A Brave Brown Appointment on Schools

As a Generation Xer, I'm of two minds about Jerry Brown's administration appointments so far, which have been heavy in old friends and aides from his first gubernatorial go-round 30 years ago. To the good, I'm glad to see Brown keeping so many senior citizens employed, instead of drawing pensions. To the bad, I wonder whether he just doesn't trust those of us under 40. (To be fair, today he appointed Xers to his governor's office staff in policy, legal, press and external affairs posts).

But there's one geezer appointment by Brown on Wednesday that deserves notice -- and praise. Brown reached back in time to put former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig on the state school board. Honig was a rising star as a political figure -- and a very smart educator, who fought hard at a time of cutbacks to bring greater accountability to schools.

But he made a very bad mistake and paid dearly for it. While Honig was in office, the state Department of Education paid local school districts to cover the salaries of individuals who worked for a non-profit that was registered to Honig's residence. He resigned as state superintendent in 1993 after he was convicted on four felony charges related to his participation in the payments.

Honig, to his credit, was sentenced to community service and devoted that time to schools and education. He remains deeply involved in education policy, and brings an unparalleled institutional knowledge about California schools. Brown, by appointing him in spite of that past, is trying to let the state government tap into that knowledge. Given Honig's clean record since 1993 and the passage of time, appointing Honig is a risk worth taking.

Brown also is sending a message here about the importance of forgiveness -- and that making a bad mistake in the past doesn't mean you can't serve the public today. Now if only Brown could make brave appointments of people who have checkered pasts AND are too young to remember the Kennedy assassination.

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