Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Teachers, Education Official Sue Schwarzenegger

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California's top school official and the state's largest teachers union sued Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday to restore $3.1 billion they claim is owed to public schools. At issue is a deal that was struck during a meeting with the governor in December 2003, a month after he was sworn into office.

Educators said they agreed to accept $2 billion in cuts to help the newly elected governor balance the 2004-05 state budget. To do that, lawmakers had to suspend Proposition 98, the voter-approved funding guarantee for schools. In return, the governor promised that schools would get more money if state revenues increased more than expected, said Jack O'Connell, superintendent of public instruction.

"Revenues did go up, and according to our agreement with the governor public education should have been one of the beneficiaries," O'Connell said. Instead, O'Connell said the governor broke that promise, shorting schools an additional $3.1 billion over two years.

Schwarzenegger has denied there was a promise to share the excess revenue with schools. Because the funding guarantee was suspended, the schools were not entitled to a share of the billions of unanticipated income tax revenue California took in, his administration said.