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Another Setback for Education in California : Schools: Whoever Honig's successor is, he or she will face a new power dynamic, with the office being used to further political ambition, not kids.

March 07, 1993|Sherry Bebitch Jeffe | Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a contributing editor to Opinion, is a senior associate at the Center for Politics and Policy at Claremont Graduate School

Honig had long been locked in a power struggle with the state Board of Education, whose conservative gubernatorial appointees were at odds with Honig's stands. At issue is who controls the Department of Education. A recent appellate-court decision granted greater power to the board, ruling that it has ultimate policy-making authority and can review appointments made by the superintendent. How that dispute is resolved will affect the ability of the next schools chief to move an agenda and control policy implementation.

There may be more at stake in this nomination battle than just another political appointment. Perhaps it's time to step back and review the logic of how we choose state officials? How has the creation of individual centers of political power in essentially ministerial offices--schools chief, controller, treasurer and secretary of state--affected governance? Has it increased efficiency or accountability? Has it decreased costs? Should these offices be elective?

For now, let the governor exercise his appointment power. California's leaders need to move beyond the games politicians and special interests play to concentrate on getting the state back on track. If the voters aren't happy with Wilson's choice, they'll let him know in 1994. Just ask John Seymour.

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