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Governor Benefits From Surprise Budget Windfall

NEWS ANALYSIS

Politics: Wilson allocates $2.7 billion for popular uses such as education. The result is a gentler image.

May 14, 1997|DAVE LESHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"This will improve his public image," said Democratic consultant Bill Carrick. "Obviously if he's taking money . . . and spending it on things that people like, there's nothing but plus in it for him. Can he come all the way back from the depths he's been at? That's hard."

In a Field Poll of California voters earlier this spring, 39% said Wilson was doing a poor job as governor, compared with just 27% who thought he was doing a good job.

The dangling thread remaining in the legacy Wilson wants to leave California is education. Right now, Wilson's critics say he will be remembered as the governor who continued to build new prisons while watching the state's schools deteriorate.

Today, California schools rank near the bottom in the country for test scores, per-pupil spending and computer access for students.

Perhaps the greatest benefit to Wilson from the budget windfall that he is spending this week is the opportunity to improve the school system before he leaves office.

Democrats and school officials praised his plan to reduce class sizes as an essential step toward improving the state's education system. Now, Wilson is expected to spend a lot of time advertising that plan.

He promoted it in North Hollywood on Tuesday. On Thursday, he will do the same in Fresno.

"Across California, it means that . . . each boy and girl will receive the individual attention necessary to master the gateway skills of reading and math," Wilson said Tuesday.

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