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As of last week, more than 85 California school districts had joined a lawsuit against the state, charging that the legislature has violated the state constitution by not fully funding programs in which it requires school districts to participate.

The plaintiffs in the suit, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court on Aug. 2, claim that a 1979 amendment to the California constitution requires the state to pay for all programs that it mandates for local school districts, as well as required changes in existing programs.

The suit lists five programs the legislature has ordered since 1980 without providing adequate funds.

During that time, for example, the legislature has enacted several laws that relate to the education of handicapped children but has provided only 80 percent of the necessary funds, said William L. Cunningham, superintendent of the Sacramento County schools and an initiator of the suit.


A bill that would have allowed schools in California to close early if funds are exhausted before the legal school year ends has been killed for the current legislative session, which ends on Aug. 31.

The bill, sponsored by the California Teachers Association, would have allowed school districts to close after 150 operating days--instead of the currently required 175--subject to the approval of the local school board and teachers' groups.

Such a shutdown would "allow districts to give quality education over a short period of time instead of drawing it out," said cta lobbyist Bill Logan, and would also signal to the public that schools cannot sustain further budget cuts.

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