The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

December 21, 2009
SEIU launches prison education lawsuit

Thumbnail image for Gavel.jpgService Employees International Union Local 1000 and two union members are suing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in Marin Superior Court to keep the state from cutting prison educators and the academic and vocational programs they operate.

We've written a bit about this issue in our weekly column and State Worker blog posts such as this one. The essence of the matter: CDCR last fall gave termination notices to about half of the prison system's 1,400 credentialed teachers to cut spending on prison education.

The governor and CDCR said the cuts and job terminations help close what was then about a $20 billion budget gap. The union blasted the plan as a dismantling of vital and legally mandated programs that deter inmates from returning to crime once they leave prison. (Click this link to read AB 900, passed by lawmakers in 2007, for more about the legally mandated part.) The union says that education is about 2 percent of CDCR's overall budget.

The job terminations officially start next month, although Local 1000 spokesman Jim Zamora told us that some teachers may stop work earlier because they have furlough time on the books that they'll take before their pay ends.

Read more about the SEIU lawsuit by clicking the following link.

The Marin lawsuit by the union and two members, Cindie Fonseca and Gary Daniel, alleges

... that CDCR's arbitrary and capricious action removes educators from state prisons, ignores the State mandate for rehabilitation, and jeopardizes the rights of the few teachers left to maintain the remaining education programs at grave risk to their credentials. Moreover, such arbitrary and capricious action effectively dismantles rehabilitation programs (through academic and vocational education) in a manner that fails to reduce recidivism -- at great cost to the taxpayers and at great risk to public safety.

The plaintiffs want a judge to quickly order Schwarzenegger and CDCR to temporarily stop the education reduction plan and layoffs while the lawsuit is being heard. If they prevail, the union and its members want a "writ of mandate directing Defendants to cease and desist actions in violation of the law ..." The union, Fonseca and Daniel, are also want the state to cover court costs, attorney's fees and "... other and further relief as the Court deems appropriate."

Click here to download the 16-page petition, which was filed on Thursday.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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