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Ban on Some Prop. 227 Funds to Be Studied

June 12, 1998|JANET WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Members of the State Board of Education said they will discuss at a meeting today whether to block the allocation of Proposition 227 funds earmarked for adult education programs under investigation by the FBI.

Federal authorities are conducting an investigation of the state education department's allocation of millions of dollars in public funds to community organizations that provide adult education, and the possible misuse of funds by 10 of those groups.

"I am horrified to think about what might happen if you look at adding $50 million to already troubled waters and just seeing what happens without any proper management structure," said board member Janet Nicholas, who plans to take up the issue with her colleagues at a board meeting today.

Proposition 227, which won overwhelming voter approval last week, virtually bans bilingual education from California public schools, but sets aside $50 million a year in state funds for parents or others who pledge to tutor children in English. The proposition mandates that the adult education programs be offered by schools or community organizations.

State Supt. of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, a Democrat who is often at odds with Nicholas and other members of the Republican-dominated board, agreed that it would be better for school districts with credentialed teachers to get the money and run the programs.

"I'm not crazy about community-based organizations getting these funds for just that reason," she said.

But Eastin said the move by board members planned for today was driven by politics as well as an attempt to keep her from deciding how to spend the funds. Eastin, who faces a runoff against Republican-backed Gloria Matta Tuchman of Santa Ana, a strong supporter of Proposition 227, said she will fight any attempts by the board to decide where the money should go.

The board sets education policy for California, but Eastin's staff is responsible for administering all public education programs, including those now under scrutiny.

Among the alleged financial irregularities under investigation, according to documents subpoenaed by authorities, is whether the community organizations received payment for classes that were never held or reimbursed for equipment that was never bought.

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