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Wilson, Democrats Reach Tentative Accord on Testing

August 23, 1997|DAVE LESHER and NICK ANDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Pete Wilson and Democratic leaders announced a tentative agreement Friday on a statewide test for public school students that had ignited a pitched battle that once threatened to explode state budget negotiations.

The final accord remained in some doubt, however, because of angry feelings that linger from the final days of the bitter negotiations over the budget.

Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward) said he expects the agreement to pass the Legislature when lawmakers return from a brief recess next week. But he warned that some of his members might reject the plan as a protest of Wilson's hostile tactics during the budget talks.

Lockyer said Democrats were deeply angered when the governor used his line-item veto this week to delete $203 million from programs that Democrats hold dear.

Wilson acknowledged that his vetoes were designed to pressure Democrats into agreement on a school testing plan. The governor promised to restore the cuts when a suitable plan is approved.

"There are some members in both houses that think we . . . are obligated to respond as an institution to the governor's abuse of power," Lockyer said.

If Democrats reject the testing plan, Lockyer said, he expects Wilson would let his vetoes stand through the fiscal year. Even then, Lockyer downplayed the impact because he said most of the money set aside by the governor came from education budgets that will have to be restored under Proposition 98.

"They will eventually get it," he said.

Wilson aides had a strong reaction to the threat of a continued fight on the testing issue.

"What we are hearing is that there are some Democrats who care about their own egos more than they care about students being taught something," said Wilson press secretary Sean Walsh. "If that's true, it's a sad statement."

The testing issue began as a minor difference that escalated at the eleventh hour of budget talks. It stems from Wilson's insistence that every public school student be given a similar test so systemwide comparisons can be made and recent improvements measured.

The agreement reached between Lockyer and Wilson will require that test results be reported for every grade level at every school. Wilson previously demanded that scores be reported at the classroom level, which teachers unions oppose.

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