Saturday, July 17, 2010


Themes in the News for the week of July 12-16, 2010 by UCLA IDEA Staff

07-16-2010 --  California has been hit by a second lawsuit alleging that the state fails to adequately fund the public education system. The new suit, Campaign for Quality Education v. California, was filed Monday in Alameda County, the same place as the previous Robles-Wong v. California.

Plaintiffs and attorneys of the new case say there are similarities between the two, but that theirs focuses on low-income and minority students and on expanding preschool (Educated Guess, Oakland Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle). According to the suit, “By failing to provide sufficient access to effective pre-school opportunities for low-income students…(the state fails) to ensure that such students arrive at public school reasonably prepared to take equal advantage of the State’s K-12 educational opportunities.”

Joining Campaign for Quality Education  are the grassroots and community-organizing groups Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Californians for Justice  and San Francisco Organizing Project  and about 20 students. The main plaintiffs in Robles-Wong are the California School Boards Association, the Association of California School Administrators, state PTA, nine school districts and about 60 students. The California Teachers Association also supports the effort.

One thing that is clear from both of these suits is that everyone—school board members, administrators, teachers, parents, students and community groups—agrees that California’s public education is in a dire situation. There is insufficient funding and inequality in how money is rationed among schools. The new complaint’s legal argument stands on California’s constitutional requirement of prioritizing education funding. “We’re filing this suit to force the State to live up to its founding promise to invest in our most valuable asset—the human potential of Californians,” said John Affeldt, managing attorney at Public Advocates, who are representing the plaintiffs.

Defendants in the suits and those who agree with them don’t argue about schools providing an adequate or just education. Instead, some claim more funds for keeping a lid on class sizes, limiting teacher layoffs, and more equitably distributing resources, just wouldn’t help. “Throwing more money into our broken education system will not benefit students unless it is accompanied by extensive and systemic reform,” said Andrea McCarthy, spokeswoman for Gov. Schwarzenegger, a defendant in the case (San Francisco Chronicle).

Of course, “throwing more money” is not what the lawsuit intends. The suit’s supporters are also eager for extensive education reform in the state. That’s why the suit calls for the courts to compel lawmakers to seek coherent funding reforms instead of yearly stopgaps.

Jeremy Lahoud, executive director of Californians for Justice, said Monday at a rally outside Long Beach Superior Court that the suit was not the first choice for compelling reform. “We’ve met with legislators, we’ve supported school finance reform legislation, and we’ve taken thousands of students and parents to Sacramento to no avail,” Lahoud said. “We can’t wait any longer, we’re losing a whole generation of students…" (KPCC)

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