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California and the West

Lungren Urges School Bond Measure

Education: He also calls for spending $1 billion on new textbooks over four years.


IRVINE — Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Lungren on Tuesday endorsed the idea of a multibillion-dollar school construction bond for the November ballot and advocated spending $1 billion for new textbooks over the next four years.

In the past, Lungren has downplayed the need for more funding, but in a speech to the Orange County Forum, a nonpartisan public affairs group, he put a dollar amount behind his education proposals for the first time.

Lungren said his attention to education is fueled neither by polls nor Democratic proposals, but rather his belief that educating children "is the top issue" for society. He called recent statewide school test results "bad news" for California, and declared that neglect of school reform "is devastating our children."

In the 40-minute address, Lungren also repeated familiar themes in setting out his "vision for how kindergarten through 12th-grade education ought to develop" in the state. Lungren again stressed his backing of school vouchers, more parental and local control, accountability for school professionals and safety on campuses.

But he offered several new ideas and added more substance to old ones. Several of the new proposals--including the school bond endorsement--were presented in a policy paper and at a news conference after the luncheon speech.

Repeating his opposition to "social promotion," Lungren told the audience of 400 that he would require that students meet minimum requirements for promotion at each grade level and pass a test before getting a high school diploma.

Other proposals included requiring 180 days of classroom instruction and lowering to a 60% majority of voters the threshold for passing local school bonds. Lungren also suggested limiting the use of emergency teaching credentials and creating a state position that would rank individual public schools statewide.

Lungren stopped short of endorsing the $9-billion school bond package passed last week by the Assembly, saying it is unclear what will come out of the state Senate.

However, the Republican nominee acknowledged that school spending will rise and said he is concerned with "reallocating resources" and spending the money wisely.

Education is sure to be a key battleground between Lungren and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gray Davis, who has his own agenda for improving education.

Davis spokesman Michael Bustamante poked fun at Lungren's agenda.

"Until now, all we have heard is vouchers are good," Bustamante said. "Gray began outlining his proposals on education a year ago, and Dan is almost a year behind the curve."

Davis' plan includes spending the bulk of the $4-billion state budget surplus on education and evaluating schools annually. He too would end social promotion but proposes an annual peer evaluation of teachers and testing teacher competency every five years.

In other differences, Davis favors requiring a simple majority of voters to pass local school bond measures, and spending $3 billion over five years on new textbooks.

The cornerstone of his proposal is requiring parents to sign an annual contract with their child's school, agreeing to help with homework and participate in school meetings.

The proposals, though similar in places, display the candidates' philosophical differences and the varying interests of their constituencies.

Lungren took note of that in his address when he talked about Davis' contract between parents and schools.

"I think the system isn't working, he thinks the parents aren't working," Lungren said.

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