Count 4. California's Education Funding Law AB - 97 - School Finance Local Control Funding Formula makes the quality of educational opportunity available to a student dependent on the wealth of the district in which they live and is therefore a violation of Article I § 7 of the California Constitution and Article 4 § 16 commonly known as the equal protection of the laws of California's Constitution. Such a violation can not be remedied by giving local districts the ability to tax themselves a second time to equalize funding that the State is constitutionally mandated to provide.
1. Since 1971 (44 years) the Constitutionality of California's Education funding system has been repeatedly challenged, and was found to be unconstitutional on the grounds that the system allows the availability of educational opportunity to vary as a function of the assessed valuation per ADA of taxable property within a given district. The state interest advanced in justification of this discrimination continues to be that of local control of fiscal and educational matters which the court in (Serrano II) found to be chimerical.
2. In 1976, in Serrano v. Priest (Serrano II ), 557 P.2d 929, the California Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s finding in [18 Cal. 3d 772] that the wealth-related disparities in per-pupil spending generated by the state’s education finance system violated the equal protection clause of the California constitution. The issue that determines the Constitutionality of California's education funding law remains the same: "It remains for us to [18 Cal. 3d 772] undertake an interpretation of Article XIII, section 21 (former art. IX, § 6, par. 6) in order to determine whether that provision requires a public school financing system ... makes local decisions affecting educational opportunity depend for their effectiveness upon the taxable wealth per ADA in the district.
3. Article XIII, section 21 of the state Constitution provides that the Legislature, within certain limits set by established maximum tax rates and bonding limits, "shall provide for an annual levy by county governing bodies of school district taxes sufficient to produce annual revenues for each district that the district's board determines are required for its schools and district functions."
The Court in Serrano II held that: "Manifestly [Article XIII, section 21] does not authorize disparities in school district expenditures based upon the relative wealth per ADA of a particular school district. Such disparities, insofar as they have been here shown to exist, are the result of legislative action, not constitutional mandate.
Serrano I, "[g]overnmental action drew the school district boundary lines, thus determining how much local wealth each district would contain [citations]." [5 Cal.3d at p. 603]. It is that action, which we reiterate is the product of legislative determinations, fn. 52 that we today hold to be in violation of our state provisions guaranteeing equal protection of the laws. fn. 53"
Under (Serrano II) any school financing system which, by making the quality of educational opportunity available to a student dependent upon the wealth of the district in which he lives, is manifestly inconsistent with fundamental [18 Cal. 3d 775] constitutional provisions guaranteeing the equal protection of the laws to all citizens of this state.
4. AB- 97 School Finance - Local Control Funding Formula distributes K- 12 per pupil funding using the following formula:
Base Grant + Supplemental Grant + Concentration Grant = Per Pupil Funding
The "Base Grant" is universal for all students.
The "Supplemental Grant" provides additional funding to Districts based on the percentage of students in the District that are English Language Learners, receiving Free and Reduced Lunch, or are in Foster Care.
The "Concentration Grant" provides even more funding for Districts that have large concentrations of students that are English Language Learners, receiving Free and Reduced Lunch, or are in Foster Care.
California Department of Education Local Control Funding Formula Overview:
The amount of funding an individual school district receives is based solely on the wealth, race and ethnicity (all suspect classifications) of students in the District and under the California Supreme Court Ruling in Serrano I and II is in violation of Article I § 7 and Article 4 § 16 of the California Constitution commonly known as the equal protection laws of California's Constitution.
5. The California Constitution gives education funding a unique priority above all other state funding obligations by requiring that "from all state revenues there shall first be set apart the monies to be applied by the State for support of the public school system..." Cal.Const.art.XVI §8 (Emphasis added)
"First" means that the State is constitutionally mandated to provide school districts with adequate funding to provide every student with equal opportunities for learning, before the State can fund any other program or entitlement.
Under California's new education funding law, the State has enacted a funding system that intentionally underfunds all districts that have a low percentage of students who are English Language Learners, are Receiving Free and Reduced Lunch and are in Foster Care. To bring funding levels up to a level mandated by the California Constitution, the State is providing local municipalities with the power to tax residents at a greater level. Allowing local districts to increase taxes to fund a more "enriched educational program" is acceptable under both Serrano and Rodriquez so long as every student is receiving a base level of funding such that they are not being deprived of their fundamental right to substantially equal opportunities to achieve a quality education. Intentionally underfunding certain districts by setting the Base Grant extremely low is placing the burden of meeting the State's constitutional obligation to provide relatively equal opportunities for students to learn down to local municipalities and would not pass constitutional scrutiny.
Defendants in Serrano II put forth the argument that local control allows local Counties, Cities and other local Districts to remedy the inequities created by the State's funding law using local tax rate increases to make up the difference. The Court rejected Defendants contention stating that it is the State's responsibility under the California Constitution to provide every student with equality of educational opportunity: "equality of educational opportunity requires [18 Cal. 3d 748] that all school districts possess an equal ability in terms of revenue to provide students with substantially equal opportunities for learning."
Without substantially increasing local taxes, students in districts with low percentages of students who are English Language Learners, Receiving Free and Reduced Lunch and Foster Care will not have the same opportunity to obtain high quality staff, program expansion and variety, beneficial teacher-pupil ratios and class sizes, modern equipment and materials, and high-quality buildings. Placing the burden on local municipalities to fund education so that the State can then spend "excess" tax revenue to create new programs and entitlements not mandated by the Constitution violates Article XVI, § 8 of the California Constitution.
If the State wants to change spending priorities it must first change the Constitution. Any state education funding law that intentionally underfunds K-12 public school districts so that "surplus" tax revenue can be used to create and support other programs and entitlements is a violation of Article XVI, § 8 of the California Constitution.
6. The manner in which a State chooses to spend its tax revenue is the best example of the State's priorities. California's new education funding system sets the Base Funding Grant at 2007-08 levels + inflation with the expectation that 2008 levels + inflation of funding will not be reached until 2021. A comparison of 2007-08 spending vs 2015 spending illustrates the fact that the State is choosing not to uphold it's constitutional obligation to students under Article XVI, §8 of the California Constitution; and is in fact spending money on everything except education.
The State's 2015 Five-Year Infrastructure Plan:
is, for example projecting to increase spending on:
Transportation/High Speed Rail from it's current level of $5.6 billion to 2019-20 levels of $52.8 billion.
The California Air Resources Board from it's current level of $5.9 billion to 2019-20 levels of $365 billion.
Health and Human Services from it's current level of $29 billion to 2019-20 levels of $179 billion.
The plan calls for zero funding for K-12 infrastructure spending through 2020-21.
The cost to maintain, improve or build new K-12 facilities is being passed down to local municipalities (revenue has been frozen at 2007-08 levels + inflation). Local municipalities will not be able to sustain these levels of taxation and the result will be that students will continue to go without.
The Governor and the State Legislature have unilaterally made the decision to alter the state's spending priorities without a vote of the people, and in doing so depriving students of their constitutional right to equal opportunities for learning in violation of Article XVI, §8 of the California Constitution.
When the State adopted Term Limits, the California Constitution was amended to read as follows [Article 4 § 1.5 of the California Constitution].
"The people find and declare that the Founding Fathers established a system of representative government based upon free, fair, and competitive elections. The increased concentration of political power in the hands of incumbent representatives has made our electoral system less free, less competitive, and less representative.
The ability of legislators to serve unlimited number of terms, to establish their own retirement system, and to pay for staff and support services at state expense contribute heavily to the extremely high number of incumbents who are reelected. These unfair incumbent advantages discourage qualified candidates from seeking public office and create a class of career politicians, instead of the citizen representatives envisioned by the Founding Fathers. These career politicians become representatives of the bureaucracy, rather than of the people whom they are elected to represent.
To restore a free and democratic system of fair elections, and to encourage qualified candidates to seek public office, the people find and declare that the powers of incumbency must be limited. Retirement benefits must be restricted, state-financed incumbent staff and support services limited, and limitations placed upon the number of terms which may be served."
The State must be reminded that the California Constitution mandates that the State fully fund a public education system before taxpayer dollars are spent on any other program or entitlement.