Deukmejian Vetoes Bill On Bilingual Education

Cites legal spending limit, calls for review of programs set to expire at end of school year

SACRAMENTO—Gov. George Deukmejian, citing a legal limit on state spending that could affect next year’s budget, vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have extended bilingual education programs until 1992.

With bilingual education classes scheduled to stop at the end of this school year, Deukmejian called for a study to determine whether they are a cost-effective method of teaching students who do not speak English. He indicated that if the classes were found to be cost-effective, in his view, there still would be time to extend them before they actually expire.

Signs AIDS Vaccine Bills

The Republican governor, racing to take action on more than 170 measures by a Tuesday midnight deadline, also signed two bills designed to help produce a vaccine for AIDS. But he again vetoed legislation that would have prohibited discrimination against AIDS victims in employment and housing.

Deukmejian signed 25 bills aimed at combatting crime, including legislation to protect witnesses from retaliation by gang members, keep violent offenders in prison and allow judges to order convicted criminals to pay up to $10,000 in restitution to their victims.

In all, Deukmejian vetoed $380-million worth of spending from 1,200 measures sent to him by the Legislature during the closing weeks of the session.

In a statement, he accused the Legislature of “acting irresponsibly” by sending him large money bills.

“Some people will whine and complain about my vetoes,” he said. “But they’ll never tell you where they would get the funds for the spending I am vetoing.”

On the contrary, many Democratic legislators have called on Deukmejian to spend money from the state’s $1-billion “rainy day” reserve fund to pay for programs they consider important.

Deukmejian’s veto of the bilingual education legislation drew immediate criticism from state Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), author of the measure.

Brown said studies have already shown that bilingual education is a cost-effective, successful method of teaching English to non-English-speaking students.

“It is unfortunate that the governor has forgotten his own immigrant heritage and his posture as a friend of education,” Brown said. “I’m sorry he does not agree with the position of his appointees — as well as the hundreds of Californians who have endorsed this bill — that bilingual education is the best way to help children quickly gain fluency in English.”

In addition to bilingual education, Brown’s bill would have extended four other educational programs scheduled to expire next year. Known as “categorical programs,” the four provide money for Indian schoolchildren, local schools that run innovative programs, and schools in urban areas with a heavy concentration of poor and minority students.

In his brief veto message, Deukmejian did not discuss the issue of bilingual education. Instead, he noted that for the first time the state is nearing a spending limit approved by voters in 1979. And he repeated his desire to eliminate some categorical programs, which are paid for by the state to help special groups of students, such as non-English-speaking, handicapped and gifted pupils.

Review Sought

“In light of the spending limitations imposed on the state of California pursuant to Proposition 4,” Deukmejian said, “I believe that categorical education programs, among others, should be thoroughly reviewed to determine their cost-effectiveness and decide whether any consolidation would be appropriate.

“I have asked the Department of Finance to conduct such a review, which will be completed long before these programs are due to sunset. Until that assessment is performed, it is premature to extend the sunset dates of these programs.”

The state’s bilingual education law, slated to expire on June 30, 1987, requires school districts to give non-English-speaking students instruction in their own language while they learn English.

In an attempt to overcome opposition from critics of the program, Brown’s bill included a number of reforms designed to give school districts greater flexibility in operating bilingual education programs. Many of the changes were proposed by an advisory committee that included six Deukmejian appointees.

Honig said the bill had broad support, including Democrats, school officials and some Republicans, as well as advocates of bilingual education.

Tells of Disappointment

“I’m disappointed in the veto,” Honig said. “We had a strong coalition. If you believe support is necessary to help students make the transition to English, then this was a pretty good bill.”

Among the groups that endorsed the measure were the California School Boards Assn., the League of Women Voters, the California School Administrators, the California Board of Education and the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Foundation.

According to a study by the Democratic-controlled Assembly Office of Research, more than 80% of the students enrolled in the state’s bilingual education programs are able to become fluent in English within 2 1/2 years, Brown said.

Deukmejian’s veto could further cut into his support among Latinos as he runs for reelection against Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. The governor has already alienated some Latinos by his insistence on building a new state prison near East Los Angeles and his opposition to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso, the high court’s only Latino member.

Additional Difficulty

Although Deukmejian said there would be sufficient time to conduct his review before the five programs expire, his veto could make it substantially more difficult to win an extension of the programs next year.

To extend the programs so close to the expiration date would take urgency legislation, which requires a two-thirds vote instead of a simple majority. When the measure passed the Assembly it received only 42 votes, one more than the 41 required for passage.

Supporters of the measure held out little hope that an extension could be won without making drastic concessions that, they say, would essentially spell the end of the state’s bilingual programs.

The veto “opens the way for massive changes in the bilingual education law that are not educationally sound and that will be more politically motivated,” said Rebecca Baumann, a lobbyist for the California School Boards Assn., a major backer of the bill. “That is very disappointing.”

In vetoing the AIDS discrimination bill, Deukmejian repeated his position that existing law provides sufficient protection against housing and job discrimination.

“I believe efforts to provide categories of special rights and benefits based upon having the condition of AIDS is unnecessary, inappropriate and not a good practice,” Deukmejian said in his veto message.

After Deukmejian vetoed the first anti-discrimination measure in July, Democrats in the Legislature promptly sent him a second, slightly modified version. Assemblyman Art Agnos (D-San Francisco), the author of both bills, said the legislation is needed to protect AIDS victims from overreaction by the public and to ensure that victims do not endanger others by hiding their disease out of fear of persecution.

Sends Clear Message

“The governor’s veto throws gasoline on the fire of AIDS hysteria,” Agnos said. “What his veto now does is send a very clear message that AIDS patients better go underground and not seek the treatment they need to help themselves and not seek the information they need to protect their families and loved ones, because they will be running the risk of losing their jobs, losing their homes or being kicked out of school.”

The governor, however, signed two measures that will provide a total of $10 million to promote the production of a vaccine for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

One bill, by Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), will appropriate $6 million for the testing of experimental vaccines once they are developed. The measure will also limit the financial liability of companies that manufacture a federally approved vaccine.

A second bill by Assemblyman William J. Filante (R-Greenbrae) will provide $4 million in loans to California companies for research on a vaccine.

With the signing of these bills, California will spend $35.8 million this year to combat AIDS — more than the other 49 states combined, the governor’s office said.

“California is clearly a leader in the fight against this deadly disease, and we will continue to concentrate our resources toward AIDS research, treatment and education,” Deukmejian said.

Anti-Crime Bills

Of the 25 anti-crime bills signed by the governor, 19 were sponsored by Democrats. Most of the measures make relatively minor changes in the law.

One measure requested by the governor was a bill by Sen. Ruben S. Ayala (D-Chino) designed to protect individuals who provide information to the police from retaliation by gang members.

Another bill, by Sen. Ed Davis (R-Valencia), will impose life in prison without possibility of parole for violent four-time offenders who inflict great bodily injury while incarcerated.

In 1986, Deukmejian signed a total of 1,521 bills into law and vetoed 292 others. In actions during the final day, the governor:

* Signed a bill by Assemblyman Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles) authorizing the sale of $200 million in revenue bonds to build housing for senior citizens. The bonds will be repaid over the years by rents charged to tenants of the new homes.

* Signed a bill by Assemblyman Rusty Areias (D-Los Banos) that will require financial institutions to clearly spell out the interest rate, annual fee and other charges on all applications for credit cards.

* Vetoed a bill by Sen. Joseph Montoya (D-Whittier) that would have required “financial planners” to register with the state as investment advisers. Deukmejian argued that the Department of Corporations already has the ability to police a broad range of financial planning activity and that licensing financial planners creates the false impression that they have more expertise than they may actually have.

* Signed a bill by Sen. Robert G. Beverly (R-Manhattan Beach) that allows any limousine regulated by the Public Utilities Commission to serve alcohol without a special license.

* Vetoed a measure by Assemblyman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) that would have provided $310,000 to open three or more health clinics for teen-agers in public schools. Opponents say the clinics, soon to be opened in some districts, would encourage teen-age sex by providing birth control information and prescriptions as well as information on abortion. Deukmejian said there was not enough money to fund the bill.

* Vetoed, for the third time in four years, a bill by Assemblyman Richard Robinson (D-Garden Grove) designed to protect publicly operated airports from lawsuits by local residents over excessive aircraft noise. The bill would have restricted the residents’ right to file suit.

Times education writer Elaine Woo and staff writer Paul Jacobs contributed to this article.

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