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Court Rules for Reimbursement of School Accountability Report Card Costs

By Jeff Hudson - March 13, 2009

A California Appellate Court ruled on Monday that a 2005 bill that sought to limit state costs for mandated activities of schools and local government is unconstitutional.

The California School Boards Association (CSBA) has been contesting the law, AB 138, since 2006. The bill ordered a Commission on State Mandates to reconsider or eliminate reimbursement to local districts and government agencies for certain Brown Act requirements, for the Mandate Reimbursement Process, and for the School Accountability Report Cart.

At the time the suit was file, CSBA executive director Scott Plotkin said the bill was “a blatant effort by state government to avoid its constitutional obligation to reimburse schools, cities, and counties for state-mandated programs. Local governments, and especially schools, are being hung out to dry by the state when it refuses to cover the costs for programs or operations it requires . . . The state must be held accountable when it puts local entities in a financial bind -- there is just no other way to look at it.”

The trial judge at the Third Appellate Court in Sacramento concluded that the Legislature had “exceeded its power and therefore violated the separation of powers doctrine” and ruled that the Commission on State Mandates should “do its work independent of legislative oversight.”

It is not clear whether the state will seek a further appeal. If the ruling stands, California school districts and other local government agencies will be entitled to reimbursement for Brown Act, School Accountability Report Card and Mandate Reimbursement Process claims dating back to 2005.

Editor's Note: Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media.