A coalition of students, parents, school districts and educational organizations in California has sued the state, demanding an overhaul in the education finance system.

The case — Robles-Wong, et al. v. State of California — was filed in the Superior Court of California in Alameda County.

The plaintiffs have called for the current education finance system to be declared unconstitutional and for the state to chart a new school finance system to meet academic goals enshrined in the the state’s constitution. The suit specifically asks the state to determine how much it actually costs to fund public education.

The coalition includes more than 60 individual students and their families, nine school districts, the California School Boards Association, California State PTA, and the Association of California School Administrators.

Bill Abrams, a partner at the law firm of Bingham McCutchen and counsel for the plaintiffs, pointed out that the constitution provides that education is a fundamental right and must be made equally available to every child. California has set clear requirements for what schools are expected to teach and what students are expected to learn. But the state has failed in its obligation to provide the resources necessary to meet these requirements.

The state constitution gives education financing a unique priority 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.”

Some $17 billion in spending cuts for education have only made a dire situation even worse, said CSBA president Frank Pugh.

 Currently, the state ranks 47th among all states in its per-pupil spending on education, spending $2,856 less per pupil than the national average.

A statement from Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will oppose the lawsuit. He said that the funding of public education in the state has been a top priority.

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