Lawsuit targets state school finance system

SACRAMENTO While he sits in class, 13-year-old Nigel Robinson worries about his future. The college-bound teen has seen what budget cuts have done to his education.

"Next year, music is going to be cut completely. We're barely going to have sports, and teachers are going to be cut too," said Robinson.

Fed up over years of historic education cuts by the state, a broad coalition of school districts, administrators, parents and students filed a lawsuit asking the courts to declare the way California finances its schools as unconstitutional.

They claim the funding levels are so anemic, many classrooms are unable to provide students with an equal opportunity to meet the state's academic goals.

"California's broken school finance system has denied students the education they deserve for decades," said Frank Pugh, president, /*California School Boards Association*/. "This is unacceptable."

Nigel Robinson is one of dozens of California kids named as plaintiffs.

"I'm worried that no matter how hard we try, it's never going to be enough," said Robinson.

But the recession has battered tax revenue, and it's been tough to get enough votes to increase taxes that could avoid budget cuts.

Still, education has been a big part of the state budget's general fund, roughly 40 percent for the last two decades.

The Schwarzenegger administration will oppose the lawsuit.

"We believe that California has a constitutionally adequate financing system with elements that are voter-approved. So therefore we expect the court to reject the challenge," said California /*Undersecretary of Education Kathryn Gaither*/.

But the plaintiffs point out that numbers don't lie: California ranks nearly last compared to other states in per-pupil funding and performance on national tests.

Those are statistics Nigel Robinson knows all too well.

"I'm really disappointed, honestly, because education should be the last thing they cut," said Robinson.

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