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A coalition of students, school districts and education groups sued the state of California on Thursday, seeking to force the governor and Legislature to develop a new system to fund public schools.
The lawsuit asks the court to declare the current school finance system unconstitutional because the state doesn't provide enough money to cover its own educational mandates and programs.
The complaint was filed in Alameda County Superior Court by more than 60 students, nine school districts and groups representing school boards, administrators and parent-teacher associations.
"The real problem is the state is not providing the support my school needs to teach me everything I need," said Maya Robles-Wong, an 11th grade student in Alameda who is one of the plaintiffs.
The California attorney general's office, which represents the state in such lawsuits, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The plaintiffs said the state has cut $17 billion from K-12 schools and community colleges over the past two years. The budget crisis has led to teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and cuts to electives, summer school and student services.
California, which once had one of the nation's top public education system, now ranks near the bottom nationally in per-pupil spending, teacher-student ratios and academic achievement, the plaintiffs said.
"We must have a system that allows schools to deliver a high-quality education to all children in good times and in tough times," said Jo Loss, president of the California PTA.