Calif school districts sue state over funding cuts

A coalition of school districts and education groups sued the state of California on Wednesday, seeking the restoration of more than $2 billion in funding they say public schools are owed under state law.

The lawsuit seeks the return of $2.1 billion in education funding that was cut from the 2011-2012 state budget. The plaintiffs say districts are owed that money under Proposition 98, a 1988 voter initiative that guarantees California public schools a minimum level of funding.

The complaint was filed Wednesday in San Francisco Superior Court by the California School Boards Association, Association of California School Administrators and the Los Angeles, San Francisco and Turlock school districts.

"California's schools and students were shortchanged in the last budget cycle," said Alice Petrossian, president of the school administrators association. "These cuts violate Prop 98 and are clearly unconstitutional."
The named defendants are the state of California as well as the state controller, director of finance and superintendent of public instruction.

In response to the lawsuit, H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance spokesman, said: "We believe the courts will find that the actions the Legislature took in this matter are legal and appropriate."

Palmer said K-12 schools are receiving about the same amount of funding this fiscal year as they did in the last fiscal year, while other programs were cut significantly to close the state's $26 billion budget deficit.

Carlos Garcia, superintendent of the San Francisco school district, said his district is receiving $20 million less than it is owed under the state funding formula. That money could be used to restore four cut school days, reduce class sizes, buy new textbooks and restore staff development.

"We've gotten to the point where we've trimmed everything, and we're not going to put up with it anymore," Garcia said. "There is no easy way out of this financial crisis, but they cannot continue to put the burden of this crisis on the future of California — its children."

California was also sued Wednesday by advocates for the developmentally disabled who claim the state has underfunded services for 245,000 residents.

Nancy Lungren, spokeswoman for the California Department of Developmental Services, said "given the size of the budget shortfall, difficult decisions are needed."