Wilson Discusses Education At Forum

Schools: The Governor refers only obliquely to the Orange District vote.

IRVINE—Gov. Pete Wilson on Wednesday outlined his administration’s past victories toward reducing class sizes in the earlier grades, creating a single test to compare knowledge among all California students and ending race-based preferences in university admissions and hiring.

But in a speech focused entirely on education, he referred only obliquely to Tuesday’s Orange Unified School District election, in which conservatives retained their board majority and voters overwhelmingly endorsed an end to bilingual education.

The reference came as he was completing a point about the need to improve the quality of education in state schools and ensure that children have adequate health care so they are better able to concentrate and learn.

“You in Orange County understand that,” Wilson told a crowd of 750 at the Orange County Forum, a bipartisan group that includes some of the county’s most influential business and government leaders. “That’s what I read in the morning papers.”

Wilson’s silence on bilingual education has extended to a statewide initiative headed for the June ballot to end the special programs. Republican activists have not been as mum, overwhelmingly voting to support the measure when they gathered in Anaheim in September for their twice-yearly convention.

Supporters of the initiative–written by 1994 GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron Unz and Santa Ana teacher Gloria Matta Tuchman–closely monitored Tuesday’s election in Orange for implications in the statewide campaign. A Times Poll last month found support for the measure among 75% to 80% of voters. But key Republican officials have said privately in recent months that they are being cautious on the issue for fear of alienating voters whose native language is not English.

Wilson’s speech plowed familiar ground Wednesday, focusing on his successful education proposals and praising the county’s legislative delegation for supporting what amounts to $ 1 billion in tax cuts approved during this summer’s budget vote.

He blasted federal judges for holding up implementation of Proposition 187, a ballot initiative passed in 1994 that ended most services for illegal immigrants, and praised a ruling Monday by the Supreme Court that upheld Proposition 209, a 1996 initiative that ends racial preferences in state hiring and university admissions.

He also reiterated his support for what he calls “opportunity scholarships” to allow parents to choose which public schools their children will attend.

“I don’t pretend that we’ve achieved complete equality of access to educate every child in California, because we haven’t,” Wilson said.

After a pointed question about the state’s siphoning of property tax money from counties in the early 1990s, the governor reminded the group that he engineered $ 260 million in funds to counties in the last budget and $ 60 million more for cities. The funds were included in a bill to fund state trial courts.

“It isn’t property taxes, but it’s real money,” Wilson said. “Enjoy.”

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