L.A. Schools Fight $117 Million Spending Cut

     LOS ANGELES (CN) - The Los Angeles Unified School District challenged Gov. Jerry Brown's $117 million cuts for school buses, claiming the state is forcing it to "choose between two illegal and unconstitutional outcomes"- ending transportation for students or diverting money from classrooms to make up the shortfall.
     "LAUSD seeks to prevent respondents from implementing LAUSD's share of midyear 'trigger' budget cuts that would take an estimated $117 million over the next two fiscal years in funding from the district's budget for Home to School Transportation, including $38 million from the current year's budget beginning on January 1, 2012," according to the Superior Court complaint.
     The latest budget cut comes after more than $1.5 billion was slashed from the district's budget.
     The district says it already has made "numerous hard sacrifices," laying off 10,000 teachers, eliminating summer school for most students, shortening the school year, and negotiating unpaid furlough days for thousands of employees.
     "LAUSD cannot withstand further budget cuts without adversely impacting the educational benefits it offers its students," the complaint states.
     "During this year, these budget cuts will include a catastrophic $38 million cut to the district's current transportation services budget. A cut of this magnitude is devastating as it would deplete half of the district's transportation budget after it has provided half a year of transportation services. The Director of Finance indicated that these cuts would be ongoing in subsequent years."
     The district says the cuts are problematic because it "cannot simply terminate its transportation services."
     A 1981 desegregation court order in Crawford vs. Board of Education of the City of Los Angeles requires it to transport children in magnet schools, and under state and federal law it must transport students with disabilities.
     "As a result of the combined mandates, the trigger cuts essentially force the district to choose between two illegal and unconstitutional outcomes. It must either terminate its transportation services in direct violation of federal and state laws and the 1981 court order, or divert precious classroom dollars from its general fund to pay for the required transportation services.
     "Choosing to divert funds that are needed in the classrooms, which the Crawford order requires, violates the California Constitution because further budget cuts would adversely impact the educational benefits offered to its students. LAUSD's students would receive a disproportionately lower share of funding and educational opportunities as compared to students in school districts without those mandatory costs," the complaint states.
     The district wants the court to enjoin the state from implementing the budget cuts, which it says will cost $59 per student this year and $118 per student the next year.
     LAUSD is the nation's second-largest school district, with more than 500,000 students.
     "Without immediate relief to prevent the denial of crucial services to children with the most need or take money from funds that need to be spent educating kids in the classroom, the district and its students will suffer irreparable harm in violation of the California constitution," the complaint states.
     Sean Andrade represents the district in Superior Court. LAUSD also sued the state's Director of Finance Ana Matosantos, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and the California Department of Education.
     Neither Andrade nor Brown's office immediately responded to requests for comment.