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CSBA files lawsuit alleging manipulation of school funding guarantee

2018-19 state budget bill changes constitutional formula for how K-14 funding is calculated


SACRAMENTO, Calif., (August 13, 2018) – On Friday, August 10, the California School Boards Association filed a lawsuit in the Sacramento County Superior Court challenging provisions of the 2018-19 state budget that allow the state to manipulate the constitutional formula which determines the amount of funding California’s public schools receive. If the unconstitutional provisions are allowed to stand, they could eventually reduce public school revenue by three-quarters of a billion dollars annually.  

The lawsuit specifically challenges one provision of Assembly Bill 1825, a 2018-19 budget trailer bill that changes how the Proposition 98 minimum education funding guarantee is calculated. AB 1825 would allow the state to provide K-14 schools with less money than they should legally and rightfully receive. 

“What the state has done with Assembly Bill 1825 is provide itself a legal path to take money away from public schools and community colleges – money that is guaranteed to them by the state Constitution – and made a through-the-looking-glass claim that public education in California can be ‘over-appropriated’ at a time when it is, in fact, drastically underfunded,” said CSBA President Mike Walsh.

Proposition 98, a measure passed by California voters in 1988, created constitutional rules and provisions for how the annual funding level for public education is determined. It also sets a statutory minimum level of funding for K-14 education that varies according to the economic conditions in a particular year. Proposition 98 revenues account for the great majority of funds California public schools receive.

Taking into account existing law and current economic conditions, the state Constitution stipulates that the Proposition 98 guarantee must be budgeted according to one of three rules, commonly referred to as “tests” in state budget terminology. However, if the Proposition 98 guarantee is “certified” at a lower level than what was budgeted in a prior year, AB 1825 allows the state to artificially lower the guarantee in future years. 

AB 1825 would allow the state to reduce education funding in future years by up to 1 percent of the prior year's Proposition 98 guarantee. Based on the current year, this means that ongoing school funding could be lowered in future years by as much as $784 million. 

“California’s schools already rank near the bottom nationally in every significant funding category and school staffing metric, and are struggling to cope with rapidly increasing cost pressures,” Walsh added. “This is a time when we need to focus on bringing our schools to a full and fair funding level, not creating clandestine ways to reduce the amount of money they are lawfully owed.”


CSBA is a nonprofit association representing nearly 1,000 PreK-12 school districts
and county offices of education throughout California.