California’s public school districts may be forced to file a class-action lawsuit against the state to ensure adequate funding in the wake of severe state budget cuts, San Francisco’s schools superintendent said today.

More than $6 billion in cuts made to the state education budget this year, along with additional cuts projected over the next two years, will be the most severe in California since the Great Depression, leaving schools with “no choice” but to sue, schools chief Carlos Garcia said.

“Unfortunately, sooner or later, all our districts will have to band together to sue the state of California for inadequately funding our children, because this is totally unacceptable,” Garcia said.

Garcia made the comments at a public hearing in San Francisco today, where a panel of educators and administrators highlighted the impact of state budget cuts on Bay Area schools and discussed strategies to address the crisis.

More than two dozen people attended the hearing at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in San Francisco’s Portola neighborhood, hosted by Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, chair of the Select Committee on Schools and Community.

Panelists included representatives from school districts in San Francisco, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties, where students will soon return to school to face cutbacks to sports and other extra-curricular programs, along with larger class sizes.

“I get the feeling that because it’s summer, because school is out, it hasn’t really set in yet, what’s been passed,” Garcia said. “You ain’t seen nothing yet, because what’s about to happen is the dismantling of public education in this state.”

Panelists also discussed ways to combat the crisis, such as changing the two-thirds legislative majority required to pass the budget, and supporting Torlakson’s Assembly Bill 267, which would allow school districts to form “education finance districts” to impose local parcel taxes to fund local schools. Each district would be comprised of three or more neighboring school districts.

The bill has passed the Assembly and is set to be considered by the state Senate later this month.

“We can’t just be gridlocked by this crisis in funding,” said Torlakson, who has announced his intention to run for state Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2010. “We’ve got to have a positive vision for the future.”

Torlakson is scheduled to host a similar hearing in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

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