In the greatest threat yet to the state's delicately balanced budget, the California School Boards Association and Association of California School Administrators are suing the state for underfunding public education by $2.1 billion for the current fiscal year.
That amount is the difference between what the legislature allocated and the 40 percent of the general fund required for public education constitutionally required under Proposition 98.
If the administrators win, the entire state budget will be thrown out of whack.
Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and the Democratic majority in the state legislature have said that they couldn't afford to provide the necessary funding this year because of pressing local government needs to fund programs such as state prisoners in county jails. Thus, they suspended the full amount due to K-12 public education.
The administrators and board members might have looked the other way, given the state's budget difficulties, except for the side deal that Brown and the Democrats cut with the California Teachers Association. In order to get the CTA's cooperation on a deficient education budget, the Democrats passed a law that keeps districts from laying off teachers this year, even if the state education allocation is reduced because of revenue shortfalls.
Inasmuch as educators are by far the largest portion of the education budget, the deal has put administrators in a tough spot. It means that they must cut elsewhere--non-teaching personnel, equipment, services--anything and anyone but teachers. No wonder administrators are fuming. At a time of great economic uncertainty, it's hard to imagine any group other than teachers so well-protected.
The law suit also reveals the chasm in the education community. More than ever, teachers and administrators are on different sides of the budget issue at a time when the education establishment might be more successful by closing ranks.
As for the CTA, the deal may well cost the organization prestige and public support as people become more aware of its implications. When all is said and done, some may wonder whether the job preservation guarantees were worth all the bad press because of mangled district budgets.