DALY CITY, CA - AUGUST 13: School teacher Liza Gleason shops for back to school supplies at a Target store August 13, 2008 in Daly City, California. With stores gearing up for back to school shopping, the Commerce Department reported today that retail sales fell 0.1 percent in July, the first time in five months. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Groups representing low-income families sued the state of California Monday in the second major legal action alleging the government is failing to adequately fund public education.
The complaint was filed in Alameda County Superior Court by a coalition of parents, nonprofit advocacy groups and students representing low-income families.
The plaintiffs allege the state's school finance system is unconstitutional because it fails to provide a quality education to all students, noting California ranks near the bottom nationally in academic achievement, per-pupil funding and student-teacher ratios.
"I am here today because I don't believe the students at my school are receiving the quality education they deserve," said plaintiff Yesenia Ochoa, an incoming senior at John O'Connell Technical High School in San Francisco, where budget cuts have led to teacher layoffs, larger classes and a shortened school year.
The plaintiffs, including the Campaign for Quality Education and Alliance for Californians for Community Empowerment, asked the court to declare the current school finance system unconstitutional and force Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature to create a new system that adequately funds public schools.
They also want the state to provide quality preschool to all students, create an "adequate" data system to monitor state education spending and ensure that the neediest schools have access to well-qualified teachers.
Schwarzenegger said he hopes he can work with the plaintiffs to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that puts the needs of students first. But the governor believes money alone won't solve the state's education problems, spokeswoman Andrea McCarthy said.
"Throwing more money into our broken education system will not benefit students unless it is accompanied by extensive and systemic reforms," she said.
The lawsuit is similar to one filed in the same court in May by students, school districts and groups representing school boards, administrators and parent-teacher associations.
Schwarzenegger has said he plans to oppose that lawsuit.