Bloomberg News

California School Officials Plan Suit to Restore Education Funds

September 27, 2011

Sept. 27 (Bloomberg) -- A California coalition of education officials said it will sue over the budget Governor Jerry Brown and lawmakers passed in June, which they say shortchanges schools $2 billion.

The California School Boards Association and the Association of California School Administrators said in a statement they intend to file a lawsuit alleging that the budget improperly calculates how much schools should get this year under a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1988 that requires a minimum percentage be spent on education. They didn’t specify the defendants of the suit.

The legal challenge may pose a new threat to the spending plan Brown and lawmakers enacted, which includes a series of spending cuts required in January if revenue falls below expectations. The California Supreme Court in August temporarily blocked another provision that took $1.7 billion from redevelopment agencies.

Brown, 73, signed the financial plan after failing to get Republican support for a referendum that would have extended expiring taxes and fees to erase what was a $26 billion projected deficit.

To balance the budget, lawmakers cut spending by $12 billion. They also counted on an equal amount of increased revenue, including $4 billion Brown and fellow Democrats said would be delivered by the recovering economy.

Series of Triggers

The $86 billion general-fund spending plan includes a series of triggers in case the extra revenue doesn’t materialize by mid-December. The first would cut spending if revenue falls $1 billion short. A $2 billion gap could mean a seven-day reduction in the school year and an end to busing subsidies.

The League of California Cities, the cities of San Jose and Union City, and the California Redevelopment Association sued California Controller John Chiang and the Finance Department July 18 to overturn a portion of the budget.

The cities and the associations said the statutes violate a ballot initiative approved by voters last year that prevents the state from seizing revenue dedicated to local government.

A final decision on that lawsuit will be made before Jan. 15, when the funds diversion was scheduled to begin, the court said in an order.

Brown’s press secretary, Gil Duran, wasn’t immediately available to comment on the new lawsuit. Susan Aronson, a spokeswoman for the school groups, said she couldn’t comment before a news conference planned for tomorrow.

--Editors: Jerry Hart, Michael Hytha

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael B. Marois in Sacramento at mmarois@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net


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