Capitol Alert

Lawsuit says California budget violates school funding guarantee

Students, administrators, teachers and board members participate a "listening circle" at Mesa Verde High School on Wednesday, March 25, 2015, in Citrus Heights, Calif. A recent lawsuit contends that the recent state budget improperly manipulates the state’s school-funding guarantee.
Students, administrators, teachers and board members participate a "listening circle" at Mesa Verde High School on Wednesday, March 25, 2015, in Citrus Heights, Calif. A recent lawsuit contends that the recent state budget improperly manipulates the state’s school-funding guarantee. rpench@sacbee.com

California school boards want a judge to force changes to the June state budget that would provide more money for schools, among the interests that fared best in this year’s plan.

In a lawsuit last week, the California School Boards Association argues that the budget improperly included additional spending on childcare within the voter-approved constitutional guarantee for spending on K-12 schools and community colleges. The guarantee should have been adjusted, or “rebenched,” to reflect the change, the suit contends.

“This case is not about childcare. It is about the proper interpretation of Proposition 98,” the lawsuit reads, referring to the 1988 ballot measure that established the guarantee.

Childcare programs had been part of the schools budget before being removed during the recession. At the time, the suit says, lawmakers adjusted the Proposition 98 guarantee to reflect the lower spending. It’s only fair that the guarantee be adjusted upward now that some childcare spending is back within the formula, the lawsuit claims.

The desired adjustment would increase school funding by $150 million to $180 million, the lawsuit said.

A confluence of factors meant that Proposition 98 absorbed almost all new state revenue through June 2016. The phenomenon led to grumbling among advocates for some health and welfare programs, which also sustained deep cuts during the recession.

“Funding child care from Proposition 98, as this year’s budget does, is consistent with the California constitution, with state statute, and with the Legislature’s past practice,” Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said. “We’re confident that the court will concur with this conclusion.”

The suit marks the second recent high-profile effort by the school boards group to change an aspect of state fiscal policy toward schools. In August, the organization championed a bipartisan bill to relax a state cap on school district budget reserves. The measure never advanced before lawmakers left town for the year.

  Comments