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Lawsuit says state's education financing system is unconstitutional

A group of individuals, state education associations, and school districts throughout California announced this morning that they have filed a lawsuit against the state claiming the current education financial system is unconstitutional.

They are requesting that the state be required to establish a new financial system that provides districts with adequate resources to meet the academic goals set by the state.

"This lawsuit is a last resort," said Frank Pugh, president of the California School Board Association. The lawsuit was filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

Pugh added that both the governor and the state Legislature have failed to act on this issue despite the abundance of evidence suggesting it should be a priority for the state.

Plaintiffs in the case include a number of Bay Area representatives, including both the Alameda and San Francisco county school districts. The lead plaintiff in the case, Maya Robles-Wong, is an 11th-grade student at Alameda High School.

Sixty other individuals are named as plaintiffs in the suit, along with nine school districts, the California School Board Association, the Association of California School Administrators, and the California State PTA.

The suit has received some funding from the various associations involved, but law firms up and down the state, such as the Stanford Youth & Education Law Clinic, have been working on the case pro-bono.

The complaint claims that the state has cut nearly $17 billion from education in recent years, and that Proposition 98 - which was supposed to protect the state's education funding - has failed to solve worsening financial woes.

"Sadly, these cuts are just the tip of the iceberg," said Pugh.

In 2008-2009, California was ranked 44th in the country for student spending, dishing out roughly $2,131 less than the national average per pupil, per year, according to the complaint. In comparison, New York spent about $6,000 more per pupil, and Rhode Island and Vermont each spent double the amount that California spent per pupil.

The complaint cites a long list of dismal statistics as evidence that these economic deficiencies are having a detrimental impact on achievement. For instance, fewer than 70 percent of California students graduate from high school, half are proficient in English language arts, and less than half are proficient in math. Statistics worsen for disadvantaged students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

"The governor will oppose this lawsuit and believes the state will prevail," said Bonnie Reiss, California's Secretary of Education, in a statement. "The funding of public education in California has long been and continues to be a top priority of California, even in bad economic times," she said.

California currently ranks among the lowest in the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, taking 49th in student-teacher ratios, 48th in total school staff, 49th in guidance counselors, and 50th in librarians.

"The time for patience has passed," said Jo A.S. Loss, president of the California state PTA.

Comments

Posted by Reader, a resident of Danville
on May 20, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Great, yet another frivilous lawsuit filed against our state, by politically motivivated opportunist. Sure, it would be great if we had an endless supply of money to throw at the educational system, but with this recession and drop in property values, we simply do not have the funds. Every department, including education, is getting cut. I hope when our State, who will be represented by the Attorney General's office in this lawsuit, answers the complaint, they file a cross-complaint against the teachers union for contributing to the education problems, for making it impossible to fire horrible teachers after they have earned tenure in two years. We should pass a law outlawing the teachers union, as even with less funding, our education system would be better if every bad teacher could be fired, without hiding behind the union protection.


Posted by Marie, a resident of San Ramon
on May 21, 2010 at 8:03 am

This lawsuit should include equalizing the amount each district is given per pupil. The Serrano-Priest lawsuit was brought for that reason. Yet, 35 plus years later, San Ramon VUSD receives millions of dollars less than other districts, such as our neighbors Dublin and Pleasanton.


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