Corruption Is Inherent in the Government Education System

Violent criminals have always been (former California governor) Jerry Brown’s favorite candidates for pardons, but on his way out the door, Brown saw fit to pardon Bill Honig, once the subject of a gushing profile in People magazine. The former state education boss was convicted on felony conflict-of-interest charges during the 1990s, but in 2011 Brown picked Honig for the state Board of Education. The convicted felon withdrew his name, but there’s more to the story.

Bill Honig knew government education was a bust, complaining that dumbed-down textbooks were “all horrors,” but he still defended the system. The alleged partisan of “quality education” would not allow parents in Compton and other inner-city areas to choose the schools their children attend. He said school choice would create “elite academies for the few and second-rate schools for the many” and authored “Why Privatizing Public Education Is a Bad Idea,” in The Brookings Review. Honig opposed 1993’s Proposition 174, the last school-choice measure to come before California voters. So did his successor Delaine Eastin, another close ally of the California Teachers Association.

On Eastin’s watch, the California Department of Education gave away more than $20 million to an interlocking directorate of ineligible “community-based organizations.” When auditors uncovered this massive fraud, Eastin fired the whistleblowers and kept the money flowing. Both whistleblowers sued to get their jobs back, and a jury awarded one $4.5 million and held Eastin liable for $1.4 million in non-economic damages and $150,000 in punitive damages because she had “acted with malice.” The rewards were subsequently reduced and punitive damages dropped, so Eastin did not need a pardon from the governor, the office she sought last year.

California taxpayers should also consider Eastin’s pal John Mockler, who wrote Proposition 98 as an “antidote” to Proposition 13. Mockler formed a lobbying firm to represent publishers and education bureaucrats. These connections came in handy when he served as state secretary of education and executive director of the State Board of Education under governor Gray Davis. Mockler became a rich man working both sides of the table, but his conflict of interest never drew charges.

As Mockler, Eastin and Honig confirm, corruption is inherent in the government monopoly education system. That is unlikely to change under new governor Gavin Newsom, who wants to expand the system with universal pre-school and spend $1.8 billion on a range of early education programs.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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