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New California Lawsuit Alleges State Has Manipulated Education Funding

A new lawsuit filed by the California School Boards Association alleges that the state government has improperly kept some early child-care funding out of calculations for the state's minimum education budget.

At issue in California School Boards Association and Education Legal Alliance v. California is Proposition 98, which Golden State voters approved in 1988 and which requires the state to spend a minimum share of its budget on public schools and community colleges every year.

In 2011, the state legislature decided to move funding for most child-care programs, totaling about $1.1 billion, out of the portion of the budget covered by the Proposition 98 guarantee for fiscal 2012. However, when it approved a fiscal 2016 budget this year, the legislature moved $145 million allocated for those programs back into the Proposition 98 budget. 

The school boards group doesn't contend that the state had no right to make the budgetary moves it did this year and in 2015. Instead, it alleges that when it moved some of the child-care funding back this year, the state subsequently failed to recalculate the minimum guarantee for education funding under Proposition 98.

"Unless education spending is treated consistently over time and consistently for various calculations, the calculations can be manipulated and the constitutional requirement evaded," reads a portion of the lawsuit, which was filed Sept. 22.

In 2013, following voters' approval of a statewide tax increase the previous year, the state approved a new local-control funding formula that simultaneously increases state aid to education over several years and gives districts greater control over how they spend state dollars. For fiscal 2016, that minimum guarantee under Proposition 98 is $68.4 billion for both K-12 and community colleges. 

The school boards association also targeted alleged manipulation of Proposition 98 funding in 2011—that time, it was over sales tax revenues. The state Court of Appeal's First Appellate District dismissed that suit in 2013 because of the passage of the aforementioned state tax increase in 2012, but did not rule on the merits of the case. 

Read the new lawsuit in its entirety here:

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