Educators, disabled sue state over funding

September 29, 2011 12:33:38 AM PDT
Education and disability groups filed suit against the State of California on Wednesday over lost funding. The schools estimate they've been shortchanged $2 billion under the latest budget plan.

A lot more pain has been felt throughout California since Gov. Jerry Brown signed a state budget three months ago that enacts another round of devastating cuts to close a $26 billion deficit.

Fifth grade teacher Melissa Reynoso started the school year without the basics.

"We're scrimping and saving," said Reynoso. "A lot of parents have to come in and start fundraising for things like paper."

Developmentally-disabled Californians saw their services slashed even deeper. David Engberg no longer has 24-hour care.

"It's really awful for me because now I only have a day staff," Engberg said.

Representatives from both education and disabled groups are now suing the state in separate lawsuits over what they say is illegal cuts.

Under voter-approved Proposition 98, which guarantees minimum funding using a complicated formula, schools believe they've been shortchanged by $2 billion.

"We're not going to take this anymore," said San Francisco Superintendent Carlos Garcia. "It's time to take legal action because if we don't stand up for the children of California, who else will?"

The disabled community is frustrated. California's Lanterman Act guarantees access to services that allows them to live independently.

"We know what they've done is illegal," said Tony Anderson with the Arc of California. "What we're saying now is, we can't, we're not going to stand for it anymore."

The Brown Administration says all actions the California legislature took are legal. It hadn't seen the disabilities lawsuit, but says schools should keep in mind they were spared during the recent budget crisis.

"Education was maintained at a stable level on a year-over-year basis, at a time when they were deep cuts to every aspect of the government," said H.D. Palmer with the California Department of Finance.

A provision in the state budget says if voters don't approve new taxes next year, that $2 billion will be paid back over five years, and California remains the only state in the country with entitlement to services for persons with disabilities.


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