Unions sue state for more school funds
By Sharon Noguchi, Mercury News
“To secure billions of dollars in additional funding for education, two school employee unions filed a lawsuit against the state of California on Thursday.
“The lawsuit argues that the state must repay schools the amount it’s taking away — and sooner than other funding schemes would allow.
“Faced with a state budget crisis, Sacramento has taken $8.6 billion from K-12 and higher education over two years. The lawsuit argues that the state must repay much of that, and cites a 1988 voter initiative that guaranteed minimum funding for education.
This week, the state Department of Finance suggested that schools may lose an additional $3.6 billion.
That threatened reduction “made it imperative to file” the suit, said Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, which filed the suit in San Francisco Superior Court. It was joined by the Service Employees International Union Local 99, in Southern California, which represents janitors, secretaries and other support staff. The CFT represents about 100,000 teachers, librarians and other credentialed school employees, and is the smaller of two unions representing public school teachers in California.
Hittelman denied that the CFT filed the suit after polls showed most of the six propositions on the May 19 ballot badly trailing. Two of those, Propositions 1A and 1B, are key to funding education. Prop. 1B sets how much the state owes education and outlines a repayment schedule.
Even if 1B passes, the teachers union argues that schools would be shortchanged by freezing the repayment amount at $7.9 billion and deferring repayments until 2011-12.
The lawsuit argues that the state uses the wrong formula to determine whether schools will be reimbursed in the future for reduced funding.
H.D. Palmer, deputy director of the state Department of Finance, said the state owes school districts money for 2007-08, but not the current school year. “The Constitution is straightforward in this regard.”
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