A union of school teachers in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has joined a state lawsuit seeking to restore funding for education under voter-approved Proposition 98.

The statewide suit was filed by the California Teachers Association, state superintendent of public instruction Jack O’Connell and parents of public school students against Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, seeking to restore funding for public schools and community colleges.

“In Santa Monica and Malibu, the underfunding of Proposition 98 has reduced district revenues by more than $6 million,” said Harry Keiley, president of the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association teachers union.

The union represents teachers in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

“Without reducing class sizes and increasing teacher compensation, the teacher shortage will only become worse and we will no longer be able to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers to Santa Monica and Malibu,” Keiley said.

The average teacher salaries in Santa Monica and Malibu are $39,000 for new teachers and increase to $79,000 for teachers with 27 years of experience.

Lawsuit plaintiffs allege that the governor has failed to provide the minimum school funding guaranteed under voter-approved Proposition 98 and mandated by the state constitution.

Proposition 98 requires that a portion of funds collected from the state lottery be allocated to public schools and community colleges.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday, August 9th, in Sacramento Superior Court.

The plaintiffs estimate that public schools have been underfunded by $3.1 billion for the past two fiscal years.

“California will not move forward unless we invest in our schools,” O’Connell said.

“I hope this lawsuit will lead the governor to keep his agreement with California’s school children,” he said.