us and we're going to get you.

"But as petty as these guys may be, they can't take away from the reforms we've been able to bring about. We have a whole strategy of educational improvement and I'm satisfied we've set these things in place and they can't be undone unless the state just gives up on education completely."

Honig was referring to a general upgrading that he says has taken place since he was first elected in 1982, including a more demanding curriculum at all school levels, better training for teachers, a new student assessment program, better textbooks and more parent involvement in schools.

Honig, 58, was a lawyer and a teacher before taking his first school administrative job, as superintendent of the tiny Reed Union Elementary School District in Marin County in 1975.

Honig also was a member of the State Board of Education, where he often tangled with Wilson Riles, who was then state superintendent of public instruction.

In 1982, Riles tried for a third term but was defeated in an upset by Honig, who easily won reelection in 1986 and 1990.

In Honig's early years in office, a series of reforms, such as tougher high school graduation requirements, a longer school day and school year, and improved textbooks won him a national reputation.

Even in those years, there were battles with religious conservatives, who were outraged by Honig's strong support for teaching evolution in high school science courses at the expense of creationism.

In 1986-87, Honig fought a bitter battle with former Gov. George Deukmejian over school funding. Honig won the fight but gained the enmity of many conservative Republicans in the Legislature and around the state.

In the last two years, Honig's growing army of critics focused their criticism on the Quality Education Project, which Nancy Honig ran from the family residence in San Francisco. There were investigations of QEP's ties to the state Department of Education by auditors for the U. S. Department of Education and the state attorney general and, last March, came the indictment.

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