California Teachers Association sues gov. over school funding

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger

The California Teachers Association, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and a group of California public school parents announced on Tuesday that they have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to increase funding to public schools and community colleges.

The petition filed in Sacramento Superior Court charges Schwarzenegger and Director of Finance Tom Campbell with improperly calculating the funding due to schools and for underfunding schools at a combined level of $3.1 billion for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 fiscal years. The suit alleges this figure represents the amount owed according to voter-approved Proposition 98.

“That $3.1 billion would enable us to keep 100 schools open that are slated to be closed, save class size reduction in all K-3 programs and extend that program to the fourth grade,” said O’Connell in a press release. “[It would] provide twice as much professional development for teachers next year and double the amount of new textbooks available for our children.”

Harry Keiley, president of the Santa Monica Classroom Teachers Association, said in the same press release, “In the Santa Monica-Malibu [Unified School District], the underfunding of Proposition 98 has reduced district revenues by more than $6 million dollars. The underfunding of our public schools has resulted in overcrowded classrooms and underpaid teachers. Our students, teachers and community deserve better.”

Malibu resident Tom Fakehany said he does not agree with what the supporters of the suit are requesting. Fakehany said there is a huge state deficit and cuts have to be made. He said he would prefer that the money went to the kids, but thinks that it would only line the pockets of middle and upper management at the school districts. Malibu resident Doug O’Brien was in agreement with Fakehany, saying there is mismanagement in the school system. He said if the schools would run a tighter ship, then more money would end up being spent where it was really needed. A call made to Schwarzenegger’s spokesperson was not returned.