California’s budget is under fire as three different groups advocating for public schools, disabled people and cities have filed lawsuits against recent statewide cuts.
Schools represented by the California School Boards Association, the Association of California School Administrators and various school districts, filed the lawsuit because they feel they’re owed $2 billion.
“California schools and students were shortchanged in this last budget cycle,” said Alice Petrossian, the president of the Association of California School Administrators, in a statement released last week. “More than $2 billion was cut from this year’s minimum funding guaranteed in the 2011-12 state budget.”
The school representatives say that even though California is in a budget crisis, they shouldn’t cut funding from education because it violates Proposition 98, a voter-approved law which guarantees funding money for K-12 schools.
“The protections for education funding in the Constitution are, in fact, most important in tough fiscal times,” Petrossian said in the statement. “Although lawmakers acknowledge the shortfall, there’s no guarantee that the money will ever be paid back to schools as required by the Constitution. These cuts violate Proposition 98 and are clearly unconstitutional.”
The Arc of California and United Cerebral Palsy of San Diego, which represent disabled people, have also filed a lawsuit because the state is cutting funds from their already frozen budget.
“Firstly, we’re being funded by an outdated budget that hasn’t adjusted for inflation in the last 10 years,” said Dave Carucci, executive director of United Cerebral Palsy of San Diego. “And on top of that, they cut the budget each year, and it’s putting disabled people in harm’s way because without funds, our programs will close and we won’t be able to help them.”
The lawsuit claims the state did not follow proper procedure when creating the budget.
“The state didn’t follow Medicare laws,” said Tony Anderson, director of Arc of California, an organization which helps people with developmental disabilities. “We’ve challenged the legality of this budget on the grounds that they didn’t get permission, and they didn’t report what kind of impact it would have, both of which needed to be done.”
The budget plans to cut $100 million from a $2 billion budget that helps over 250,000 people, Anderson said.
“There will be $100 million cut in December,” said Anderson. “We’ve been trying to work with the state, but they’re wiping out the community, and we can’t take it anymore.”
The League of California Cities, the third plaintiff that represents cities, also said the state is violating constitutional law.
“The Constitution says cities are supposed to get a certain amount of money from the state,” said Christopher McKenzie, executive director of the League of California Cities. “Not only are they cutting $130 million from us that would normally go to public safety, they also tell us how to spend it, which is against the constitution.”
After cutting the money, the state then sends back about half of it to the city, and uses the rest to fund state programs, says McKenzie.
“We get about $65-$70 million back,” said McKenzie. “But the key thing is that they narrowly tell us how to use it. For this money, they tell us it must go to law enforcement, but the constitution says we’re allowed to spend it how we want.”
All three plaintiffs said the state would be served this week, and no court dates are set yet.
If the litigants succeed in court, the state will be forced to adjust the budget next year, possibly cutting funds from other sources.
“The state doesn’t have a lot of financial flexibility,” said Jason Sisney, deputy analyst of the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. “The state has been forced to take some actions that prompt lawsuits. If those lawsuits prevail, the state won’t save the money they’re cutting, and they’ll have to find a way to fill that hole.”
The California Budget Group, proponents of new budget, said they haven’t taken a position because they haven’t investigated the claims of the lawsuits yet, said Steven Bliss, the group’s spokesman.