Does education overhaul offer hope for court reform?


Governor Jerry Brown

Since California voters gave the state increased revenues in November, court budget observers have watched eagerly for hints of how the new reality might play out, especially in the wake of already cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the justice system.

Gov. Brown has been virtually silent on that front, but is signaling that some new proposals, which are expected to surface next week, will seek truly sweeping changes – at least for education. That has no doubt led many to speculate that similar big-picture approaches might be in store for the courts. Certainly some of the same issues are in play, especially the local-vs.-state decision-making powers.

Anthony York of the L.A. Times has a good New Year curtain-raiser story on the budget strategy,  saying the governor “… said he wants more of the state’s dollars to benefit low-income and non-English-speaking students, who typically are more expensive to educate.”

York adds that Gov. Brown “… would also scale back — and possibly eliminate — dozens of rules that districts must abide by to receive billions in state dollars. Some of those requirements, such as a mandate to limit class size, have been suspended amid Sacramento’s recurrent budget problems but are set to resume by 2015.”

That’s music to the ears of some who would like to have a similar overhaul of how courts are funded, in particular a hard look at how the state has set priorities that might not reflect local concerns. That will come into focus in 2013 as plans progress to curtail court operations, for example slashing the number of L.A. County Small Claims courts from 26 to 2.

Read the tea leaves for yourself here.