The Los Angeles Times reports Supt. John Deasy announced that Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) would file suit to block fresh budget cuts that would end state funding of home-to-school transportation for the rest of the school year. The so-called trigger cuts are set to take effect automatically because the latest projections of state tax revenue are well below hoped-for levels.
The effect on LAUSD would be a $38-million midyear reduction in transportation funding. That amount represents a 50% cut halfway through the year in that budget. “We would have nothing left for transportation,” Deasy said. As a result, he said, “the most vulnerable youth in Los Angeles” would suffer “irreparable harm.”
The district has already seen sharp reductions in transportation services in recent years, eliminating most regular home-to-school services. What remains is transportation to magnet schools (about 35,000 students), which are part of a program to integrate schools, and busing for disabled students (about 13,000 students). Some students also are bused for safety reasons to avoid extreme traffic hazards or dangerous gang territory.
Deasy noted that transportation services for integration and for disabled students are required by law. If the district abides by these obligations, cuts elsewhere would result in a disparity of funding for students across the school system, when compared to other school districts, he said.
LAUSD’s planned lawsuit would be based on constitutional protections that are supposed to guarantee a quality and equal education for all California students. Deasy also vowed not to make the cuts. Instead, he would risk facing a larger deficit for the coming school year. “At best I will need to come to the board and find a way to create an even deeper deficit,” for next year, he said.
“These cuts have to stop,” said school board president Monica Garcia. “If we are ever going to rebuild as a state, we must start investing.”
Source: Los Angeles Times, 12/13/11, By Howard Blume
[Editor's Note: In tough budget times, states find it difficult to fulfill a wide array of funding mandates, including state constitutional provisions requiring free public education in the state.
The state of California is currently defending a separate suit filed by the California School Boards Association (CSBA), Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and the Los Angeles, San Francisco and Turlock school districts seeking the restoration of more than $2 billion in funding the plaintiffs claim are owed to school districts under state law. The plaintiffs in that case allege that the state constitution guarantees a minimum funding level for K-12 public schools and community college districts. It requires the state to "first set apart" an amount each year for education-related appropriations, which may not be less than an amount determined by certain formulas. Read Legal Clips coverage here.
Whether transportation from home to school is part of a free public education depends on a state's constitution and statutes. In November 2011, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Indianapolis Star reporting that Franklin Township public schools had been sued by parent Lora Hoagland over the school district’s decision to eliminate its free bus service and replace it with a nonprofit company that charges a fee for bus transportation. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller then issued a non-binding legal opinion stating that it’s unconstitutional for Indiana school districts to end free school bus service by turning transportation over to outside agencies. Zoeller also said that he would ask the state auditor to review Franklin Township's arrangement that charges parents fees for children to ride buses to and from school.
The Indiana constitution requires the state's General Assembly to "provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all." The Attorney General explained in his letter that if a district has chosen to provide bus service (which it may choose not to provide), it may not directly or indirectly charge school families for the service.]