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More than 60 children and nine school districts across California filed a historic lawsuit Thursday, arguing that elected officials have failed in their constitutional obligation to support public schools.
The case has the potential to completely overhaul how, and how much, money flows into schools.
In short, the case seeks to force the state Legislature and governor to fix a broken education funding system - one that has failed to take into account what it actually costs to educate a child, plaintiffs' attorneys said.
The lawsuit would require Sacramento to fund schools based on what state law requires they offer to children - qualified teachers, books, physical education, science labs, special education, English language instruction and more.
"Education is a fundamental right to each child in this state," said William Abrams, a plaintiffs' attorney. "The problem is the state unbelievably has not determined the cost of the educational services it requires."
San Francisco and Alameda unified school districts are among the plaintiffs, as are several local schoolchildren, the California PTA, California School Boards Association and Association for California School Administrators.
Legal representation is pro bono, plaintiff attorneys said.
A last resort
In Sacramento, attorneys and representatives for school boards, school administrators and California families repeatedly called the lawsuit a last resort.
Billions of dollars have been cut from school budgets even as higher expectations are placed on students and school districts - namely the California High School Exit Exam, increasingly rigorous academic standards and standardized tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind laws.
"This lawsuit now is about saying we have specific education programs, let's figure out how to deliver it," said plaintiff attorney Abe Hajela.
The California case follows similar lawsuits across the country, many of which have resulted in courts setting significantly higher levels of school funding. About 70 percent of such "adequacy lawsuits" have succeeded, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In New York, for example, a lawsuit resulted in a judgment requiring the state to spend billions more on schools - nearly twice as much as California's $7,000 per student.
The California case, filed in Alameda Superior Court early Thursday, does not ask a judge to put a price tag on a public education here.
Instead, it would compel elected officials to scrap the current education funding system, which is based on a 1970s formula that doesn't take into account varying costs from district to district or even student to student, according to the lawsuit.
The suit names the state and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as defendants.
"The governor will oppose this lawsuit and believes the state will prevail," said Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss in a statement. "The funding of public education in California has long been and continues to be a top priority of California, even in bad economic and budget times."
Friday, May 21, 2010
Schools, students sue state over funding
This from SFGate:
Labels: Budget cuts: SFUSD
Posted by Kate