|NUMBER 312||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||JANUARY 2012|
|School District Sues California Over Lower-Than-Expected Budget Cuts|
California's largest school district, Los Angeles Unified (LAUSD), announced on December 13 its plans to sue the state for the loss of $248 million in school transportation funding. The transportation cuts, set to go into effect in January, are part of Governor Jerry Brown's decision to cut $1 billion from the state budget due to lower than expected revenues. Education officials are furious, though they admit that cuts are not as deep as they'd expected.
Governor Brown, who told the media that "the alternative is to do what we've done for so many years and that is to just borrow, obfuscate, and delay" has suggested that districts make up the difference in transportation funding by cutting costs elsewhere:
Any school district that wants to spend on home transportation can do that. They have their funds, and this is local flexibility to make whatever decision they want. So you can view this as a cut to the overall school system.
Districts are also authorized to cut expenses by shortening the school year up to seven days, but state Finance Director Ana Matosantos said such cost cutting measures are likely unnecessary because the funding cuts were so much smaller than expected.
Nevertheless, LAUSD superintendent John Deasy called the cuts unconstitutional, arguing that using classroom funds to pay for court-mandated busing would leave LAUSD with less money per student than is allotted to districts that aren't required to provide transportation. A 1981 court order, issued in the wake of a desegregation case, requires LAUSD to run buses for 35,000 students. State and federal laws mandate that the district also provide transportation for 13,000 disabled students. LAUSD filed suit against the state of California, its Department of Education, Finance Director Ana Matosantos, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson within hours of Governor Brown's announcement, stating that
Without immediate relief to prevent the denial of crucial services to children with the most need or take money from funds that need to be spent educating kids in the classroom, the District and its students will suffer irreparable harm in violation of the California Constitution.