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California judge rules in favor of Gov. Brown's school budget plan, cutting $2 billion from education



California Governor Jerry Brown at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California on October 27, 2011.
California Governor Jerry Brown at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California on October 27, 2011.
Max Whittaker/Getty Images

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A judge is backing up a budget move by Gov. Jerry Brown which took away billions of dollars earmarked for education, but the legal war is far from over.

In a brief, tentative ruling, a San Francisco Superior Court judge said that the California constitution doesn’t forbid shifting of state funds by state lawmakers.

That’s what Brown did last year to close an enormous budget deficit, shortchanging public education $2 billion in the process.

"The governor has suggested that he’s going to repay that money to schools," says Abe Hajela, a lawyer for the school districts. "But what’s really at stake is the principle of the matter. Is the constitutional provision a minimum guarantee, or is it something that can be lowered by the Legislature if and when they need to?"

California voters approved Proposition 98 almost a quarter century ago to provide a minimum funding guarantee for public schools and community colleges. If Gov. Brown’s education funding tax measure doesn’t pass in November, lawmakers could again be faced with the choice to fund schools below that level.

Lawyers for both sides in the legal challenge are set to argue in court Wednesday.